Released On: October 20, 2017 Genre: Simulation Reviewed On: PC Also Available On: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Triangle Studios Publisher: SOEDESCO Publishing MSRP: $39.99 USD / $49.99 CAD
As a big fan of farming simulation games, the announcement of Real Farm excited me. New entrants to the genre typically bring a fresh take and new ideas, which help drive farming games forward as a whole. Some of these efforts, however, have been riddled with bugs and lacked polish, taking away from the overall gameplay experience and detracting from the player’s sense of managing a real, working farm. In my opinion, Real Farm is by and large a good experience — it has some excellent ideas that are new, different, and well executed, with a few nagging minor issues that hold it back from truly being the next great farming game.
Author’s note: I played a pre-release build of the game through Steam, and while it was intended to represent the state of the game at release, I have been informed by SOEDESCO that some changes (e.g., bug fixes and gameplay tweaks) may still be made before release. These should only serve to mitigate any of the issues that I encountered. Finally – this game will naturally be compared to Farming Simulator, and while I did draw some comparisons between the two games where appropriate, I tried to evaluate Real Farm based on its own merits.
Outstanding in its Field (The Good)
There are several features that set Real Farm apart from other farming simulation games in my eyes: namely its graphics, field/soil management system, and career mode.
First and foremost, Real Farm‘s graphics are gorgeous. The environments are beautifully designed, with town and country alike both a pleasure to look at and drive around in. Sunrises and sunsets in particular are a joy to take in, with the world’s lighting changing dynamically over time. There is some pop-in of trees and other items, and the occasional flicker of lighting change when moving the camera, but in terms of pure graphical quality of the environments, Real Farm is definitely the best looking farming game I’ve played to date. To add to this, the map size is balanced well between being large enough to present variety in locations and substantial room for farm expansion, without being so large that it becomes overwhelming.
While the graphics are excellent, the true shining star of Real Farm is its field management system. For years I have dreamed of a farming simulator that delves deeper into the management of soil health and quality, and Real Farm does exactly this. For each field there are five meters that indicate various aspects of soil health and productivity — plowing, cultivation, soil moisture, weeds, and pests (insects). The player must monitor each of these and decide whether to plow the field, cultivate it, or spread water, fertilizer, or pesticide on it. The crop yield on each field is affected by the 5 factors at play, and it forces the player to constantly evaluate whether it’s best to address one (or more) of these potential problems on any given field, or if perhaps it’s better to wait until the next crop cycle.
The addition of this system provides a depth of realism not seen in any farming game to date. This is the first time a farming game has attempted to incorporate the level of decision making that real farmers must engage in daily when it comes to the state of their fields, and it feels well implemented. This also means that rain actually plays a factor, as it can reduce or eliminate the need to spray water on your fields — also a first for these types of games.
In addition to its innovations, players can rest assured that Real Farm provides what many players likely consider “must-have” options for simulation games. These are options that players are used to seeing in games like Farming Simulator – Easy/Normal/Hard difficulties, the ability to separately change the rate at which time passes as well as how quickly crops grow, a selection of crops to plant/grow (wheat, barley, rye, canola, corn, and grass), and a variety of animals to care for (chickens, sheep, pigs, and cows). Players can also complete missions for neighboring farmers by going to “job boards” and accepting tasks, such as seeding a specific field. These jobs not only earn the player money, but also a better reputation with the farmer, which translates into better prices for that farmer’s fields when the player goes to purchase them. This plays a large factor in another feature unique to Real Farm — Career Mode.
In Career Mode, players take on the role of a newcomer to Real Farm’s fictional town, where they start out with nothing and earn money and reputation by doing jobs for other farmers until they are able to set out on their own, starting up their own farm by buying land and equipment. The initial stage of this mode is a relatively comprehensive tutorial that teaches the player how to use the various basic pieces of equipment to ensure that they’re capable of knowing what to do later on down the road, both in other jobs and when they purchase their own land.
Once the tutorial stage is finished, the player is prompted to purchase a tractor and plow so that jobs can be completed with your own equipment, thus earning you an “equipment bonus” payment in addition to the money earned for completing a job. Players can therefore amass an array of equipment before even owning land, and the shop also offers the possibility to rent equipment should a player wish to do a certain type of job, but not have the capital to buy the corresponding implement.
While I typically play farming games in part due to their open-ended nature and freedom of choice, I very much enjoyed the goal-oriented gameplay of the career mode. It provides a sense of accomplishment as you work towards earning enough capital to buy your own farm, and allowing the player to purchase new pieces of equipment to add to their virtual fleet helps convey that you are working towards something larger, and enables the player to ensure that they have the appropriate equipment to really dig into farming their own land once they’ve progressed that far.
