Agriculture enthusiasts rejoice! Where Farming Simulator has ruled the roost for years, this year will see developer Ice Flames add to 2018’s crop of competition in the form of Pure Farming 2018. Is this a bumper yield, or one better off hurriedly passed to the abattoir? Plough on to find out.
Pure Farming 2018 certainly is a thoroughbred simulator. Saddled with debt, the player is handed the reigns of the family farm in Montana, and is tasked to turn some profit. Decked out in a flannel shirt and accompanied by country music, the player enters into the exciting world of agriculture.
The game eases the player in gently, with a thorough tutorial to hold your farm hand whilst you pick up the basics. You may be out in the sticks, but the players own in-game tablet adds a dash of modernity. This tablet will be the main interface for setting map waypoints, answering email, and general farm management.
Initially, this sounds excellent though quickly becomes a burden. Pure Farming 2018 goes hard with the in-game emails, and much like in the real world you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed with spam notifications as the game fires you an email for every basic action. Worse yet the interface and controls for the tablet are deeply unintuitive, reminiscent of using a clunky cheap Chinese off-brand tablet circa 2005.
Is the game set in 2005? Possibly. Looking up from the tablet reveals a landscape where the graphics certainly look dated. Playing at the absolute maximum settings on PC one would expect crisp textures and smooth well-rendered models, however, the game appears as if it never left early access.
The core gameplay feels unfinished too. As if to represent a farmer tied to his land, the camera likes to stay right on top of the player with crippled, limited movement. This is deeply frustrating, and especially so when trying to drive farm vehicles which regrettably already handle poorly.
As this is Pure Farming 2018 and not Pure Farming 1718, one would expect the modern in-game farm vehicles to be a core part of the game and a pleasure to use. Halfway there! Pure Farming is bang on in making vehicles a foundation of the game. Sadly though, aside from the aforementioned clunky controls, vehicles are also limited to carrying an absurdly small amount of fuel. This is frankly bizarre and feels like unneeded artificial difficulty, as in some cases you may need a top up before even working a single field.
If you don’t feel like driving yourself, have no fear, as you can put the AI to work for you. This isn’t without risk, however, as the lunatic AI-driven harvester will attack your fields like a blind man with a vengeance, savaging your carefully cultivated crops. Better then, perhaps, to return to your humble roots and work your field manually.
At this point, you may be wondering what the point of it all is. Indeed, in the western world 80% of people prefer to live an urban life, and with Pure Farming 2018, it’s easy to see why. Playing the game absolutely feels like hard work, battling not only the bank to run a profitable farm but also a barrage of core gameplay nuisances that really shouldn’t be here.
If this were an early access game these issues would all be fully understandable. However Pure Farming 2018 has come to harvest and is heading to a farmers market near you. As an alternative to the hegemony of Farming Simulator, Pure Farming fails to bring anything new to the table. What it does have present is poorly executed.
If I have learnt anything from Pure Farming 2018, it’s that with some careful nurturing you can grow something tasty. This rule of agriculture no doubt applies to games development too. With some polishing, overhauled graphics, and additional features, this series could certainly one day go toe to toe, or hoof to hoof, with Farming Simulator. Hopefully, Ice Flames can deliver a better crop next year.