If there’s one unexpected, unexplained phenomena in gaming right now, it most definitely belongs to farming simulators and Pure Farming 2018 is the latest to get on the hay wagon.
Growing up, I lived opposite a farm so I’m used to the sights and smells. I even saw a cow give birth in a field once which was an experience. So starting the game with a sad story about family, finding myself in a front room with a 50″ plasma and getting to play around with a swish tablet in a fancy kitchen was not how I expected my first moments to go down.
But Pure Farming 2018 kept doing things like that to both surprise me and seperate itself from the competition.
Cool, but it’s only farming, so…
Don’t be so dismissive. Sure, you still do the same things you’ve experienced in every other sim – harvest crops, plough fields, transport goods, fertilize – but these actually feel like they’re part of a wider story. This time, you’re collecting side-missions from people filing requests, helping them with their problems and individual circumstances. But you’re also in it to expand your business. There’s an immediate sense of life and living in Pure Farming 2018 that I’ve not felt from Farming Simulator or any others of its ilk.
As mentioned, your character has a history of farming. Your grandfather owned the place and your character used to go there as a child during the summer breaks to help out. However, your father didn’t approve, thinking agriculture was a waste of time. He didn’t want that life for you so stopped taking you to the farm, meaning your character didn’t see his grandfather for many years. As such, when grandpappy eventually dies, there is an open will for the farm as he doesn’t think he has anybody to leave the deeds to. The debt has racked up and it seems like it’s about to be seized. That is, until your character stands up to his family in court and wins to become the sole owner of the farm. A happy ending after all.
Except now you’ve inherited all the debt and problems that go along with it. Seems the problems are only just beginning. Fortunately, the bank is willing to give you a loan to help out, so your main, immediate objective is to pay it off. Beyond that, it’s up to you.
Pure Farming 2018 paces everything out by using a tablet device to document emails, tutorials, calender and emails on how to play the game. You can also see active tasks, your skill level and progression bar, recovering vehicles and stats about your progress in the game, for instance animal rearing and how much you’ve sold. Pure Farming 2018 also goes one further, tasking you with looking into renewable energy sources and cost-cutting exercises. There’s a lot of strategy to take on board in order to run and facilitate your new venture, which, to me, was immediately refreshing and grabbed my interest immediately.
Alright, that actually sounds quite cool…
It really is. Narratively, you’ve got immediate context going in. There’s an emotional weight added to the proceedings so you might value the farm more, making it a more interactive experience than its competitors. The user interface is also quite slick and easy to navigate, though the emails do start piling up and you’ll eventually get a bit bored reading them, especially as you’ll have already figured out how to do half the things they’re telling you to do.
Of course, you can skip all of the narrative entirely and just dive into a free roam farming experience. Essentially the story mode is one big tutorial so it won’t be for everyone, though as we mentioned there are some marked differences in Pure Farming compared to the rest. There’s also no set difficulty, you just dive in and play, which means there’s something here for both vets and rookie farmers.
There’s also a lot more customisation. For instance, you can dress your character up in a ridiculous top hat and yellow sunflower Hawaiian shirt with thick black boots. Or go for the traditional duds for some rough and tumble in the muck. However you choose to express yourself, Pure Farming 2018 has your back. You can even customise your radio station, actually entering in a URL of your favourite internet radio, or by selecting a folder on your hard drive. It’s your tunes, your way, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Visually, this is also an absolute beauty and a real step above everything else that’s out there – at least until Farming Simulator 19 appears. I maxed the game out on my Gigabyte Sabre 17 and it mostly ran and looked like a dream, though was prone to some big frame rate dips at times. The look of the blades of grass, the crops, the flowing water and irrigation. Even the vehicles and character models. There’s even a realism in the way you move across different surfaces, the game going to great lengths to create this genuine sense of authenticity. That said, draw distance is a little bit strained and up close you can see certain items are a bit pixelated.
But to really sell the element of realism, your crops can actually wither and die, meaning you will have to pay attention to what you’re doing at all times and spend a lot of time maintaining them otherwise they’ll be wasted for harvest. You’ll actually get notifications to tell you about this, though, and also you can see when a field is ready for harvesting by its colour on the mini-map which is a nice touch. The game also allows you to set waypoint markers to make it easier and keep track of where you’re going.
My main criticism, though, is equipment does seem a bit bare bones at the moment. I feel like more vehicles and better licenses would really fill this out. Right now, it seems like you’re driving around in very samey vehicles and that kind of dilutes the experience. I guess if you were to compare, Pure Farming 2018 feels a bit like the equivalent of PES right now and Farming Simulator is FIFA. Minus the ball. And the 11 players and the fancy shirts … you get the picture.
I also found that when pulling off some of the required actions, the game was quite resistant and forced me to be in an exact spot otherwise it wouldn’t do what I wanted. This got a bit tedious and frustrating, especially since it’s not easy to back up in reverse when you’ve got a plough or trailer in tow. Who knew?
For me, Pure Farming 2018 is easily the best farm sim I’ve played. I appreciate the realism, as well as the narrative direction and the visuals. The user interface is quite slick, though there’s room for improvement in managing some areas.
There is a lack of some favourable, familiar licenses, as well as some clunky motion. I did also find some pretty harsh drops in frame rate and while the visuals are mostly incredible, they do get a little bit exposed up close and at distance.
Still, Pure Farming 2018 from Ice Flames is a fantastic starting point for a new franchise. Farming Simulator has some serious, real competition now and it had better hope that it’s not riding a tidal wave of complacency when it launches later this year.
+ Unexpectedly moving narrative direction
+ Exploration of realism is extremely welcome
+ Visuals are mostly impressive
+ Character and radio customisation options are brilliant
– Some clunky and resistant motion
– Dips in frame rate
– Finnicky objective system demands sweet spots
– Visuals exposed up close and at a distance
– Limited range of vehicles
Pure Farming 2018
7 out of 10
Tested on PC
Code provided by the publisher