Giant Software’s Farming Simulator series has carved out a serious chunk of its sub-genre over the years. Similar to Microsoft Flight Simulator, while there are other offerings out there, this is the one that most people know not just due to the self-serving name, but also due to other factors such as familiarity, longevity, and simplicity. It’s for these reasons that I’ve put the series under a pretty harsh microscope in the past; I concluded that it seemed like the lack of truly threatening competition was driving Giants to cruise their way across the market.
But, Farming Simulator 22 seems to represent a pivot in the studio’s process. Being the longest-developed entry in the series so far, the fruits of such a circumstance certainly show. With a lot of new features in tow and some notable upgrades, this grass finally does seem to be looking a little greener compared to the past, albeit still with some rough patches in the mix.
Right off the bat, the most immediate difference is that everything looks noticeably prettier. While I normally reflect on a title’s visual fidelity closer to the end of a review, I think it’s just worth talking about here from the jump due to some striking improvements that I noticed.
Farming Simulator 19 provided a big facelift to the series when it launched back in 2018, introducing an all-new lighting engine, real shading, volumetric shadows, and more particle effects. Thus, Farming Simulator 22 has built upon that making everything look cleaner, crisper, and more detailed. Textures across the board are very well detailed; including more minute elements like scenery objects that you wouldn’t pay much attention to.
But, of course, the main star of the show is the machines at work. The series has long prided itself on featuring very high-poly, super detailed models, and that’s no different this time around. There’s more subtle attention to detail to create an even more authentic look, such as lights having a soft glowing fade as they transition between modes, in addition to looking a little more striking. When doing fieldwork, the various particle effects are also richer. Dirt and soil getting kicked up by a cultivator as it gets dragged across the soil has more depth to it, giving it a more 3D look.
The fields themselves also look more 3D, in addition to other SFX such as chaff spewing out of the combine harvesters, and dust being kicked up by the tires and farming implements. As the machines get covered in grime, even that has a weirdly pleasing look to it.
Wind simulation has also been kicked up a few knots (pun intended) with dynamic wind currents being clearly visible as the “waves” whip across tall crops in the field. Some weather effects like rain still look only passable, however; showers don’t look anywhere near as powerful as they do in titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Forza Horizon 5.
The enhanced presentation also applies to the sound design. With my headphones, I noticed that the engine sounds do have more variation and “boom” to them, making these big machines sound more powerful and grungy than ever before. But, some motor sounds are still hit-and-miss, like those for the pickup trucks. Another oddity I noticed has to do with the variable effects. For instance, echoes are far more prominent when driving in enclosed areas like under a shed or in a garage; a very nice touch. But, the cut-off between coming in and out of that environment is kind of harsh. The same applies to ambient sounds like distant vehicles; the transition is harsh, with the sounds “popping” in and out as the distance changes. These qualms are over small things, I must admit. But considering so much attention to detail has been put into other areas like texture work, VFX, and animations, less desirable areas like these stick out more than they did in past entries.
That being said, Farming Simulator 22 is certainly more than another graphics bump. Having kept it in the shed for three years rather than the usual two, Giants used the time to implement some fittingly extensive new gameplay mechanics that add more depth to the experience than ever before.
Winds of change
Dynamic seasons are no doubt the tentpole feature of this release. The functionality has existed for many years now, but only as a community mod. Its popularity has finally been acknowledged by Giants who have made it a true feature. Right from the jump, you’ll start your farming journey at the edge of summer and immediately get introduced to the confines of working with this new mechanic: the crop calendar.
As in real life, in-game crops in Farming Simulator 22 adhere to changes in the atmosphere. Thus, there are specific times growing and harvesting spread out across an in-game year. In this instance, the sim starts players off in August, with canola being the only crop that can be planted. But, its harvesting season doesn’t come until several months later.
Thus, right from the jump, Farming Simulator 22 diversifies its gameplay. Rather than just the usual cadence of harvest, cultivate, plant, fertilize, repeat that has often been the case in the past, players now have to really widen out their skillset to actually have something to do.
