Despite its niche subject matter, Farming Simulator is a breakout brand that’s been growing [Hur-hur – Ed] in popularity with each instalment. Farming Simulator 22 represents the biggest release yet for German developer Giants Software: it’s self-published, packing more licensed content than ever before, and features crossplay between all target platforms. But has the studio withered under the pressure?

If you’re familiar with past entries in the property, then you’ll immediately be familiar with the loop in this year’s instalment. There are three settings available when you start a new farm, each tuning the economic difficulty and adjusting your starting gear. Your objective is to purchase land, nurture it, and grow crops according to market demand, subsequently raising the funds to acquire more fields and better equipment.

Despite being a simulator, the actual agricultural aspect is somewhat simplified, although it is based on real-life practices. You’ll need to cultivate the land to prepare it for sowing, plant seeds, fertilise it to increase the yield of your plants, and then eventually harvest the crops. You can sell to nearby businesses, and these change depending upon which map you’re playing on. There are three at launch: a rustic village in the south of France, an idyllic American town, and a Swiss-style mountainous region.

Massively improved in this year’s game is the management aspect, allowing you to legitimately create supply chains. You can now build factories and businesses to process your goods, adding depth to the economic portion of the package. For example, you can set up a pasture for cows, which will produce milk. You can then take this milk to your dairy, and assign it to producing cheese. Finally, this cheese can be taken to a pizzeria, where you can sell locally produced pizzas.

There’s a ton of products you can make, from chocolate to cakes, and the value ebbs-and-flows depending upon supply-and-demand. This means you need to plan ahead, thinking about the time of year and the value of different products. New crops, like olives and grapes, open up a world of possibilities, enabling you to manufacture everything from juices to oils – and these function unlike any other crops in the game, providing fresh gameplay mechanics to learn and master.

This new supply chain system is underpinned by seasonal gameplay, which has been implemented officially after previously existing as a mod. Now you’ll need to pay attention to the time of year, growing certain crops when it’s most effective, and waiting for the seasons to change before you harvest them. It means that there’s an additional layer of planning, as you’ll need to leverage your land to maximum efficiency, ensuring you’re always growing the right plants at the right time.

You can turn this feature off if you prefer the traditional gameplay style, and it definitely does slow down the overall pace of the experience. It’d be nice if there was an option to fast-forward to given seasons, because you will hit points where there’s not a lot you can do other than contract work, especially in the early exchanges when your funds are limited and you don’t have much land to play with.

In fact, this is probably the biggest criticism of Farming Simulator 22: it just takes an enormous amount of time to get started. While you can take out bank loans, you’re really not going to be earning much for the first 20 or so hours of a new save, and thus working towards the extravagant supply chains mentioned earlier in the review will feel impenetrable to anyone but the most committed. Mods will likely make this a bit more manageable, as Farming Simulator 19 offered a government grant item which eased the curve.

You really do want to be making a lot of money, too, because the sheer number of licensed gear in this game is extraordinary. Spanning dozens upon dozens of authentic agricultural brands, some vehicles are debuting in this game prior to their availability in real-life, which just goes to show the franchise’s status within the industry. This is absolutely the Gran Turismo of farming games, and its influence is wide-reaching, spanning the most utterly obscure pieces of machinery.

For the first time, the franchise also has a budget to match as well. While it still doesn’t feel AAA, the game runs at a reasonably smooth 60 frames-per-second on the PlayStation 5, and has tons of tiny little details, like crows that fly out of fields as machinery comes close to them and obsessive animations which capture the unique elements of each vehicle. The camera angle is fixed on console, though, which is frustrating, as we miss the ability to pull it in and out at will like in previous editions.

But the best thing about Farming Simulator 22 is that it’s built as a platform that will blossom over time. Support for mods is available day one, and with the increased horsepower of the PS5, you can build bigger and better farms with more pieces than you ever could on the PS4. Theoretically, you can invest hundreds of hours into a single save, and with new machinery and items guaranteed to be added post-launch, there’ll always be new ways to work your growing empire.

Conclusion

Farming Simulator 22 massively expands upon the management aspect of past games, giving greater importance to your crops once you’ve harvested them. Building supply chains is immensely rewarding, even if it can take what feels like an eternity to get your business up and running the way you want to. Interesting new crops, like grapes and olives, add gameplay variety to the tried and tested loop, while an abundance of licensed machinery gives you a wealth of vehicles and tools to work with. It’s the best entry in Giants Software’s series yet, but like a popular British yeast extract, you’ll either love it or hate it.