STAFF REVIEW of Farming Simulator 22 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Farming Simulator 22 Box art While I knew farming simulator games existed for some time, I never really paid any attention to them until GIANTS Software finally brought them to console. I started with Farming Simulator 17, updated to Farming Simulator 19 with that release, and now I’ve been farming for a few weeks with the latest entry, Farming Simulator 22. Because I’ve played the previous games in the series I had a head start on knowing how to start my farming career on the right path. Farming Simulator is exactly as it advertises, a simulation about one of the most challenging, yet important, careers you can have. While many won’t find the game “fun” with its monotonous and tedious gameplay, those that do enjoy the calming and relaxing repetition of plowing, sowing and growing your fields will be pleased to know that a number of improvements have been made in this year’s iteration.

You are a farmer, but what your business grows or deals in is completely up to you. If you want to have fields of numerous crops, raise animals or even work towards making some serious cash with production chains, there’s plenty for you to take part in. So grab some friends, even cross-platform across consoles and PC, weather the seasons and enjoy building your agricultural empire. Now if you’ve not been following the series for the past few games, I know what you’re thinking; “Why would anyone want to play a farming game?”. Don’t knock it until you try it, as it’s very relaxing when you need something of a different speed. And I kid you not, there are even e-sports for Farming Simulator and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.

So, what’s exactly new in Farming Simulator 22? My biggest hope was that it was going to be a substantial upgrade from Farming Simulator 19 and not simply a reskin. Thankfully it seems developers have taken the time to make some improvements that make this year’s entry the best of the series, even if incrementally. While there may not be a ton of added crops and gameplay features, the overall game simply feels better, especially in the driving aspect and the addition of production lines.

So as a quick list of some of the new features and mechanics are as follows: stone picking, greenhouses, beehives, grapes, olives, sorghum (grain), licensed MACK trucks, production chains, much improved audio and visuals, fences, gates, better physics, equipment repairs, cosmetic wear and tear, new tires, license plates and Seasons. There’s a handful of other additions and improvements, like the character creator, but those listed above are the majority of the major new features.

As for crops, the newest additions are grapes, olives and sorghum. While Sorghum is just another type of grain, you’ll know how to harvest those, but grapes and olives are completely new, requiring new equipment to learn as well. Now, I was excited to have some grapes in my fields and seeing what I could create with them. First off, you need a cleared field so that you can place the posts that the vines rest on. This is where I was almost instantly disappointed, as you have to manually place all of the length and exact placement of each row. On paper that sounds great, but there’s no grid to ‘snap’ to, so if you’re like me and need your crops to be perfect, I guarantee you’re going to have some crooked crops or spaced 'wrong'. Also, without trial and error, you’re not going to know how much space to have between each row, resulting in wasted space and extra time needed to fertilize. Also, these crops can’t be automatically farmed by hired help unfortunately, so expect to spend an obscene amount of time doing all this yourself or with friends.

The new equipment needed to harvest your grapes after they’ve grown over the course of a few months is interesting to use, as there’s nothing else really like it, but it takes some getting used to and this will depend on how well you placed your rows initially. The biggest feature though has to be production chains. This is where you can turn your harvested crops into new items, like turning your grapes into juice (sorry, no wine), olives into oil, grain to cereal, wheat into flour and then even going further by adding eggs and fruit to make cakes and so on. These add new ways to expand your farm in interesting ways, and like regular products, fluctuate in price. This gives you much more to do and freedom of how you want to have your crops end up as an end product for consumers.

Seasons used to be a very popular mod, and now it’s built into the base game. This adds actual seasons into your game, and now having a snow covered winter is a new obstacle you’ll have to deal with. Also, certain crops, like grapes for example, can only be planted in certain seasons, so when you start to own a lot of land, you’re going to have to plan what to plant and when to be the most efficient. If you don’t want to deal with all that extra planning, you can also toggle Seasons to be visual only or even stay in the one you prefer. Unless I missed it somehow, I don't see a way to toggle the fast crops, allowing almost instantaneous crop completion, possibly due to the Seasons inclusion.

