As a reasonably savvy consumer, I do tend to expect a similar level of competence in others. That said, if you don’t have your wits about you, it’s all too easy to be duped into buying a bottle of Timmy Hilfinger aftershave or a Pamosunic television. These brands usually exist to trick elderly relatives in search of a young family member’s carefully written down request into returning with a carefully named knockoff. It’s this kind of chicanery that the Professional Farmer series is often accused of. It’s not entirely unwarranted as the developer has been rather careful to adopt some very similar branding to its renowned peer Farming Simulator.
The surprise here though is that Professional Farmer 2017 needn’t market itself as Farming Simulator’s curiously similar but poorer cousin because, as a simple farming sim, it’s actually pretty good.
The more elaborate titles in this genre engage the player with real-world brands and vehicles to draw the player into a realistic experience. Professional Farmer has no such licensing deals so relies on fictional entities. This is in reality no more of an issue than a football game with fictional players. The core mechanic has no reason to suffer but there’s a reason people pay extra to have the real deal.
If you opt for the tutorial, Professional Farmer 2017 gives a decent overview of basic farming. It takes you out to a field, lets you mess with ploughs, grubbers, fertilisers, etc. I noticed very quickly that the handling of vehicles and of attaching the various implements was noticeably forgiving. It gave me a sense that the developers were adding value here and there by not making simple actions that required an element of precision mind-numbingly tedious to get through. The same forgiving nature comes across in the game as a whole and you’re unlikely to find yourself punished for accidentally trying to plough through the tarmac as you move between fields…
The areas Professional Farmer 2017 falls short (outside of authenticity) really fall into two categories; finesse and depth. The first being that you are often reminded of the ‘budget’ nature of what you’re playing only when trying to do something a little more advanced or specific. For example, I ran out of petrol in a field. The tutorial had not told me how to deal with this scenario and I was so dumbfounded that I had to start a new game. Now, the benefit of several hours experience has revealed that I can reset my vehicle and myself from the map screen. This function actually came in very handy as I had recently bought a new vehicle and it tiddly-winked my existing combine onto the roof of a nearby farm building.
Longer play reveals minor issues with resource management. I had serious trouble getting my animals to poop enough to provide adequate slurry to fertilise my (annoyingly distant) field. Once the planting was complete, getting crops grown became quite dull and long-winded when there was nothing else to do except start another field. The game does let you wait at speed but you have to make sure you keep your animals well fed or the march of time will knock them of their respective mortal coils.
There’s a weirdly satisfying feeling that only farming sims can give, something similar to filling in a colouring book or collecting all the raindrops on a car window with your finger. It’s something you can relax into almost immediately and Professional Farmer 2017 gives you access to that without too much additional detail to worry about.
Those looking for the depth of engagement or variety of options available in more expensive farming sims will be disappointed, but for those wanting a simple, accessible farming experience Professional Farmer 2017 hits all the right notes and provides a more forgiving, arcade-style experience.