To summarize, Real Farm presents some unique gameplay elements while maintaining many of the features that players of farming games have come to rely on. That being said, there are a few parts of the game that could use some improvement.
Out Standing in its Field (The Bad)
While Real Farm introduces some new features to the farming simulation formula, it also falls short in some areas. Though some of these are very minor issues, they are worth mentioning as they do detract from the realism and general feeling of immersion in the game in some way.
The first thing most players, particularly those familiar with Farming Simulator, will notice is the lack of licensed brands of equipment. All of the machinery in Real Farm sports fictional branding, and while this doesn’t affect the core gameplay (a tractor is a tractor, after all), part of the draw to Farming Simulator for me has always been the fact that it provides the opportunity to drive equipment that I may have used on my family’s farm in the past, or that I see in real life when I drive through rural areas. I’m willing to bet that many fans of farming games feel the same way, and Real Farm fails to deliver this. While this is an understandable shortcoming given that this is SOEDESCO’s first crack at a farming game, it is compounded by the fact that there is a relatively small selection of equipment in the game. Real Farm contains approximately 70 pieces of machinery across 22 categories, including tractors, combines, sprayers, fertilizer/manure/slurry spreaders, mowers, balers, loading wagons, and more. In terms of functionality, the equipment is all very capable and designed fairly well, however if you’re looking to choose between half a dozen different combines, you won’t find that level of choice in Real Farm. All this being said, the equipment is designed such that it accurately represents the types of equipment used in the industry, even without the developer having the ability to directly duplicate real life equipment in the game.
There are some other minor detractions from the sense of realism, such as the fact that there’s no option to have your combine leave straw behind when harvesting (as opposed to chopping up and spreading the chaff), and that when hiring workers, the player only has the option to hire them to complete work with the given implement for the entire field, at which point the equipment physically disappears from view and a bar appears for that field to indicate the worker’s progress. This means that the player does not have the ability to work alongside the hired worker. For example, in Farming Simulator I particularly enjoy having a worker harvesting crops with a combine, while I periodically empty the grain into a wagon or truck. Given how workers function, this is not a possibility in Real Farm. In some ways, this speaks to the general simplification of farming in Real Farm as compared to more intense farming simulators — you won’t see any complex formulas for maximizing the growth of your animals here like you do in Farming Simulator 17. There is no “total mixed ration” for cows, there is simply feed and water. However, I don’t feel that this is a totally negative aspect of the game, it may just mean that it caters to slightly different audiences.
I also had a few hang-ups and bugs — the turning radius on vehicles is a little larger than I feel it should be, one sowing machine wouldn’t let me fill it with seed, and I couldn’t complete one job for another farmer despite being certain I’d seeded the entire field — but SOEDESCO has been welcoming of feedback and assured me that they anticipate fixing all of these issues prior to the game’s release. If there’s one thing I can give SOEDESCO credit for, it’s that they have repeatedly indicated (quite publicly, I might add) that they plan on supporting the game with post-release updates and content, going so far as to solicit input on requested features for the future. If they are as receptive to the collective feedback they receive from the player base as they have been to my personal suggestions during my review playthrough, I feel as though the game has significant potential to improve on its solid foundation following release and am cautiously optimistic that SOEDESCO will deliver on its promises.
Finally, it should be noted that Real Farm does not include any multiplayer option, which has become a cornerstone of the Farming Simulator series. However, I feel that, given the game sports a career mode and enhanced focus on single player features, a multiplayer mode isn’t particularly missed here.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the game’s performance, and Real Farm generally seems well optimized — running on my modest PC (i7-6700 3.4gHz, 16GB DDR3 RAM, 4GB Nvidia GTX 1050Ti) at the highest graphics settings, the game ran between 40-50 frames per second, and dropping to lower graphics settings easily allowed me to reach a consistent 60+ FPS. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game were not made available for review, so I am unable to comment on the game’s performance on consoles.
Overall, the issues mentioned above were thoroughly overshadowed by the positive aspects of the game. The learning curve is simple enough for inexperienced farmers to pick up and play, while the deeper features provide something new for even the most seasoned fans of farming simulation. It’s a great new entry in the farming “genre”, and if you’re not too hung up on working with the latest models of real-life equipment, this game is definitely worth a try.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Real Farm’s beautiful graphics, realistic field management, and unique career mode provide for heightened realism and goal-oriented gameplay that virtual farmers of all ages and experience levels will enjoy.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.