When the prospect of playing and reviewing Pure Farming 2018 came up, my “inner boer” gave me a kick and told me I should check it out. That’s probably because I am a terrible boer, to be honest: even though I am a du Plessis, I’ve never actually played a farming game, despite having seen many of them cropping up (hah!) on Steam, and this was a chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Little did I know that this game would do exactly what it said on the tin: it really is “pure” farming; it couldn’t have been more accurate if its tag line had been “Everything a farmer does in real life, you will do too!”. In other words, this is less a game, and far more an actual simulation of the farming life. This is both a good and a bad thing.
It’s good, because it conveys an accurate sense of what it’s like to plough fields, plant seeds, see them grow and then harvest and deliver them for money, along with other farming activities like animal rearing/selling, hiring workers, and struggling to turn a profit in order to keep the equipment going and creditors at bay.
It’s bad… for exactly the same reasons.
Back up a bit
Let me back up a bit. Pure Farming 2018 is a feature-rich farming simulator that aims to let players farm, using any and all modern farming tools and methods you can think of. There’s a Free mode, where there are no objectives and players can farm however they like, and a Story Mode, which forces the player to fulfil various objectives to move the story forward. There are various countries in which to farm, various crops to master, and a range of farming challenges to overcome if that’s your thing. Story Mode is the place to start for newbies, as it acts as a very long tutorial that introduces all of the game’s major concepts.
For the review, I played Story Mode, in which I took on the role of an unnamed city slicker whose grandfather died and left him a debt-ridden but functional farm. It was up to me to use the little grandpappy left me, which included an initial lump sum of 50 000 Euros, to make enough money to turn the farm around.
Doing that meant learning how to plough and plant fields of wheat and potatoes, how to sell and harvest the resulting crops, how to keep my equipment at its most efficient by washing and maintaining it, how to farm with livestock, how to harvest eggs from my chicken coop, how to deal with manure, when to sell the animals to make peak profit, and much, more more.
If just reading that list was exhausting, it has nothing on actually doing those things in-game.
Patience very much required
This is not a game for people without patience, because when I say I had to do those things, I really had to do them as if I was there, in the world itself, farming for realises. When I ploughed fields, I don’t mean I clicked a button and *boom*, field ploughed – oh no, I literally had to do the following:
Get my tractor, drive to my shed, attach the plough, and drive up and down each field for upwards of ten real-world minutes (sometimes much longer when fields were bigger – my record was one hour and ten minutes to plough two bloody fields) before the game registered the ploughing was done.
After that, I had to drive back to my shed, drop off the plough, connect the seeder (or drive to the shop to buy a seeder), collect seeds for the crop I was planting, return to the field, and drive up and down again until the game told me I was done. And after that, I had to return to the shed, drop off the seeder, attach the water tanker, go fill it up at the reservoir, and then drive it back to the field, after which I had to drive up and down the damn thing again in order to irrigate it.
Only once that was all done would the crop begin to grow. Around three days later (crop-dependent), it was ready to be harvested which involved, you guessed it, driving up and down the field again until the work was done, only with the appropriate harvesting machine attached to my tractor this time.
And only THEN could I go sell it, which required transferring it to a trailer and driving said trailer – pulling it in my slow-ass tractor – across the rather bland game world to the local co-op. Because if I didn’t do that, if I instead sold the crop through my farmer’s handy tablet (a much easier option), I’d get 20% less for it than if I sold it in person. I was forced into choosing between fast sales but low profit, and better profits but at a loss of the ten minutes or so manually selling it would cost.
Sticking with it
By now, I was sure this game was going out of its way to piss me off. But despite many a rant to my by-now-bemused girlfriend at how dull ploughing virtual fields was, I stuck with it. Every time I was told to do something by my helpful quest-giver (who advised me via email on my tablet), I did it.
I followed the story quests, I levelled my farmer up with the XP those awarded (which unlocked better and better equipment), I ploughed field after field, planted crop after crop, built animal enclosures, I managed manure, I visited a farm in Italy and harvested olives and grapes, I bought wind turbines and invested in solar energy, until eventually… eventually… I started to enjoy myself.
Finding out that I could listen to internet radio stations or my own music as I farmed was a big help; I also found that because of the gargantuan effort required to do things in the game, when they were complete and I’d turned a profit or built something new on my farm or made some money from renewable energy sources, I felt a twinge of pride and satisfaction at a hard job done well.
From an initial impression of “Oh God WHY??”, after a full sixteen real-world hours of play I’d finally reached a far more positive one. Driving from one end of the farm to the other was now fun. Fetching a piece of machinery I’d left at another shed had become enjoyable, rather than a chore. Planning out my day and achieving every phase of that plan was rewarding. Sowing and waiting and harvesting and selling became satisfying. The whole game went from aggravating (because I didn’t understand it) to pleasantly relaxing – something that’s been lacking from my library of late.
While I won’t say I love Pure Farming 2018, I can say I grew to appreciate its nuances, and I am glad to have it in my games library. I might even fire it up again once I’m done here.
I didn’t enjoy Pure Farming 2018’s graphics. They are flat and bland, but despite this at 4K I got between 30 and 50fps. The only lighting model I spotted was that used by the engine to show off vehicle lights, and when it rained, it didn’t seem like anything got wet. Buildings were very flat, with little to no character.
The countryside itself was bland, and the view distance at UItra wasn’t great – there was far too much pop-in. About the nicest-looking anything in PF2018 was the vehicles: they were all lovingly detailed. Overall, graphics are serviceable, but not wonderful.
Same with the sound. The music suits the theme, but the farm world’s soundscape doesn’t come alive – it’s very muted and subdued. A country & western internet radio station helps; I can recommend countrymusic24.powerstream.de.
Plus, it’s buggy. I got my vehicles stuck a number of times, plus I somehow managed to force a piece of equipment through a barn wall, to a place it couldn’t be retrieved, by simply detaching it from my tractor, forcing me to reload my game. The game’s physics, in general, are a bit janky.
Should you get it?
This is a game for people who want to be farmers in real life, who have the patience to do everything a farmer needs to do, and who like witnessing clever planning paying off in the long run. This isn’t a gamer’s game, it’s a farmer’s game. If that’s you, Pure Farming 2018 is an excellent buy. If not, avoid this entirely. You have been warned.
- True-to-life farming simulation
- You can listen to Internet radio stations or your own music while you work
- Teaches you a lot about farming
- Can be rewarding if you stick with it
- Initially frustrating gameplay
- Can be tedious
- Takes ages to make progress
- Bland, flat graphics and game world
- Somewhat buggy
Pure Farming 2018 was reviewed on PC with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on Steam for R349.95, and PS4 and Xbox One for R689.