Just when you through the desktop farming community was properly satisfied with one game about replicating agriculture, another one come along. Professional Farmer 2014 is a replacement for the companies previous (has to be said, quite buggy) Agricultural Simulator, and brings alone some improvements, boasting a new engine leased from a polish developer Silden. It would be unfair to compare this game to its main rival, Farming Simulator 2013, so I’ll keep that for another post. Instead I’ll talk the game on it own merits.
So what good? Well for started you have the vehicles have properly simulated cabs. Most of the cabs have a displays showing, revs, gears, fill level, fuel and time. You could easily use the cockpit to drive without the HUD, unfortunately you cannot switch off the HUD so most of the time it’s taking up valuable screen space. The game also simulates the gear boxes correctly for tractors, you have a multiple of gears split into ranges (for those who don’t know, tractors come with gears, usually 6, which then goes through a second gear box split into ‘ranges’, for example 4, this effectively mulplies the gears, so in the example above you would have 24 effective gears, 6 gears X 4 ranges). You also have to specficly select reverse to go backwards and still use the accelarted pedal, no arcade driving controls here. I do have an issue with the driving, the game is meant to have cruse controls options for CVT gear boxes to maintain speed. But this never worked when I played it, however I believe this is an issue with my steering wheel.
The game features simulated cabs, shame you can’t switch the HUD off
Speaking of steering wheels, when you load up the game you can select which device you want to drive the vehicles with, and it worked immensely with my steering wheel. I did have a few issues. Firstly, I had to inverse my pedal arrangement as the game insisted on using my break pedal for accelerate, secondly, the game had no native support for the buttons on my wheel. I ended up having to use Pinnacle game profiler in order to use any of my steering wheel buttons.
Another disappointment is the lack of Livestock choices, the only options in the game are chicken, ducks and cows. And generally all the simulation boils down to getting money generated each game turn. To be fair, this tends to be the case with most agricultural sims. The focus is usually on the arable side of the farming. I can to an extent understand this. It is easier to simulate ploughing, cultivating, sowing and harvesting. But lots of the things you do to livestock (no jokes please) would not be easy to simulate or devolve down into mini-games. But as a man who loves livestock (still no jokes, please) I always feel disheartened about the non-interactive nature often demonstrated in these games.
Vehicles in the game world are well detailed
The game itself is split into turns, representing stages of the year (early spring, late spring etc) you carry out all the task for one turn before moving onto the next. Its a neat idea getting away from rapidly growing crops shown in other games and making the game feel more realistic. You have to contend with weather in later seasons making some task more difficult. It also removes a lot of the time pressure involved to get things done.
You’ll also get side missions in the form of doing contract work for other farmers. I did discover that these involve to no more then ensuring a % of a field was ploughed, cultivated etc. Quality did of the job does not matter and long as you hit the % target you’ll complete it. A Partically stupid example, after I did some harvesting, I was informed I had complted the task and told to head for home. I had an 80% full grain tank, and rather take it to the trailer to dump it correctly I simply empited the grain onto the field (which means its effective lost) I recived no pentily for this as I had simply hit my % target.
Fear me, for I am the reaper of wheat
The world is excellently detailed. The way sunlight lights up the cab realistically make it a beautiful game to drive around in. You wont find any NPC apart form driving vehicles which make town feel a bit empity. Talking about the engine, the only thing I’m not sure about is how easy the game is to mod for, looking at the game files I can’t see an easy way for fans to create customer content. But I’ll hold judgement on that.
You get a baler at the start allowing to earn more money from your left over straw.
There are a few other annoying issues. You have constant background music that sounds like what the developer believes all American rednecks must listen too. And there aren’t that many songs so you get quite a bit of repeat, lucky the music can be switched off. Also there is now way to quit back to the main menu, you can only quit the whole game and re start it if you wish to return to another mode. Along the same lines you can only ever have one save game running. It does auto save when you quit, which is nice, but if you want to multiple farms on the go, forget it.
if you looking to get into digital farming, Professional Farmer 2014 would not be a bad start, it’s one of the more realistic takes on farming I’ve played and is only £14.99 at the moment on steam for the basic edition. If you’re not into farming, this is probably not for you.