Farming Simulator 2013 is a game that hits many of my guilty pleasure buttons. While many people will find the thought of tending a field for hours on end mind-numbingly boring, for me games like this provide a great open ended challenge that is also simple enough to let my mind wander while I play. In providing this, Farming Simulator 2013 succeeds — although unfortunately, it’s about the only place.
It all starts in Career mode, where you can choose from three levels of difficulty, and a single map to start with. Here one of the first of the games many frustrations rears its ugly head, with anything but the hardest difficulty mode providing you with an obscene amount of starting capital, produce and tools… it’s a sandbox mode, with practically everything unlocked from the start and no real reward to progressing.
You also start with an amount of debt in all three modes, but you also begin with a large quantity of resources farmed from somewhere off in fairy land, sitting in silos that you can sell straight away (unless playing on hard). The game in no way lets you know that you have these resources, and you are expected to either be psychic, or stumble across it while fiddling through the PDA menu system.
Of course, in all the tutorials the game makes repeated reference to the PDA system, but never once lets you know what key is required to open it up. This is a game where in spite of having a tutorial system in place, you are probably best just reading the manual first — especially since the tutorial system is basically just showing you how several tools are used, despite there being almost no difference between their usage.
Perhaps the biggest problem the game has, however, is not explaining the differences between tools adequately. There are well over 100 different tools in the game, and while perusing them through the shop (for which there is a super secret button for that allows you access to it from anywhere) you can only hope and pray that the description alludes to some difference between them other than price tag. For instance, practically all ‘drill’ sowers are also cultivators, but that is only explained on a single one of them. One of the sowers also fertilises the field at the same time, but you could only find that out by googling the actual product in the real world.
The problems don’t stop here though. You can hire workers to run your farm equipment for you, but they almost always do so inefficiently, missing entire swaths of field when sowing, or leaving parts of your field uncultivated. The AI can’t empty a harvester either, unless it is a model that can attach a trailer to its rear, so you can’t just leave them alone and hope for the best, as the harvester will sit there while full doing nothing, and the worker will enjoy being paid to relax.
When it is finally harvesting time though, you are forced to use a clunky menu system to determine just how ‘ripe’ your crops are. You get higher yield the riper the crop is, but the game in no way makes a visual distinction between crops that are just ready and those about to die.
You would think from all this negativity that there was no enjoyment to be had from the game, but honestly — no. Despite the annoying bugs, the inefficient design, the frustrating UI, and the one lone chicken on the farm the game starts me with that will not just shut the hell up, it is exactly the kind of game I expected from the title, and precisely the kind of game my brain enjoys.
The multiplayer is surprisingly exceptional for a game of its nature, allowing up to 10 players on a server to all help out at all sorts of tasks. When multiple players work towards a single goal, the time in the game seems to fly and the overall experience becomes far more enjoyable. It’s also fairly hard to troll other farms, except by maybe leaving hastily written messages into the fields.
Whether it is plowing the fields on a sunny morning, or harvesting canola well into the night and beyond, Farming Simulator 2013‘s core mechanics are surprisingly strong. The versatility, the open world, the decidedly German game design are all a strong part of the games identity — it’s just a pity that identity is hidden beneath a frustrating level of assumed user knowledge and missing critical UI functionality.
- Multiplayer is great fun
- Huge amount of player choices
- Horrible UI
- Lacks real progression