While I tackled Farming Simulator for the PS3 last year and loved it, I wasn’t aware that the handheld version would be out this year, so this came as a pleasant surprise. No I don’t live under a rock, but I do work in a cave surrounded by all sorts of computer equipment and keep off hours, so I miss things. The version I played on the PS3 was fairly well done, with lots of options, but lacking any real direction to get you started unless you’d read the manual. Now that you can take your farming on the road, how does it hold up? Let’s take a look.
There’s really only one mode in this version of the game. The tutorial mode from the PS3 version is gone. Once you start in, you’re in for the duration of the ride with very little help to get you started. Even having played the PS3 version, the set-up on the 3DS is different from what I was used to, as they changed up the UI to take advantage of the fact you have two screens. This is actually much nicer to play with by the way, but to get to any kind of hints or anything you have to bail out to the main 3DS screen and dig out the manual. The fact that this doesn’t have any kind of tutorial at first is going to be daunting to people who’ve never played Farming Simulator before, and even with me having played it before on another platform, I was a bit lost at the start and had to bail out to go to the manual a few times. So the gist of it is to read the manual before getting involved, because you’re not getting any kind of real help from the game unless you stumble into some of the random hints they put in there. That’s not to say that what they’ve got here isn’t fun, but if you’re not familiar with farming at all, or haven’t touched the manual, you’re probably going to be lost as to what does what.
Now, when you do fire up the game, you’re given three fields that are prepped for you to take care of. You also already have livestock and a set of farm equipment that should be more than enough to get you started before you upgrade. One of the fields is all set for harvest, another to cultivate (prep for planting for those not familiar with farming), and a third is overgrown with the bane of my lawn, grass, which can be used to feed the livestock on your farm after you’ve gone at it with the right tool for the job and got it over to your eager animals. You have the option of doing all the work yourself, which can get kind of time-consuming when you’re trying to manage a bunch of things at once, so hiring a driver while you work on other things and they cultivate or harvest is always a plus and won’t cost you a fortune. There is a little cost involved, but it’s negligible. The AI drivers aren’t that smart, however, so make sure your fields are clear of obstacles, like other pieces of farm equipment, or they’ll stop in front of it and wait instead of just going around. They’re helpful, but not too bright.
You’ve got all this equipment and they put you in the driver seat of each with the simple tap of the d-pad, either left or right to cycle through each, which is better and faster than having to run between them, which isn’t even an option. While this does end up making the game feel a bit more simplified than the bigger version on the consoles, this does make it less of a chore on the handheld, and it’s actually something I’d love to see implemented in the other versions to make life easier. Driving directions are left up to your analog stick, while you can rotate the camera with the left and right trigger buttons. Acceleration, reverse, activating your equipment and detaching from your equipment are all handled from the face buttons. The whole bottom screen is the UI that would normally pop up on screen and obstruct your view while you were driving, and you can’t really drive while you’re accessing it, but it lets you keep an eye on your crew and see where they’re at while you’re deep in the menus. The tractors handle fairly well, and my only complaint would be that everything in town is so far away from your farm that going out with a tractor to pick up equipment or when you don’t have a tractor trailer to deliver with is a drag. Top speed on most farm equipment is not all that fast, and they have that down pretty accurately.
From the menus you have access to a map of the town and all the fields around you, as well as where you can get gas and buy other necessities like more equipment, seeds, or to sell off your hard farmed haul of goods. There’s a listing of what’s selling for what prices and where, and going through that screen will also tell you how much you actually have farmed and ready to sell off. Then there’s the shop, which is fairly problematic on the 3DS version. The shop lets you see the equipment, lists its price and name, but then doesn’t really give you any details about it. Sure, the tractors and combines are all pretty easy to tell apart, but when you’re looking for something to prep your grass to make into cow chow, it’s hard to tell what’ll do the job versus another step in the process. More information on these would be handy for new players who’ve never picked up the game before, so you’re not forced to Google a piece of farm equipment that you have no idea what it does. Yes, I did have to do that, even being a farm boy. I was a farm boy a long time ago with different manufacturers, and even the PS3 helped you out with this end of things a little better than the 3DS version, especially since there was a tutorial there. You can also hire your drivers, turn on your lights and honk your vehicle horn from the bottom of the UI at all times.
