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Recently simulation games have seen a surge in popularity. The only problem is many of the more recent simulation games have been made as a joke. Goat Simulator comes to mind as an example; trust me, my family owned goats when I was younger, they can't head-butt cars into the air. While joke simulators can be fun and sell well, there are those out there who are seriously simulating their subject. Giants Software has been making simulators for years. While they've made a couple deviations, they've stayed the course with their Farming Simulator series. Their newest release is Farming Simulator 14 for both the Sony PSVita and the Nintendo 3DS. Is this new release a joke or serious simulator? Grab your bib overalls; it's time to plow the fields.

Farming starts at the crack of dawn.

The first thing you notice about Farming Simulator 14 is that it drops you into the game with very little information or explanation. It welcomes you to your new farm, gives you some very basic tips on what to do, and then lets you loose. So unless you have played past titles, or know how to farm already, you could become very lost, very fast. The digital game manual for both systems explains a lot, but a tutorial would be more helpful to new players who have no clue about farming. It s a steep learning curve and it doesn't get easier; even if you stick with it long enough to make enough money to buy more equipment at the store. The 3DS version shows you pictures and gives you company names for tractors and equipment, but does not tell you what those pieces are or what they do. It would have been a bit more helpful is if there was at least a brief note explaining the use of each item. The equipment used to harvest corn is not the same equipment used to harvest wheat or canola. On the other hand the PSVita has an info button for each piece of equipment that gives a very brief explanation of the equipment. On both systems a slightly more in depth description of the various pieces of equipment is in the digital manual, but even here it doesn't tell you the difference between a corn head or a wheat head for a harvester.

Hard work is hard, hire someone to do it.

Once you figure out the basics (what equipment to use to accomplish the tilling, seeding, and harvesting) it is on to working the farm. You have three different skill levels to choose from at the start: Beginner, Normal, and Expert. The difference between each is the amount of starting grain you have. This is important because more grain equals more starting money for your game, more so on the PSVita than the 3DS. On the 3DS there is a slight money cheat built in. Giants Software took advantage of Nintendo's Play Coins system. For those unfamiliar with Play Coins, on the 3DS there is a sensor that measures the steps as you walk in real life. For every 100 steps you ve taken, you earn a Play Coin, up to 10 coins a day capping at 300 coins max. Some games let you spend these coins for in game items or bonuses. In the case of Farm Simulator 14 you can spend 1 Play Coin to give yourself $4,000 in game cash. That is a lot of potential extra money for your game. The PSVita does not have a system like that, so what you choose is what you get at the start. You have to manage your money a little wiser on the PSVita.

You start with two tractors, a harvester, a tiller, a sower, a fertilizer sprayer, a trailer, a milk tank trailer, some cows, two farm fields, and a grass field. As a small boost to get you started one of your fields has wheat ready to be harvested. Using your harvester you can start reaping your wheat. It's a slow process since your harvester can move quickly as it cuts through the wheat. Plus you have your other field waiting to be tilled and planted. If you want to earn as much money as possible you can continue to do everything yourself. If you are willing to part with a small amount of money, you can hire workers to complete tasks for you. Hiring workers lets you multi-task more on your farm, which gets things done much quicker. What you pay out isn't much and I found that the workers drive the tiller straighter than I do. They automatically stop what they are doing if the task is done or something gets in the way, so you don't have to worry about losing money.

Once you harvest your crops you can store them in silos on your farm for later sale or sell them immediately. There are five places (Train Station, Mill, Inn, Harbor Port, and the Plant) that will buy your harvests at varying prices. The prices will fluctuate depending on the demand. If demand becomes great enough it will becomes a super demand. Super demands are timed events. The buyer who is under the super demand will pay you the base amount times a random multiplier. Another way of making some extra money is side jobs. These are usually the recovery of items that were lost or dropped somewhere in town. These are timed jobs also.
That's a fine herd of cattle you have.

Both systems go for a realist look from a third person perspective. You can zoom in and out and spin the camera 360 degrees around whichever vehicle you happen to be in at the time. It looks crisper and sharper on the PSVita than the 3DS. The 3D on the 3DS is ok, but I found it strenuous on my eyes after a bit and dialed it down to minimal 3D. There is a forgettable light jazz-ish background music that plays throughout the game. It's not terrible and thankfully it does change over time, but you can turn it all the way down if you want. The tractors and equipment sound like their real world counterparts, so no complaints there.

Final word

In the past I reviewed Farming Simulator 2013 for the PC. I found the game to have a large following with two kinds of players. On one side you had the players that played it for the actual simulation. On the other you had players that discovered how much fun some of the game's broken physics could be. YouTube is littered with videos of these players doing everything from golf cart races in cornfields to making music videos. Farming Simulator 14 doubles down on the serious simulator side of things. While the sandbox area is smaller and there are less crops and animals to choose from, Farming Simulator 14's stripped down basics make for an addictively fun farm sim. One day I found myself four hours into the game without realizing it. It s the constantly busy factor: tilling, planting, harvesting, and selling. Rinse and repeat.

Farming Simulator 14 has no hint of the broken physics from the old games with the exception of your ability to push cars off the road and watching them work their way back to their preprogrammed routes. Not spectacularly fun or funny, but Giants Software seems to want to distance themselves from the joke simulator games. With Farming Simulator 14 they show that have a serious game that lives up to their past catalog, but the sharp learning curve could be a deterrent to new players.

Giants Software proves that they are one of the best simulator game makers in the business with Farming Simulator 14. Giving gamers a stripped down, but still full, farming experience compared to past Farming Simulator games. The lack of tutorials limits the audience to those familiar with farming simulator games or actual farming. I give Farming Simulator 14 a 4 out of 5.

Farming Simulator 14 is rated E for Everyone byt the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

For more information seethe Farming Simulator web site.

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