Name: Farm Manager 2018
Developer: Cleversan Software
Publisher: PlayWay S.A.
Release Date: 6 April 2018
Platform: PC (click here for the Steam link)
April seems like an appropriate time to launch a farming title, what with the first signs of life creeping back after winter, and the daylight being that much brighter, causing you to close the curtains so you can see your monitor properly during daytime gaming.
I must admit to being a fan of these kinds of no-frills gaming titles – with a name like Farm Manager 2018, there is really no room for misunderstanding. You know 90% of what you’re gonna get before you’ve even seen a demo video. And that’s exactly what you can expect.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the remaining 10% seems to comprise mostly of bugs – and I’m not talking about the kind that’ll come along and eat all of your crops in-game. But we’ll come onto that shortly…
Focusing on the positives, Farm Manager 2018 is a cracking little title, scratching that itch many gamers have had since the days of Harvest Moon, and more recently Terraria and Stardew Valley. Unlike those titles, Farm Manager 2018 takes a much more realistic approach, with none of the flights of fancy, magic, or even a cutesy setting to elevate it beyond a real-world simulation.
And to a great extent, it really works – if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. You get government grants for planting fields of a certain hectare size, hiring and training employees, and building certain expansions to your farm. You can play the market by holding onto products until their price rises, but this must be offset against their expiration date. And how can hire workers with different skills and abilities, such as providing a boost to harvest yields, extra stamina, or production bonuses.
It’s a lot of fun figuring out the supply chains for different products, as whether by design or oversight, Farm Manager 2018 doesn’t go out of its way to make that kind of information accessible.
For example, you can build bee hives to produce honey, but if you also plant the seeds of specific crops nearby, the bees are able to produce a more specialist, expensive honey. Planting cereals doesn’t gain much profit, but they will feed your livestock; but not all animals will eat the same kind of crop, and require a varied diet to stay healthy and avoid costly visits by the local vet.
It was in exploring that maze of tweaking and optimising different combinations of crops, produce and animals I had the most fun tinkering with while playing Farm Manager 2018. But, sadly, not all of the game is fun. The micromanagement in particular can be really hard work, especially once the farm reaches a certain size.
There’s a certain amount of automation that can occur – the “autofill” function is especially invaluable in automatically choosing the best available workers for the specific task you’re assigning – but after a certain point, the sheer volume of tasks can become overwhelming, and worse, tedious to navigate.
Inevitably, this is most evident in early spring and late autumn, when sowing and harvesting occurs. Seasonal workers can be hired on short-term contracts to assist with the overflow, and although there’s a certain thrill in successfully juggling dozens of tasks during peak time, after a few years it becomes quite monotonous.
The campaign does a decent job of showing a prospective farmer the ropes, and there’s a nice story hook of an ailing father passing on his farm to his offspring, along with an old school friend who shows up to give tool tips. But largely it feels like it needs more balance.
For example, one objective instructs you to buy a type of combine harvester, and the next one tells you to buy a more expensive harvester. If left to my own devices, I’d have just saved up and bought the more expensive one, instead of investing in an earlier model and losing half of the capital by selling it on straight away.
The pacing can be frustrating, too. The next objective tells you to harvest a field of wheat with your shiny new combine harvester, which I received in late autumn. Therefore it was nearly a full year of game time before I feasibly had any chance of completing this objective.
Frustratingly, the biggest fail hasn’t even got anything to do with the gameplay. It’s in the myriad of bugs that can quietly occur, and they are often so subtle that it’s difficult to spot them right away.
For example, in the spring of one year, I tasked a worker to go and plow a field with a tractor and the appropriate attachment. With it being spring, I was swept away issuing orders to other farmhands, and it was almost a week of in-game time later before I realised that the worker had bugged and had never actually gone to the tractor.
Worse, I then found that the field itself had bugged and that cancelling the job request left it in some weird limbo where the task wouldn’t complete, and I was unable to issue a new one. Most of these kinds of bugs are resolved by saving and restarting the game, however it’s really not ideal that a hard restart is required on a regular basis.
All that said, the developers are releasing almost daily patches and bug fixes, and so before long you should expect to see a fully functioning version of Farm Manager 2018 – the kind you really would’ve hoped to see on launch day.
There seems to be only a single plucky yet eventually repetitive piece of background music, but the game’s graphics are really quite pleasant and – one would imagine – realistic when compared to the source material. There are some dodgy animations – the bale trailer comes to mind – but largely it looks great watching all of your hired hands busy themselves in every corner of your farm.
Despite some teething issues, Farm Manager 2018 delivers exactly what it promises, and with a plethora of bug fixes, and maybe some UI overhauls, it’ll be a solid title for fans of farms and management sims. Maybe just let it flower before picking it up.