Also On: 3DS
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Giants Software
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
One of the strangest conversations I've had in recent months was with a real, actual farmer after I accidentally let it slip that I'd played Farming Simulator on my Vita. He seemed to find the whole concept equal parts amusing and baffling, and it led to all kinds of questions: Was it fun? What did it involve? And, most of all, did it make a city boy like me want to experience a farm in real life? I explained sheepishly that yes, I enjoyed the game, and that even if I wasn't about to ditch my desk job in favor of a more rural livelihood, it had still given me an appreciation for the meditative pleasures to be gained from from a tractor or a combine back and forth. (Note: I may not have been that articulate.) Of course, when I said I was really excited to play the then-upcoming Farming Simulator 14, that was just met with even further puzzlement — after all, why would anyone need more than one farming sim?
Strange though it may be, I was interested to see how Farming Simulator 14 would turn out. Would it feature any upgrades or improvements over the original, or would it be basically the same game?
The short answer is: pretty much the same. I mean, we're talking about farming here. It's not as if developers Giants Software could've added in multiplayer or some hot new tractors or anything. You still have to plough your fields and sow your seeds and harvest your crops, and then decide whether to sell what you've taken in or store it until the market yields a better price. You still have to decide which vehicles to keep and which to upgrade, and you have to figure out which work best with which attachments. Oh, and you have to do little chores for neighborhood villagers, for some reason, but the impact of that on the game is basically non-existent. So, again, in almost every respect, this is basically last year's Farming Simulator for the Vita with a "14" added to the title.
There is one change, though, and it's pretty major. This time around, they remembered to include a tutorial. Not much of one, mind you, and there's no way of going back and reviewing something if you don't get it the first time, but still. It's there, and that's a huge improvement over the last game, which basically left you to figure everything out on your own. As far as I'm concerned, by including a tutorial, Giants Software have made it so that you can focus your energies on what makes the game worthwhile — that is, the simple pleasure of repetitive labor — rather than constantly stressing about figuring out what you have to do next.
And, believe it or not, there is pleasure to be had in doing the same thing over and over again. It may not make for the most exciting game, but it does make Farming Simulator 14 wonderfully relaxing, albeit in a productive kind of way — which, presumably, makes it awfully similar to the real thing, though I'd need to go back and ask that farmer I met to know for sure.