£39.99 - Focus Home Interactive - PS4, Xbox One, PC

Many of us play video games as a form of escapism, and to experience worlds we wouldn’t usually be a part of, whether it’s shooting zombies, shooting aliens, shooting gangsters...actually now I stop and think about it a lot of games are very much gun focused. Well, instead of taking down waves of baddies, how about hopping in a tractor and ploughing a field for a couple of hours? It might not be as exotic as space travel, but it’s still a form of escapism (unless you happen to be a farmer), and Farming Simulator 17 looks to bring you the best wheat growing/sheep dipping/manure spreading experience available.

Farming Simulator 17 is a slow burn. Don’t jump into it expecting to get to grips with the game straight away, there is a lot to learn. From crop management to animal husbandry, this game is dense. There are a few tutorials that can be selected from the start, but if you’re new to the series, you’re bound to be a bit daunted. Even something as simple digging up a field requires a decent level of understanding of how tractors and their attachments work.

The controls add another level of complexity too. With the game’s origins on PC, there are a lot of functions that have been mapped to the controller for consoles, and pretty much every possible combination of buttons has been accounted for. Quite often you’ll need to bring up sub-menus by holding down a shoulder button, and then pressing another button. If you’re driving a Massey Ferguson (that’s a brand of tractor for those without hours of virtual farming under their belts) across a field with a rotavator attached, there’s suddenly a lot to think about, and remembering which button lowers the attachment and which honks the horn will take a degree of learning.

Having said that, you’ve got the time to learn it all, because Farming Simulator 17 is a leisurely game. Unless you play it on the hardest difficulty, where crops deteriorate if you don’t harvest them in time, you can go at your own pace, and have the freedom to do whatever you want. The game almost becomes zen-like when you take on a job. It’s not uncommon to have to spend 40 minutes harvesting crops in a field. That’s 40 real time minutes of going backwards and forwards across the same few hectares, just driving your tractor and turning around when you get to the end. Whether or not that appeals is key to what you’ll get out of the game, because while there are plenty of different activities, they all get repetitive after a short time. There’s also a basketball court in town if you fancy shooting some hoops, something we all know farmers are famous for.

There’s plenty of longevity in the game as you grow your farming empire, trying to turn a healthy profit to pay off your inevitable bank loan. There’s also a wealth of content in the game, and you’ll find yourself squirreling money away in the bank to afford that sweet looking combine harvester you’ve been lusting over. As with previous games, there are also mods, which in the past have been a great way to extend the life of the game, and the active community is bound to make some great additions of its own to the latest title.

Graphically it’s inoffensive, but you’d struggle to call it pretty. It’s the best looking Farming Simulator title yet, but honestly that was a low bar to start with. It introduces some new features to the series, such as being able to play as a female character, and there are new crops to tackle too. If you’re getting hot under the collar about the prospect of growing your own field of soya beans, then you already know that this is a game for you.

That’s one of the things about the Farming Simulator games. They have a devout following, and more than likely anyone interested in the series will have been eagerly waiting for the release of this one in the way most gamers look forward to the latest Call of Duty. If you’re in this camp, then this is undoubtedly a game you’ll want to pick up. It doesn’t make any drastic changes to the franchise, but the small improvements lead to the most enjoyable and solid game yet. For those unsure, Farming Simulator 17 is perhaps the most accessible game in the series, but be prepared for a frustrating first few hours before everything clicks, and know that you’re getting into a game that is heavily based on repetition.

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