Has there been any genre in video games that has endured for as long as the simulator? Land, sea, and air, the impetus for the genre has boiled down to “if you can steer it, we’ll make a sim for it.” As a result, the market has exploded with simulations games from all walks of life. Trucks, boats, spaceships, experimental Soviet planes, busses, 18 wheelers, construction machines, commercial jets, and military aircraft. These sims range in complexity, and as Giant Bomb’s Flight Club showed us, 1:1 simulations can be serious business. These games serve a niche, but active audience looking for ways to unload after a stressful day or experience something we’d never do in real life. Like farming! Profession Farmer2017 is as niche as they come and will endear itself to fans of simulated field work and animal husbandry. However, they shouldn’t have to put up with this subpar game.
To be completely honest, this review is a result of confusion on my part. When the call for reviews was made, I saw Professional Farmer on a list and thought it was another sequel to Farming Simulator, a series that has enjoyed a modicum of success. I’ve watched enough YouTube videos and Giant Bomb Quick Looks to get a grasp of what a game like this needs to accomplish to be successful. Professional Farmer does nothing to appeal to the player’s desire for entertainment. The cynical side of me wants to believe that Professional Farmer exists entirely to create brand confusion. This heartless sim wants to capitalize on confused console gamers and incorrect search terms. Professional Farmer 2017 is completely devoid of character, the controls are iffy in weird spots, and the experience is incredibly boring.
I’m not saying that a game that simulates farming has to be action packed or feature scenarios involving possessed farm animals rising up to slaw their human owners. There’s so little nuance in Professional Farmer to keep the player interested with sticking around for a few hours. The function of running a farm and raising animals in a generic European dream land is aggressively soulless and unenergetic. Of all the game’s flaws, the advertised open world play space ends up being the chief culprit. Split into three zones, you’ll hop into a tractor and drive to areas containing usable field lands and communities to sell off crops and animals. I thought it strange and grossly inconvenient that that areas where you’d spend the most time - the fields - were situated so far away from the farm. Adding to the distance is the slow speed of the tractor (they don’t have to be hot rods but come on) and longer than preferred load screens that serve to warp the player out of each interactive area. As if driving to a field wasn’t arduous enough, the game expects you to make the trip to and from several times to prep the soil for planting. This means passing through the same load screens four or five times depending on the equipment needed. I was totally done by the second pass. Here’s a free tip: just leave the equipment at the field you’re working on. It’s a hell of a lot faster to grab it from one field to the next than to drive it all the way back to the farm.
The terrible experience of driving extends to the process of buying and selling livestock. The smart thing to do would be to let the player drive to the farm and trigger a menu system that displays all pertinent farm data and markets. Instead, you’re expected to make the drive to a walled village that looks like something out of Attack on Titan. This really doesn’t make much sense outside of trying to pad length or create busywork. The only worthwhile feature of driving to the village is to see the really creepy statue in the center of the abandoned settlement. The roads are completely empty, there are no road features like stop lights or signs that add decorative flair, no civilians walking about, no other farmers working, the world is just empty. At the very least, having traffic could have made things interesting. I mean, who doesn’t want to be tractor driver that pisses everyone off by driving slow on the highway?
Professional Farmer tests the player’s skill at managing a business more than tending a farm. You’ll spend lots of time plowing, seeding, and watering crops from various fields all in the interest in making money. Most of the work can be done by yourself or relegated to farmhands (who require a few days to complete a task). Aside from growing food, cash can be earned by raising the classic staple of farm animals. You can earn a decent wage caring for these animals by ensuring them a healthy, well-fed lifestyle. Feeding these animals could easily be accomplished with in-game menus, too, because having travel a little over than ten feet to fill a truck bed with feed and then drive it over the animal pen is a waste of gas and time.
Graphical problems such as low draw distances and disappearing textures are frequent in Professional Farmer. I experienced draw distance issues while tending fields which looked like the game engine had trouble rendering texture effects while driving. On average, the graphics look dated and dull. This weird slice of European-ana lacks visual grace and charm (the ugliest the game gets are the low polygon, incredibly low resolution reflections from the tractor’s side mirrors and bodies of water). Apart from the random wild animal, no humans populate this world and that’s pretty damn eerie. It’s like the Twilight Zone episode where a couple finds themselves in a deserted town only to realize they are now the playthings to a race of giants. I keep waiting to see a giant hand reach down and move me across the map. Hell, that’d actually be awesome because it could get me to my fields a whole fucking lot faster than driving. The hand of a bored child-god would have been helpful in the tutorial when my tractor inexplicably flipped over after ramming into the slurry container (in a fit of boredom). Since there was no way to right myself, I was forced to quit the section early. Gee, I hope I didn’t miss anything important!
Outside of the less than pleasant visuals and life destroying malaise, Professional Farmer’s controls are a mixed bag. Driving the tractor is the height of banal because it takes forever for the machine to slow to a stop when the brakes are applied and connecting it to equipment of varying size and supposed weight does nothing to change the dynamic of the vehicle’s movement. Other sims would make the effort to account for equipment size and weight. I also experienced a strange control quirk while on the farm. For some reason, the trigger for decoupling farm equipment in this area was completely unresponsive. It took hitting the simple combination of gamepad buttons about six or seven times before the action ever occurred on screen. This happened both in the tutorial and main game and there’s is no discernible rhyme or reason why this is an issue.
I have never played a farm simulator video game and based on my experience with this game, I don’t want to ever again (despite how interesting the new Farming Simulator looks). A simulator like this doesn’t have to be sexy, but Professional Farmer 2017 has all the energy of a pig waddling in the mud. It makes no attempt to capitalize on what makes this profession interesting beyond its tedious workload. It’s not a very pretty game and under normal circumstances, I can forgive poor graphics as long as the game is fun to play. The whole affair is half-baked and suffers a severe lack of heart and soul. Stay far away from this $40 cow pie.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.