You start off by choosing one of the three included maps, one more than the last version, though one is essentially a remake, Erlengrat, set in the mountainous Swiss Alps. Haut-Beyleron is located in France, having dozens of fields to purchase, and there's also a map in the United States, Elm Creek that actually feels authentic for the area. You then begin a tutorial that will show you the basics, and when I say basics, you’re going to finish the tutorial and then be absolutely confused on what to do next and how. Just like the previous games, Farming Simulator simply throws you in without any hand holding, leaving you to figure out what to do, how to do it and not helping any part of the way.

This has been my biggest problem with the series since I’ve started playing, it’s as though they don’t want new players who don’t have dozens of hours to spend figuring out how to play properly to enjoy the game. You’re shown how to drive equipment, plow, sow and other simple tasks, but it doesn’t teach you how to figure out what equipment you need, where to sell it, what to do with your crops or anything else beyond the basics. Those new to the genre may become frustrated due to this, as you’re told to simply go farm, but not told how exactly. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted on equipment, only to find out it was the wrong tractor or header, not even to mention the time trying to figure out all this on my own. Some slight improvement has been made for this specific situation, as the store will group equipment under crop selections, but still, nothing else is explained without having to resort to looking online externally.

Manage to figure out how to actually play and be a proficient farmer, and you’ll be happy to know that there’s more than 400 machines available for you from over 100 actual agricultural brands like MCCormick, not even including the mods that become available as content creators release new equipment, adding way more mod slots, most likely due to the new generation in hardware. The maps included are varied, each with their own beautiful scenery and farm sizes and the season changing adds more realism. Speaking of equipment, there's also random sales from time to time on used hardware in-game. This means you can get a tractor or header at a huge discount, but will cost you a little bit in repairs. Having the exact used equipment you need when it goes up for sale is a blessing, saving you potentially thousands of dollars. Those that used to have massive farms in Farming Simulator 19 will also be happy to know that the equipment allotment has also gone way up, so no more having to worry about if you have too much equipment before hitting the cap. With the equipment cap raised so high now, I'd expect your game would start to lag well before ever hitting the limit.

Speaking of realism, Farming Simulator 22 adds vastly improved visuals over the previous version but there’s so much more minor details that you’ll notice if you take the time. Yeah, the farms and world looks much better, especially when it comes to grass and rocks but now you’ll actually see your shifter move when you change gears in your tractor as well. Minor detail but adds more realism. Some things on the other hand also stick out like a sore thumb, like looking into the windows of your farmhouse and seeing a terrible textured picture of the inside instead of an actual room. Audio also got a massive boost, as each tractor and equipment sounds more unique this time around for each vehicle and part, as opposed to them all sounding basically the same like before.

Once you get over the mountain of a learning curve and start to figure out how to play the way you want, farming becomes a much more zen-like and relaxing experience. To help with this, you can invite your friends to farm alongside you, regardless of their platform. Having crossplay now means that me on my Xbox can play alongside my friends who play on PC or on PS, helpful if you have a longtime PC player friend that you want some help from. You’re able to work together on a single farm, or each have your own on the same map, working cooperatively. If I was destined to play alone, I would have given up long ago from the monotony, but farming with a buddy, getting orders of what to do and where, was much more enjoyable, working alongside one another. You're also able to rent an online dedicated server, allowing your farm friends to play however you like, changing the rules as you go and always available unlike a players hosted server where you need to be online to play.

Nearly every aspect from the last game has been improved in Farming Simulator 22, from the audio, graphics, UI changes and new crops. On an Xbox Series X, the visual upgrades were pretty substantial compared to the last version feeling much brighter and vibrant overall, adding more details, though probably won’t impress those only used to the latest AAA experiences. Production chains are a huge addition and add another layer to simply farming the crops, selling and repeat. One aspect that's gone unchanged and still annoying is the traffic. The AI simply follows their line and won't deviate from it, so when you get hit by a car hopefully it won't flip youm but it likely will.

Sadly developers have yet to solve the inaccessibility for newcomers, as the learning curve is a sheer cliff to overcome. Still a niche genre, Farming Simulator 22 is a complex and accurate representation of real world farming, and while virtual farmers will no doubt spend over a thousand hours once again in the latest version, newcomers are still going to be left wondering how others could find the monotonous grind entertaining. Those that know, know, so let the good times grow.

**Farming Simulator 22 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.2 / 10


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