Farming Simulator 22 (Xbox Series S) Review

Complex cultivating catharsis
Farming Simulator 22 Header

Farming Simulator 22 – developed and published by GIANTS Software – is a game I find swings between methodical, almost cathartic, joy and immersion-breaking jank whenever you step out of a vehicle. The series’ ongoing attempt to bring an under-appreciated profession into the mainstream remains admirable – especially in light of the overly romanticized indie interpretation of farming – but the traditional sandbox structure, little in the way of guidance, and a few rough edges might keep the IP from reaching an even larger audience.

Story

After an unexpectedly flashy opening cutscene – highlighting the passion required for farming and the importance of generational knowledge – you’re thrust into a farming sandbox with no narrative context, no structured story, and no defined goal. It’s you, your farm, your ability to plan, and the prospect of expanding into a multifaceted farming empire.

You’ll do this across one of three maps: a representation of the American midwest (Elmcreek), a southern French valley (Haut-Beyleron), or in the Swiss Alps (Erlengrat). Each offers a distinct atmosphere and vibe but the core setup remains the same: there are anywhere from 25-80 plots of fertile land to buy and farm; town centers with agricultural stores and equipment dealers, and different businesses that’ll store, transport, and buy produce. Depending on your difficulty, you’ll be working your way up from a small starter farm, buying and starting your own, or buying and starting your own while deep in debt.

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The very first question you should ask yourself is – does this image excite me?

Gameplay

Now, for those already familiar with the IP, it’s easy to jump in and get back up to speed as the fundamentals don’t change much between releases. For everyone else, the experience can feel overwhelming and unintuitive. After picking a difficulty, creating a lightly customizable avatar, and picking a map, you’re thrust into the game with only a basic “guided” tutorial and a concise help page that covers the basics but rarely goes into detail. You’ll be taught the basics – think tilling the soil, seeding, harvesting, selling grain, and assigning AI helpers – but you’ll swiftly find yourself off the leash, on a sprawling map, with multiple systems to engage with, and dozens of game parameters you can tweak.

Like many sandbox games, Farming Simulator 22 requires you “make your own fun” as you interact with the underlying systems. Part of the challenge and joy of the Farming Simulator series is tailoring the experience to your liking. The problem? Most options are barely explained, require granular tweaking, and are best learned iteratively through experimentation. This is a game that requires you to either have a ton of time to learn, or you need to immediately make use of guides and YouTube tutorials to learn the fundamentals in a more palatable manner.

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Buying land and building your own farm uses a simple interface and is a lot of fun. Just start conservative or you might find yourself dependant on mundane contract work to repay loans.

You can pick market conditions that’ll reward you for any commodity, fluctuate prices outside of a few staples, or be suppressed with only rare spikes. You toggle on or off the need to periodically till, de-stone, lime, and fertilize fields to keep yields high. You can set time to move swiftly so that you’re tackling a new task each day of the month, or set the game to real-time and make each month just one day ensuring that you’ll always be harvesting and seeding new crop types with the passing seasons. You can carefully control your finances or simply allow your AI helpers to automatically buy the resources they need for their assigned task.

Grain, corn, and silage are easy starting picks, but Farming Simulator offers over a dozen crops, a variety of livestock (and the produce they may provide), timber, and plenty of refined or fabricated products. Thankfully, the game offers several “packs” to get you going – highlighting the right tools and consumables you need – though you can also buy some essentials directly from stores or peruse the rotating second-hand market for discount vehicles and tools. Expanding across the map, buying up land, and constructing the farm of your dreams uses a simple interface. There are also multiple information tabs to consult, allowing you to optimise your crop rotation and prepare for inclement weather.

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Vehicle interiors are impressively rendered and full of “functional” tech to ensure you can perform any task in first-person.

As in real life, what you get out of Farming Simulator 22 is a function of time, money, planning, and effort. You can simply roam a region, renting equipment for contract jobs at first, building up capital so you can start big. You can invest in lumber equipment and sell easy-to-produce wood chips, then eventually buy a factory to produce and sell furniture at higher prices. You can invest in a dedicated livestock farm, but you’ll find feed is expensive and decreases your net profits. However, animals create tons of manure, which could be used to fertilize crops and increase their yield, creating cheap feed, leading to increased profit. You can even invest in solar, wind, and biogas power generation to earn passive income selling it back to the grid. More complexity and work typically mean greater rewards and quicker expansion.

