Agricultural Simulator: Historical Farming

By: James Archer

Published: June 11, 2012 Posted in: PC Gaming Nonsense, Review

Simulated agriculture, eh? Farming historically, eh? This’ll be a cinch. Not only am I from the West Country, immediately making me an expert on matters related to farming, but this little ditty is the latest from UIG Entertainment, lifetime sim vets responsible for Blaster Simulator, Bungee Jumping Simulator and Mining & Tunneling Simulator – all of which are brilliant, probably.

AS-HF - farm

I am immediately stuffed. There’s no given indication of what to do first or how to do it; you’re dropped in a farm and that’s that. Strolling up to the first thing I see – a well – with the FOV of a roll of toilet paper, I click furiously to lower the accompanying bucket. Nothing happens. Clearly not using the correct input, I hit up my essential farming guide: the Controls menu. Nothing on interaction. The bucket remains still, mockingly.

AS-HF - pigs

Giving up, I wander over to a nearby tractor, which I’m reliably informed is a perfect replica of the classic Massey Ferguson TE20. I hover around the Fergie for a while, trying to mount it. LMB, RMG, E, F and Spacebar do nothing. In mild desperation I mash W until I’m actually stood atop the pilot’s seat, then carefully and methodically press every button on the keyboard. Still nothing. Am I without arms? Is the tragic loss of both limbs in a freak grain mill accident simulated as well?

Fondly contemplating the gift of touch, I leave the stupid tractor and wander around the farm. It’s small, but pretty comprehensive; chickens, sheep, cows, a dog. In an unoccupied run there’s what looks like a floating radial menu featuring several different animal icons. Maybe this is some kind of kettling device, a subjugation pen that pressures the animals into giving up their precious produce by depriving them of basic comforts? I don’t need arms to herd chickens, so get to work chasing them into the pen.

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Being a former chicken owner myself, I can attest that this game perfectly captures the tedium of attempting to coerce a hyperactive bird to run fifty yards in a single direction into an enclosed space which, judging by their refusal to cooperate, they perceive to cover a trapdoor leading to a pit of hungry foxes. The poorly-rendered birds make haste, impotently flappinging clipped wings, in such a way that accurate herding requires lining them up with the run’s gate like a feathery snooker ball, scattering all but the specific one you’ve lined up. No eggs are worth this degree of insubordination, so I abandon that too and head off into the orchards.

A small chapel-looking building is nestling enticingly in the hills, so I head off in that direction. This could be good – an ‘Oooh, what’s over there?’ approach to exploration vaguely reminiscent of a Bethesda RPG. Comparisons to Skyrim end fifteen seconds later; when I reach the chapel, there’s no way to go inside, pray for a good harvest or interact with it in any meaningful way. It might as well be a tree, not that there’s any shortage of those. The density of woodland is actually quite impressive in places, to the extent that I eventually become lost in them. Not entranced or enamoured, literally lost. In a farming sim.

AS-HF - chapel

This is pathetic. I’m pathetic.

After a while my less-idiotic housemate enters, and quickly determines how to ride the TE20 – there’s a small button on the steering wheel that must be pressed, going against conventional wisdom that vehicles are started by slapping your hands all over it until you’re teleported into the seat. It’s moderately fun to drive, despite using flip-inducing physics that would be considered too unrealistic for a cartoon kart racer. It’s also devoid of a plough or harrow, lest I do something that vaguely resembles farming, so instead I use the tractor to drag around a log that fell from the sky.

AS-HF - log

This might be something left over from the dev build, because there’s no readily apparent reason for it to exist, but regardless: pressing the I key will spawn a log in midair and drop at at your feet. Of course, as a newly-appointed Arch-Mage of Logmancy, I summon as many logs from the ether as possible, but after five or so the framerate starts coughing up blood. Logs do, however, have a possible use: they crush the grass beneath them. By attaching one to the tractor, I can create a makeshift harrow and clear some ground for farmland. Brilliant.

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Wait, no…

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Surprisingly unsuited for repeatedly pulling off doughnuts with most of a tree chained to the back end, the Fergie topples in a wildly underwhelming barrel roll before coming to a stop on her side. My character, finally revealed to possess not just one but two arms, remained stoic in the face of gravity and a neck-breaking crash. Surely I at least got some ripe, fertile farmland out of this operation?

AS-HF - dirt

I spawn logs until the game crashes. Life’s too short.

James Archer