Visually the game is okay. The Vita version looks a lot cleaner and the PS3 version from last year blows this one away. The vehicles look decent although simplistic. You can see some of what had to be cut down a bit in the tires of the tractors especially. The crops do a decent enough job visually of letting you know what you’re growing and if it’s ready to be harvested or not, but they’ve suffered the same fate as the tractor tires. For a handheld title it’s not too bad, but I was hoping for a little more. It does the job. Audibly there isn’t much to the game. Vehicle sounds, along with other ambient noises, are pretty much on par with the visuals. They do the job, but you could play without any audio and you’d be doing just fine. I imagine many kids and adults having fun with the horn button off the UI menu either way. Kids will probably get more mileage out of it than adults.
As far as replay goes, there are different difficulty options and up to three save slots to play around with. You can do things a little differently, but once you’ve settled in on a farm, there’s really no reason to start another game unless you really want a challenge. There’s only one farm, so you don’t have that option, and you start with cattle so doing a pure cash crop farm isn’t even really an option unless you just ignore the poor starving livestock. For the record, I don’t know if they can starve to death, but the thought that they could bugs me. Balance wise, there’s a decent amount to do and deal with inside the game, and also a decent amount of equipment to work towards on top of expanding your farm and keeping it going. The content is there. Is it as much as the bigger versions? Not so much. Is it worth the price tag? That depends on if you feel like fighting the rather large learning curve and Googling farm machinery to figure out what the thing you’re thinking about buying actually does on the farm. I think the content is there and having different difficulties offers up some more challenge, but getting adjusted to how the game actually functions without any real kind of tutorial, and actually having to flip back and forth from the manual to the game will kill some of the fun of running your own farm.
This also doesn’t feel all that different from the previous version of Farm Simulator on the PS3. Sure, the farm layout and town layout are different, as well as some of the equipment, but this is a very similar game, but simplified. This is definitely a more straight-forward and mobile happy version of the game for handhelds, but there’s not much new here if you’ve got previous handheld versions. If you’re looking for something new out of your Farming Simulator, this probably won’t be for you. That being said, this is fairly addictive. Playing until the wee hours of the morning just trying to get that last field harvested before you close the clamshell and drift off to sleep could be one of the problems you face once you get past the learning curve. There’s something charming and amusing about running your own digital farm, and I’ve always loved driving a tractor in real life, but they’ve all been much older models, so getting behind the wheel of one of the bigger and newer monsters, even digitally, is a real treat and puts a smile right on my face.
This isn’t the first version of Farming Simulator to hit the 3DS. There’s another one that came out last year known as Farming Simulator 3D or 2012, that actually looks fairly similar to this version. The UI is cleaner in 14 and the farm and area looks different from the previous version, but that version is only a fourth of the price of this one off the eShop. That’ll give people pause. Which version would I pick? Just looking between the two I would go with this one. It looks cleaner, works well and didn’t break my memory stick. There is a little sticker shock from the previous version though that I think may end up with people passing over this one or waiting and hoping for a price drop. Overall though, the game runs great, loads quickly, and once you get the hang of it, is a blast to play.
Short Attention Span Summary
Farming Simulator 14 is another shot for the series on the 3DS, coming off the Farming Simulator 3D released last year. Having played the version off the PS3, this one seems trimmed down and streamlined to run and play better on the handheld, but it still has its issues. There’s a steep learning curve, especially if you know next to nothing about farming, and there’s little help from within the game itself. Even the manual doesn’t have all the answers and you may just find yourself Googling farm equipment to figure out what it does. Aside from that, the game plays well, there’s a variety of equipment to stock your farm with to use and you can hire help fairly easily. The help isn’t too bright, but it’ll get the job done if you check in on it once in awhile and it’s easy to get drawn in for long periods as you manage your farm.