Once the planting season is over for one crop, there may very well be a good chunk of time before the harvest season begins for another. Thus, alternative activities like forestry and animal husbandry take on a much more prominent role compared to past entries. In addition, there are also contract jobs that have you doing fieldwork for other farmers. All of these alternate revenue streams are crucial to maintaining steady income during the gaps between crops. In my case, I planted my canola in August, but wasn’t able to harvest it until July. But, due to the variation in crop times, crops rise and fall in demand depending on the time of year. So, I had to wait until September to get the best price; a whole 13 “months” after I had planted them. I made over $60,000, yes, but this was a far slower turnaround than past entries—which is the whole point.
Clearly, just filling your limited number of fields with the same crop won’t get you fast results if you choose to adhere to the seasons mechanic. It can be disabled, or merely shortened to as little as one in-game day being able to cover a whole month, but the transitions are still time-consuming. Thus, in addition to the aforementioned alternate activities, there’s also another big one added in this release: production chains.
“Time is money, and money is time”
While these were introduced as the big new way to make money, they come at a cost—or several, really. For one, you can only make full use of them after either buying out existing ones on a map, or building new ones on land you own. So, right from the start, there’s a big initial investment. On top of that, you have to provide all of the raw materials needed to make the products.
For example, a chocolate factory requires both sugar and milk to operate. That means you’ll need to have a consistent flow of sugarcane, along with a consistent flow of milk from a healthy cow farm. It takes time to build up both of those material streams, and they come with their own high costs. Thus, running a truly profitable operation that includes your own production chain requires time and effort.
This isn’t a complaint; it all makes sense and certainly fleshes out the gameplay even more. It really makes your effort feel even more rewarding as you can see the fruits of your labor manifest in all sorts of other areas. But, it truly is a time sink. Even the smaller-scale chains in the form of the new greenhouses and beehives are similarly a slow-burning reward.
While they require next to no effort (greenhouses needing only water and bees needing nothing but love, apparently), they don’t produce a huge amount of goods at a fast rate. Thus, you’ll only net $1,000 here and there. Still, they’re a neat distraction from the busy work of everything on the fields. And thankfully, there’s one more new feature to help with that.
AI workers have been in the Farming Simulator series for several years, but Farming Simulator 22 finally brings in a much-needed overhaul. Rather than just setting a worker to take over your current task, a job can also be created for them via a menu. They can even be sent to deliver goods (including a looping option if there’s something to do). But, still, this new system has its drawbacks.
For one, the list of tasks is still primarily limited to fieldwork. The only extra things are delivering items back-and-forth. And even with those deliveries, that’s limited to harvests, not even stuff like grabbing a stack of pallets from the shop.
More hands-on tasks like loading pallets on a trailer, collecting bales, feeding animals, cutting trees; all of that still requires total effort from the player. It’s unfortunate, but again, at least it gives you something to do when the mundane rhythm of fieldwork sets in. All that said, I wish the UI for setting up the AI workers was a little more intuitive, as well as the UI in general.
Even when it comes to other stuff such as navigating between the different selling points, and looking at the seasonal chart, there just feels like there’s too much menu diving. Elements that should be put together (like the calendar and price charts) are separated. And the map, while detailed, still lacks labels (or even individual icons) for the different points of interest, thus leaving you to select between each of them to find out what’s what. But, still, these grapes, though sour, are admittedly small.
Sweeter fruits this season
Where it matters, Farming Simulator 22 has truly improved. The driving mechanics even feel more authentic, with machines noticeably straining themselves when a load is too heavy or they’re trying to pull/push a tool up an incline. The physics and weight distribution all seem to behave more believably, though it still doesn’t quite match the fidelity of SnowRunner’s big machine mastery.
Even so, between the new gameplay mechanics, enhanced visuals, and deeper elements, this is the strongest entry in the series in a while. I wasn’t overly impressed with its predecessor, but Farming Simulator 22 has left me feeling more than satisfied.
While I still do want Giants to build upon this and believe that there’s a lot of deeper mechanics that can be added, Farming Simulator 22 is a noteworthy step in the right direction. The team promises that it’s listening to feedback and wants to make improvements accordingly, so here’s hoping that this entry only grows substantially over the next few years; all in addition to the excellent community support it’s sure to receive.