After I published my review of Farming Simulator 19, I was eager to see what the reaction from the community would be. It was somewhat surprising to see that I got a lot of people agreeing with my overall opinion: FS19 has some cool new stuff, but it didn’t push the series that much further. Surfing through Reddit after the game launched, there was quite a lot of chatter. For the most part, there seems to be a clear divide between those who have a similar mindset to myself and those who are just happy to be playing the game.
As it relates to that second group, I don’t feel as though they’re completely wrong. For those who enjoy the game despite its flaws, that’s cool — I’m willing to respect their viewpoint. Though some of these people even brought up the point that this divide in opinion occurred when Farming Simulator 17 launched too, and eventually the game got better. But, interestingly enough, the main reason that game improved was due to mods. Thus, the same is expected for FS19.
Masking The Truth With Mods
Mods have played a major role in the PC gaming world for quite some time now. There are hundreds, if not thousands of games which user mods have expanded well beyond their original visions. Thus, many development studios have embraced it by making their games as mod-friendly as possible. This includes the Farming Simulator titles. Sure, it’s wonderful to have talented members of the community build upon games. However, I don’t think that should completely be one of the main selling points of a title. At least, not in the way that FS is handling it. This was something I noticed after playing the Switch version of FS17 for the first time last year.
Unlike the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of FS17, the Switch edition completely lacks any mod support whatsoever. Thus, that makes it the most ‘vanilla version’ of the sim out there. By the time I started playing the Switch version, I had put over 100 hours into the PC version, which was was loaded up with mods. As such, I had forgotten how the game performed in an untouched state. I enjoyed the Switch version, but it was pretty annoying dealing with the shortcomings that the mods had covered up. That’s essentially what’s happening again with Farming Simulator 19.
Within the two years that separate the release of FS17 and Farming Simulator 19, it seems that Giants has spent most of its time focusing on updating the graphics. As I mentioned in my review, it is a pretty game. But, in a lot of ways, it feels like putting lipstick on a pig (especially since some visual elements like the LOD system are still poor). Most of the inherent flaws that plagued the franchise even before FS17 remain present.
The main issue that I have, as well as many other players, is the physics system. It’s quite lackluster. Objects and vehicles bounce and can fly around like toys. There’s a great mod for FS17 which attempts to tune this up as much as possible, but even then, it’s still noticeable. Thus, FS19 in its current state shows that not much has been done on that front. Considering this is partly a driving simulator, I just can’t fathom why the developers haven’t done more in this area.
Retreading Old Ground
Some other notable flaws that mods have patched up involve adjustments to the AI system. Mods like GPS Mod and Courseplay add some cool functionality. The GPS Mod allows the tractors to guide themselves when working on a field, thus keeping the rows completely straight. CoursePlay enables players to assign more complex tasks to the AI helpers, such as driving to specific points on the map and making deliveries. Interestingly enough, Giants added a similar system to Farming Simulator 18 (which was released exclusively for mobile/handheld platforms), so it’s odd that it was left out in FS19.
Admittedly, I’m not a game developer. Thus, it may well be more difficult than what I can imagine to make these kinds of changes. But, that brings me back to the point of mods. Unpaid coders who work on these games as nothing more than a passion project can achieve these awesome results. Why can’t the actual development studio do the same? At this point, I think Giants might as well reach out to the mod developers and ask them if the studio can integrate their work into the base game as core features.
I also wonder if the Farming Simulator series has simply outgrown its engine entirely. While I didn’t catch onto the series until FS17, looking back at footage of preceding entries shows a lot of similarities. It leads me to believe Giants has only made incremental upgrades to the engine over the years. Seeing that this franchise has been chugging along for over a decade, that’s a mighty long time to reuse the same code. So, perhaps it’s time to just nuke it at the foundation and start from scratch. That would be a massive undertaking, I know, but considering that Farming Simulator is the biggest name in the genre, it needs to set the example.
Looking At the Other Team
On that note, I was recently surprised by the efforts of another studio: Ice Flames. It released Pure Farming 2018 earlier this year. Within my first few hours of playing, I noticed the team had taken a lot of cues from Giants’ work. But, they did something crucial—they added to it. In a lot of ways, Pure Farming 2018 essentially feels like a revamped FS. They both play incredibly similarly, but Pure Farming improved upon the formula with core changes to areas such as the physics and driving mechanics. It also has farming elements that FS lacks, such as field irrigation.
That said, FS is still a much bigger game with an even larger player base. But, I think Ice Flames is definitely onto something here. If they keep at it, this could be a real threat to the future of the Farming Simulator franchise, should its community become truly fatigued. Only time will tell, but I for one would like to see the pressure put on Giants. Maybe then the company will finally start listening to the qualms of its fanbase.