The Farming Simulator series from GIANTS’ Software has been rolling along for nearly a decade at this point. Within that time, it’s ‘cultivated’ quite a massive following (pun intended), allowing it to be one of the very few simulator titles to be popular enough to release on consoles in addition to PC. The latest version of the game launched on Nintendo Switch back in November, a full year behind the other platforms. After spending several hours with it, I’d dare say this is arguably the definitive console version. Why? One word: portability.
Farming Simulator: Nintendo Switch Edition is basically the exact same game as Farming Simulator 17 which first launched in October of 2016 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It features (almost all of the) content from the base game and plays exactly the same way. I want to emphasize this because the new Switch Edition is the first full-scale Farming Simulator title to come to a Nintendo platform. Prior to this, there’s only been the simplified version on 3DS. It was charming in its own way, but this is the real deal.
I’m impressed that GIANTS has been able to keep the full experience on Switch. Farming Simulator has never been a massive technical masterpiece, but this is still one of the few full simulators to make the jump over to consoles, and the Switch is a hybrid console at that. This is without a doubt the strongest factor of this port. I’ll get to that part in just a second. First, what’s even the point of this game?
As the name suggests, Farming Simulator is literally all about farming. You get to choose between playing on an open-world American-based map or a Russian-based map, and the rest is pretty much up to you. You’re provided with some starter machinery and equipment, which will begin your journey to make your farm as profitable as possible. This is achieved by planting and harvesting different crops, along with other avenues like animal husbandry and forestry. Unlike more RPG-esque farming sims like Stardew Valley, Farming Simulator is focused almost exclusively on taking control of big farming machinery. There are tractors, combine harvesters and trucks, along with different tools like ploughs, seeders, fertilizers/sprayers, trailers, hay balers and more. The overall goal is to keep making enough money to upgrade all of your equipment so you can take on larger workloads as your farm expands as you purchase more and more fields.
Farming Simulator is all about driving big machinery back and forth between fields. You can also take care of animals and do some forestry. It’s a pretty relaxing experience compared to most other titles.
Just like in real life, progress in Farming Simulator is pretty sluggish. It’s called a ‘simulator’ for a reason—it’s supposed to mimic real life. As a result, patience is essential when playing this title. Every task will take you several minutes to complete. Whether it’s plowing a field, planting seeds, or harvesting crops—expect to spend a lot of time going back and forth doing the same thing over and over again. This isn’t a complaint, by the way. Again, real farming works the exact same way, so you’re getting exactly what the title says. You can temporarily hire virtual workers to instantly take over and complete a task for you, but you’re also paying them by the second, so that can get pretty expensive if you do it too often. This is where the portability factor of the Switch version really shines.
On PC and the other consoles, you have no choice but to sit in one spot taking care of all these monotonous tasks. When playing on the Switch, however, you can take on your workload in increments. Got a 30-minute bus ride? You can pass the time by fertilizing a field. On your hour-long lunch break? Spend 10 minutes doing some harvesting. So forth, and so on. Seamlessly ‘switching’ between console and portable mode kept my workflow going along rather smoothly, allowing me to increase my profits a lot quicker than I did in the PC version.
Speaking of which, I’ve put about 137 hours into that version at this point, so I was quite surprised to have ended up actually enjoying replaying the game on Switch. The main reason I say that is because the PC version of Farming Simulator 17 has full mod support, and I’ve outfitted the game with quite a few of them. Some of them add new features and improve some of the shortcomings that are found in the ‘vanilla’ (unmodded) version of the game such as the floaty physics system and twitchy driving mechanics. The PS4 and Xbox One versions also support mods, albeit a lesser amount than what’s on PC. The Switch version lacks mod support entirely, which is kind of a letdown. Multiplayer is also missing for some reason. What’s really the biggest omission is the lack of DLC. Coming out a year after the other versions, I would have expected GIANTS to have been kind enough to include at least some of the DLC that’s been released. Not even the Platinum Expansion, which launched just a few days after the Switch Edition, has been brought over. Even so, the Switch version still has the unique ability to be taken any-and-everywhere, which clearly adds to the experience.
The Switch Edition holds up rather well visually compared to the other versions of the game. Unlike the 3DS which got a simplified version, this is the true Farming Simulator experience on-the-go.
Minus the aforementioned bit of missing content, Farming Simulator on Switch is still basically the same as it is on the other platforms. This doesn’t just apply to the gameplay, but also the presentation. Farming Simulator has never been a graphical stunner, but it looks decent enough. With that said, the visuals here on Switch are very comparable to the other consoles and PC the version. I’ve been playing the PC version at high settings all this time and have noticed very little difference with the Switch Edition, only minor stuff like lower shadow quality and no mirror reflections. What’s probably the biggest change I’ve found is the framerate is locked to 30FPS rather than 60. There are some occasional drops, but they only happen every now-and-again. The high-quality machinery models have been preserved on Switch and the level of detail appears to be the same across both docked and handheld mode, although anti-aliasing seems to be disabled when playing portably.
The engine sounds of all the different vehicles are still very pleasing to listen to. The simplistic ‘atmospheric’ sound of the surrounding environment has also been preserved. My only issue with the game’s sound is the lack of the Internet radio that’s in the PC version. I’m honestly not surprised it’s not in this version (I believe it’s a PC-only feature), but that means you’re stuck with the original songs of the in-game radio. They’re not too bad, but I liked the variety offered by the Internet stations.
— THE BOTTOM LINE —
Farming Simulator is arguably better on Switch thanks to the portable functionality, but it’s held-back due to missing DLC content, multiplayer, and mod support.
So, here’s the big question: is Farming Simulator worth your time? If you have no interest in farming-sims unless they play like Stardew Valley, then no, this game isn’t for you. Farming Simulator and Stardew Valley are technically in the same genre, they offer two very different experiences. Again, this simulator is pretty much all about driving machinery and completing monotonous tasks. I’ve always been into vehicle simulators like this, so I find the experience to be relaxing. Even so, I do know how boring it can seem to those who don’t have a taste for this type of game. As a result, only jump in if you’re a driving simulator fan.
But, if you do happen to be a driving simulator fan and already played this on another platform, then the question is—is it worth it to double-dip for the Switch version? GIANTS Software has done a great job at preserving the core Farming Simulator experience here on Switch, so you’ll certainly feel right at home. If you’re willing to give up mods, multiplayer and DLC in exchange for portability, then I’d say the Switch Edition does deserve a look. But, I have to note that it is a letdown that the Switch Edition is currently going for $50. That is rather high considering the missing content and year-later release.