Now, I’ve just provided a short overview of what’s in the base game and this year’s release is comprehensive at launch, with new crops, 400+ vehicles, and new visual features out the gate. However, Farming Simulator has always thrived on mods that introduce vehicles, maps, and sometimes mechanics. Farming Simulator 22 supports mods at launch, even on console, but the offerings still feel slim in comparison to the well-established modding scene for Farming Simulator 19. As a result, fans invested in the prior games might want to wait a while until the modding scene has moved over to this release.

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The attention to detail can be a double-edged sword. In this instance, I forgot my counterweight when trying to collect fertiliser from the agricultural store.

Presentation and gamepad support

There is an obsessive attention to detail at times, both in rendering the vast range of machines and tools on offer, and capturing the complexity of their operation. Turning on and off engines or tools; raising, lowering, and rotating attachments; maneuvering trailer attachments; using counterweights for forklifts and dozer buckets. No task is overly complex but usually requires a thoughtful and methodical sequence of moves, with each one lovingly animated.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the environments. They look good enough at close-to-medium range from the cabin of a vehicle or third-person viewpoint but detail drops off quickly in the distance. The many towns and established farms you can explore also feel distinctly simple, with low geometry models, bland textures up close, and minimal vehicle or foot traffic. All these limitations are most noticeable when walking around on foot – which includes the ability to jump and crouch for no particular reason – and I can’t help but feel they should remove this option and stick to teleporting between vehicles and keeping a bit of distance.

An unexpected highlight was the licensed soundtrack, which ranges from country rock, to European electronic, and classic music. Given the slower-paced, methodical gameplay, the song selection felt on point.

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Vehicles and tools feel lovingly-rendered, with each component carefully animated. Unfortunately, the environments don’t feel particularly next-gen.

Gamepad support is decent but relies on multiple inputs using the face buttons or holding a bumper and then a face button. Some are intuitive and consistent, whereas other times you’ll be struggling to identify which tool is selected and what functions you are triggering. Menus can also be difficult to navigate at times and it’s often difficult to toggle information overlays on the map screen.

When it comes to bugs, Farming Simulator 22 seems reasonably polished. Collisions with AI vehicles can sometimes result in hilarious crashes as the physics bug out. Your AI helpers are sometimes inconsistent when trying to assign them tasks (like failing to recognise the field you’re standing on). Livestock occasionally wandered through fences or levitated in mid-air. Thankfully, I encountered nothing game-breaking as I bounced between career save files on each of the three maps.

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There are times the highly detailed vehicles, lighting, and distant scenery come together perfectly.

Conclusions

The Farming Simulator experience is always difficult to describe. You should, ideally, take a more hands-off managerial role – deciding on the best tools, crops, livestock, and farm layout, before leaving the AI to handle the busywork. There’s no denying the sense of satisfaction micromanaging can bring. However, there were times I found myself spending 30 minutes manually tilling a field, lost in a cathartic state while listening to indie-rock tunes, only to snap out of it and wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.

Perhaps the most important point to reiterate, especially for those who’ve never played a Farming Simulator game before, is that this is a pure sandbox experience. No aged family member is guiding you; there’s no town or village to save by establishing your farm; there’s not even a simple list of objectives or sub-objectives breaking down the steps to take. Farming Simulator 22 gives you a massive set of tools, dozens of potential production chains, a hefty chunk of arable land, and lets you do with it what you want (or can afford). On the other hand, long-time fans of the IP should take note of the limited mod support at launch, resulting in a sequel that might not feel a fully-featured as you’d expect.

An Xbox Series review code for Farming Simulator 22 was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher.

Farming Simulator 22 (Xbox Series S) Review

Farming Simulator 22 (Xbox Series S) Review
8 10 0 1
8/10
Total Score
  • Gameplay
    8/10 Very Good
    There's so much depth here, especially for those with planning and patience, but it could do with a much better tutorial, clearer tooltips, and the ability to set yourself objectives.
  • Longevity
    7/10 Good
    At launch, there's plenty of content in the base game but, for returning players, mod support is currently limited. If even half the content from Farming Simulator 19 makes the transition, this score would be 10/10.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    The vehicles and tools are meticulously detailed and animated, making the relatively lackluster environments stand out more.
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good
    I can't vouch for the authenticity of farm equipment engine noises, but the varied soundtrack is perfect for the methodical gameplay.

The Good

  • A pure sandbox with tons of content and endless hours of potential fun
  • More brands, vehicles, tools, crop types, and gameplay modifiers than prior titles (at launch)
  • Meticulously rendered and animated farming equipment
  • The cathartic joy of methodical work

The Bad

  • Minimal tutorials or guidance
  • Modding support is currently limited
  • Walking around in first-person still looks and feels rough
Total
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