I have a genuine love of job simulator games that is both unnerving and inexplicable. I also find them deeply hilarious. The seriousness with which they take themselves and my absolute refusal to take anything seriously makes for a very entertaining combination, at least as far as I’m concerned. Thus, when a code for Pure Farming 2018 arrived in my inbox last week, I was predictably excited.
Pure Farming 2018 is exactly what it says on the tin — a hyper realistic video game recreation of the daily ball of problems, elements and time management that is running a real farm. You need land, you need machines and vehicles, you need animals, you need tools and supplies, and you need the ability to get up very early in the morning and work until the sun goes down just to ensure the smooth operation of the place for another day.
There are four different places you can set your farm up — Colombia in South America, Montana in the United States, Italy and Japan. There is also a fifth map available as DLC with allow you to set up shop in Germany. Each map features very different terrain, weather and local curiosities that will complicate your life as a farmer.
And complicated is the operative word. There’s so much to learn in Pure Farming 2018 and its lucky that one of the game’s many modes of play, called My Farm, is essentially one long, unending tutorial. It teaches you to the ins and outs of running your farm, holding your hand through the trickier or more convoluted concepts, so that you can eventually do it all yourself when you jump over to Career mode. If the long game doesn’t sound like your thing, you can try Farm Stories which are separate, bite-sized pieces of objective-based play. “Grow and harvest a crop of X,” for instance. Each of these scenarios will take about an hour to complete and are a good way to get to grips with any concepts you may feel My Farm didn’t explain clearly enough. Finally, you have a sandbox mode which is exactly what it sounds like — go anywhere, do anything or nothing, farm to your hearts content and succeed or fail by your own hand. It’s nightmare mode and only for those who have internalised the game’s many hundreds of systems.
Sandbox mode is exactly the sort of thing I look for in games like this — I absolutely must create a story where there is none and in the case of Pure Farming 2018, my story is essentially that of Stardew Valley — one in which I have been given a farm and am expected to know what to do with it, except that I am a complete dunce and uniquely unequipped to deal with such a job. There is also no-one to date or grow apples for which really bums my farmer out and makes him spend his days grumbling about how this is nothing at all like the experience Stardew Valley promised him. And so he muddles through his day, trying his best and ruining his own crops more often than he doesn’t.
For Polish developer Ice Flames, the game (their first major release as a studio) takes a big swing at the more established Farming Simulator franchise, and as it stands at present, I could see it pulling some of that series’ players away. It’s a remarkably solid piece of work for a first-time developer and even more impressive is how well it translates to console. Sims like this have long been the sole domain of the PC, the amount of keys and shortcuts being a natural fit for games of this type, but Ice Flames have found a way to maintain the complexity but simplify the UI for console in a way that makes total sense.
Pure Farming 2018 is going to be your new favourite game in the world. It’s smart, complex, deep, rewarding and has a meditative quality that pairs really well with a glass of red wine at the end of a long day. The idea of picking up a controller and pretending to work may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I find it oddly riveting. There’s a tranquility to it, a sense of everything being in its place suffuses games like these. They’re odd and only for a very select crowd of players, but I love them anyway.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Deep, complex simulation; Surprisingly pretty
Lowlights: May be overwhelming for first timers
Developer: Ice Flames
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Reviewed on PlayStation Pro with a retail code provided by the publisher.