Simulators normally cater to a very niche group of gamers and imitate certain aspects of real life. One of the most successful simulators is Gran Turismo, which imitates real life driving and racing while targeting the massive enthusiast-filled automobile market. There are also hybrid simulators, like Roller Coast Tycoon, which is a hybrid strategy simulator that allows you to run a theme park from a very strategic point of view. Farming Simulator 2011 aims to follow Gran Turismo with its attempt to realistically imitate the life of a farmer. You take on the roll of a farmer who just took ownership of over 1,000 acres of farmland, on which you can grow, manage, and harvest grain based crops, as well as raise dairy cows. The aim is to impress the local citizens who are skeptical of your abilities as a farmer.
Unfortunately, Farming Simulator 2011 really misses the target in terms of realism. Even if you can look past the vastly outdated graphics, this game lacks the atmosphere that simulators like Flight Simulator, Gran Turismo, Railworks, and so on, manage to capture. Harvest Moon captures farming simulation better than this game, and as most gamers know, Harvest Moon is far from realistic.
The collision physics are perhaps the most unrealistic aspect of the game. There are only two outcomes to collisions; you will either get stuck in an object, or bounce off of it as if your tractor were a giant super ball. There is nothing realistic about running into an object and merging with or ricocheting off of it, be it an NPC car or a piece of your own farm equipment. Don't worry, though, the developers at Giant Software have you covered with a key that allows you to reset all vehicles and equipment in the game. Once the key is pressed everything is reset to its original default position, so if you had a tractor next to a specific field it will no longer be there.
Gameplay is split into two options: missions and career. Before jumping into career mode, you should take the time to beat all of the missions first, not only because they act as a tutorial and guide to how things run, but also because the mission mode is the only entertaining part to the game. There are fifteen missions in total, each offering you the opportunity to earn one of three medals. The medal you receive is dependent upon how quickly you complete the task. Truthfully, earning gold medals is easier said than done, mostly because of issues revolving around the handing of the farm equipment, as well as the limited amount of time you have to accomplish each task.
In career mode, you're thrown at a 1,000 acre farm. You have $12,000 to work with, some farm equipment that can be sold, and a town in which you can offload all your grains and dairy. The premise of the game is that you're trying to save the farm. On top of that, the townsfolk don't trust the rumors that you're some amazing farmer, so you have to prove yourself. However, there is no real indication that your presence in the region makes any difference to it.
During the mission mode, it tells you to find the pre-grown fields for quick cash. This is easier said than done, because getting to the fields can take a long time, and harvesting takes even longer if you didn't grab the correct piece of farm equipment. Luckily, you don't always have to be the one driving back and forth across the field. You can hire an NPC to do it for a small fee. Most of the time, hiring the NPC is more worthwhile than doing it yourself because it simply gets boring, fast.
Grains can be delivered to multiple places. There is a mill, feed producer, brewery, and port. But really, there is only one place that pays a decent amount and that's the brewery, so make sure you grow plenty of barley and focus on that.
To break things up, you can raise and milk cattle. A milk truck comes to the dairy part of your farm every day to pick up however much you have to provide. You can buy more cows and cow feed at the random shops that can be found across the farm and town. If you don't want to do the tedious work of plowing, harvesting, and delivering grain, then this is the way to go because it involves virtually no driving.
If you do manage to fit some time into your busy farming schedule to explore the town, then it's well worth it. You can laugh at the "forest" that seems to consist of about twenty trees, somehow get your farm equipment stuck when you're only driving in shallow water, and see the remains of an ancient castle. There is also a chair lift to the top of the mountain which has binoculars, so you can see various areas that are otherwise not worth checking out. While exploring you will find that even the areas that seem like they would offer some potential for entertainment disappoint.
Shockingly, while there are so many things that make this game totally unrealistic, the developers have managed to get the rights to use branded farming equipment, which almost gives validity that this game as a simulator. These names probably don't mean much to most people, but companies like KRONE, DEUTZ-FAHR, VOGEL & NOOT, PÖTTINGER, and HORSCH allowed their equipment be re-created in the game, in so much as the game's outdated graphics would allow. This makes the farm equipment easily the most attractive part of the game; everything else is a low-resolution disaster in terms of visual appeal.
Apart from that, there is a mini-game of sorts in which you can collect bottles and recycle them for ribbons. Even this mini-game isn't really fun though. In fact, if anything, it's a hassle and has no noticeable affect on the game. The major issue with it is that you have to go out of your way to find the correct recycling bins to drop them in. While there are dozens of bins that have the recycling logo on its side, the only ones you can dump the bottles into are the ones that separate glass, plastic and paper. I would see more benefit in going out of your way to do this if, instead of ribbons, the game gave you a few bucks. After all, more money means you can buy more fuel, seed, workers, or cattle.
All I will say about Farming Simulator 2011 is stay away. This game is not worth it. It simulates nothing. Tractors do not handle like they do in this game and being thrown onto a farm with no objective and little reason to do anything makes for an aimlessly bad game. From what I understand the developers ran out of money and released what they could, which unfortunately turned out to be a dull, worthless title. Farming Simulator 2011 doesn't belong in anyone's game collection.