Farming Simulator has exploded in popularity since the latter PlayStation 3 days. Once a scrappy, niche line of agricultural releases, this series now commands its very own convention and competitive esports tournament. Giants Software’s latest instalment, Farming Simulator 22, reflects that influx in interest: it puts the AAA in agriculture without question.
As part of a behind closed doors demo at Gamescom 2021, the German developer went to painstaking lengths to demonstrate just how much it’s improved the presentation of its latest game. The developer started by looking at the ground, and demonstrating how parallax occlusion mapping has been utilised to add depth and density to textures.
This is perhaps most evident on a ploughed field: the soil – itself featuring its own unique topography – is covered with discarded stems and plants, all with unique characteristics providing a three dimensional density to the surface. There are then the treads of the tires from the tractor you’ve been using embedded into the mud, and even slightly different reflective surfaces to convey moisture.
Compared to the past games, which mostly utilised flat textures, the game feels that much richer this time around. But this also has gameplay implications: the lie of the land, which is no longer just flat, means your tractors and machinery will bobble on the surface, meaning you have to be more active with your controller as you tend to your crops. It looks good.
It sounds really good, too: the team has taken hundreds of different sound samples from real-world machinery in order to improve the audio. There are now manual gears on tractors, and you can hear the clank as you shift them. Interestingly, the developer has also recorded machinery under abnormal load, so if you attach the wrong kind of trailer to a tractor, you’ll hear its engine wail.
New crops include grapes, olives, and sorghum – the former of which being a particular focus of our demo. Vineyards require you to plot out stakes that the plants can grow up, and in addition to harvesting them you’ll also need to cut them back to ensure they come back the next season. Due to their sensitive nature, transportation of grapes requires a specific type of trailer.
One particularly neat feature is that you can now oversee the entire supply chain of a crop. So, in the case of wheat, you may choose to have it processed into flour. You can then sell this flour to the bakery where it’ll be turned into bread, and then sell the bread to the local supermarkets. Obviously, there’s seasonal demand associated with certain crops, so you need to think ahead.
In fact, seasons are a big feature in Farming Simulator 22. You’ll need to deal with changing temperatures and think about how best to utilise your land and resources to maximise your profits. In some cases, you may choose to harvest crops and safely store them until the weather changes, as demand will increase pushing prices up.
One thing that really caught our attention is the release’s inclusion of the CLAAS 750 Trion: this is a brand new combine harvester that was only officially announced earlier in the month, but it’s already included in the game. It shows the influence that the franchise is now beginning to have on both the agricultural community and its largest manufacturers.
In fact, the amount of licensed machinery in the game is frankly absurd. Despite our demo taking place on the new French inspired map, we were shown inside a very American Mack Truck, which is effectively Optimus Prime’s vehicular form in real-life. The modelling on the interior is outstanding, as is the sound of its enormous engine.
All in all, we came away with one overriding impression: Farming Simulator 22 is no longer the low-budget simulator that it used to be – it’s a big, polished package now. Even with the addition of new plants and machinery, the gameplay loop is much the same – you’re still culling crops and rearing animals for cash at the end of the day. But it looks and sounds like a AAA title these days.
Will you be getting your hands dirty with Farming Simulator 22 when it makes roots on PS5 and PS4 later this year? Dig up the comments section below, and let us know.