Simulator games have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I used to play them a bunch, back when the games were "tycoons" and DLC was called "expansion packs." Rollercoaster Tycoon is a great time waster, and Railroad Tycoon 3 is a surprisingly complex simulation of running a railroad corporation. And I think we all know how engrossing Civilization V can be.
Harvest Moon DS was one of my favorite games, back when my DS still had a hinge. So when I saw Professional Farmer 2014, I was intrigued. Though I live in New England, surrounded by farms, I've never actually worked on a farm. Probably because I don't really want to. Either way, here was my chance to finally experience the action-packed life of a professional farmer.
The first thing I noticed about Professional Farmer 2014 after starting it up was that I couldn't see anything. After googling around for a bit, it turns out that this is a known problem, and the developer has posted a fix for it on the official Steam discussions page. The fix consists of setting the 3D options for my graphics card back to default, which works, though I would've preferred the developers actually patching this. But, when I started the game up, I could actually see things. That's good.
I started career mode. First, the game tasks you with plowing and cultivating (tilling) a field. After this, the game tells you that your neighbors need help with this too. So, you have to go plow and cultivate their fields as well. This is incredibly boring. Basically, you pull a magical cultivator or plow behind your tractor at a speed of 15kph—20kph (9.5mph—12.5mph). Every once in a while you have to turn around and go the other direction. You have to do this for every field. You can hire people to complete the work, but it costs money and is disabled for the first year of career mode (the tutorial).
Once you've done this, it's time to buy some seed—meaning that you have to drive all the way to the store. And your only vehicle (at this point) is a tractor. Given that your tractor has a top speed of 41kph (25.5mph), driving to and from the store took fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of boring, monotonous tractor driving. I tried crashing into some cars, but that wasn't very impressive. It was pretty satisfying to be the tractor slowing everyone else down instead of the person stuck behind it, though.
Now it's time to plant that seed. Hook up the proper attachment, fill it up with seed, and drive through the field slowly until you've covered the entire field. Hey, your neighbor needs help with that too! Then, hook up the broadcast spreader, fill it up with fertilizer, and drive through the field again. At least this part is faster, because the spreader just sprays fertilizer everywhere and it only takes two runs through to cover the entire field. Once you've done this, the season is over.
Kick It Into Gear
So far, you've been a small time farmer. Now it's time to get into the big leagues. Take your tractor and drive to the bank—another long, boring drive—and take out a loan for $250,000. Then, drive back, and go to the vehicle store, which is thankfully close by. After buying a combine, you have to drive that back. Then drive your tractor back. And now it's back to the same old routine—turn on the mower and drive through the field slowly until you've mowed down all the wheat. Except this is even more boring because you don't even need to keep W pressed down. You just press 1-4 for your speed and turn when needed. Hey, your neighbor needs his field mowed!
After selling your wheat, you've still got a field full of the leftovers from your mowing. So take your tractor, hook up that hay baler, and drive down the lines of hay. It doesn't matter how fast you go, but you have to pause every 10 seconds to spit out a hay bale. I think you can do something with these hay bales, but the tutorial doesn't tell you what. You just go on to the next season. Plow your field, till your field, plant some crops. Aren't you glad you're a professional farmer now?
After this, the game starts getting less specific with its tutorial messages. Cultivate three fields. Harvest three fields. Now you're allowed to hire workers, which is nice, because the game is so god damn boring. Unfortunately, the UI lags like hell and is annoying to navigate.
The general tone of this review so far hasn't been positive, and for a good reason. This game is so incredibly boring that it's difficult to put it in a good light. But I'll try. Have you ever been playing Minecraft, and gotten to the point where you're just so done with exploring and building that you just want to dig a big hole? Maybe you've got some goal for it, but in the end, you're just digging a big hole.
I get here often when I'm playing Minecraft. I'll put on some stand-up comedy on Spotify, plot out my hole, and get digging. It's boring and monotonous, but yet... satisfying? It gives me something to do while I'm listening. I'm not sure. But that's the same sort of feeling I get from this game. Hop in the combine, put on a podcast, and just harvest away. That's really all I can give this game. It's great for occupying your time while listening to something interesting.