by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a one sentence review for this one. Perhaps something along the lines of “The developers didn’t bother to polish this game, so why would I bother to write about it.”. But that would not be fair. To you. The game, however, deserves that kind of treatment.
Why? God, where do I start.
I guess the first indication that I was going to end up disappointed was just after I got into my starter tractor to find a place where I could buy a plough. My surroundings serene, the cobble stone road pristinely maintained and the summer sun shining high in the sky. Yet inside my cabin I appeared to be bobbing up and down as if I was negotiating some sort of moon crater landscape and the machine kept sliding across the road as if on an iced up road in the midst of winter.
The town itself - sold to the player as being a picturesque and Mediterranean - looked like it had completely bypassed the land consolidation that swept agricultural regions early last century. Tiny and rural as it was, no fewer than eight shopping locations that specialised in selling farm machines serviced the one farmer in the region. An overenthusiastic map designer? Tripping over these shops, I drove up to one to buy a plough. I blinked twice to see if I was wrong, but then decided that - yes - all of the descriptions of the various ploughs on offer were completely inadequate. What the ploughs do, how best to apply them, their size, what kind of tractor was required to pull them - it just wasn’t there. At least that fit in with the horrible translation job done for the rest of the game.
I decided on a modest looking one, though based on sheer guesswork, and drove it back to the field I had bought on my way to town. Lowering the plough, I started driving in as straight a line as the game would allow me to drive. Turning around at the end of the field, I noticed something odd. There seemed to be a canyon behind me!? I decided to get out of the tractor and take a closer look. My modest looking plough, it appeared, had created a well-over-knee-deep cleft along the not so straight path I had taken. My dinky little tractor had the power to do that? And the modest plough did not bend? Where the plough had gone beyond the field there was no sign of any ploughing at all, telling me there was not going to be any land consolidation by my own hand either.
It was at this point that I started to wonder if I had been spoiled by Farming Simulator.
In that game, at least, you’ll need to feed your chickens for them to survive. In Farm Expert, livestock magically takes care of itself. It’s easy, I guess, but we’re looking at something that is supposed to simulate farming. If Stardew Valley can do it, then why not Farm Expert?
Bland uninspiring graphics spoil the game even further. I kept feeling the urge to adjust the gamma settings, which are non-existent, to stop everything from looking like it had been sitting in the sun for too long. The colours are there but everything looks washed out. The only time the world looks a little more natural is when it gets darker, and particularly when it rains. I’ll forgo taking a shot at the textures, it’s really too easy. If you have been looking at the lush, inviting screenshots and trailers, you are probably thinking to yourself “I don’t know what he is talking about, this game looks gorgeous”. That is because even the screenshot and trailer makers were sick of looking at the porridge colours. Out of sheer boredom, they took to applying their own filters to make things look better. I think the level designers tried to solve their boredom by going all out on the maps like they did with the eight shopping locations. As a result, all of the farms have been designed to look pretty, not practical and navigating through or around them can be a bit cumbersome.
It’s easy to see where things go wrong for Farm Expert. To begin with, it is built upon an already weak predecessor. It uses the same tired engine, the same tired textures and the same lacklustre gameplay. They have to, because the game - must - come before Farming Simulator 2017, right? The bigger problem, however, is that it is trying to be the Swiss Army Knife of farming simulations. It wants to simulate every aspect of farming life and leaves not a single morsel untouched - except possibly creating a family. Please don’t, devs. That was not a hint. A mechanic workshop? Honestly. Livestock? Yes please, but only if the player needs to actually care for them. Realistic vehicle physics? Either you do it properly, or you implement something that people will enjoy.
I can see how doing “more” than competitor Farming Simulator would be a goal to attract players, but it’s destroying the game. Farm Expert needs to do less, and do what it does better.
It starts, you can farm.
Looks tired, terrible physics, does everything, but poorly.