The sun rises over the mountainside as I rub my gritty eyes. I’m not sure what day we’re on, but I’m almost finished taking my final load of Canola over to Denton Bakery so I can finally pay off the loan and start earning myself, and not the bank, money.

My eyes cast a gaze across the land of no sleep as I entered upon a familiar-yet foreign soil that I now call my livelihood. With a simple introduction yet an entire world of possibilities, I began my journey once again as a master of agriculture. With the world at my fingertips what sort of farmer would I become?

This is Farming Simulator 17, the latest in the series from Focus Home Interactive and Giants Software. This is the sixth title in the main series, and the eighth title overall, yet when I express my joy for such a game, I’m still getting the question “how on Earth do you enjoy that game?”

My answer always includes some variation of the word “chill”. The Farming Simulator series overall is an incredibly relaxing and calming experience as you’re free to do whatever you want however you want to do it. It’s a game which can be enjoyed it’s a game where you can literally reap the benefits of your hard work. It’s a game that has no direction other than the one you decide.

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Farming Simulator 17 is just the latest title that includes this tried and tested formula. There are new vehicles, new crops, and new environments to explore. You begin on just a small farm with three fields, you also have enough tools at your disposal to both harvest, plough, and sow, until you come full circle. But this is just the beginning, it’s up you the player to decide where to go from here.

With woodcutting and live stock, as well as crops, there’s an almost endless amount of things you can be doing. You can choose to keep it simple and just work hard on your fields, eventually expanding your farm by purchasing land from the neighbours, or you could get into livestock and purchase some pigs, cows, and sheep. Though for me, the idea of having to look after more than one animal is fairly daunting. But I digress.

However, as previously mentioned there is no real direction in Farming Simulator 17. It’s a sandbox game through and through. You have the tools to do certain things, but it’s up to you to decide what things you want to do, which I can imagine for some, can be a little daunting. It’s also something I struggled with once I’d managed to harvest, plough, and sow my first three fields. While I waited for them to grow, I was left twiddling my thumbs, and what made matters worse, I couldn’t just enter the farmhouse and go to bed.

Fortunately you can speed up time, but there’s just so much you can be doing to pass the time. In Farming Simulator 15 players had the ability to take on missions via the notice board, this time however those missions are set on the fields which populate the environment. As you attempt to buy the land, you’ll be asked to help the farmer out with a certain task and you’ll be paid for your time. Complete a few of these and your crops will be ready to harvest in no time, what’s more you’ll also be dropping the price of the field in your favour, which will help in the future.

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Farming Simulator 17 does, for the most part, feel like the same game but with just a new environment. There’s definitely some minor tweaks and improvements and the game feels a lot smoother and better looking overall, but in terms of gameplay it’s largely the same. That being said, this time around players on console can bring mods into the mix, something PC players have been able to do for a long time. However it’s currently just limited to a few custom tools, vehicles, and buildings. Though it’s still more than what we had beforehand.

Another new addition to Farming Simulator 17 is the ability to drive trains. Though before you go putting on your conductor’s hat it’s worth noting that there’s only two trains to ride each of which have a pretty short route. This new form of transport is mostly used to transporting large amounts of goods around the map fairly quickly, though it still requires some level of manual operation meaning if you do manage to transport a ton of logs from one part of the map to another, you’ll still need to have another vehicle waiting at the other end if you want to take it to somewhere the train does not reach.

Farming Simulator 17 comes with very few bells and whistles this time around. Farming Sim 17 had the addition of woodcutting adding a plethora of new vehicles to learn and play with, which was fantastic. This time around Mods on console have taken the limelight, though at this point it’s still a too early days to crown this game the best farming sim ever. However, what Giant Software has done with this instalment is improve vastly on the previous game. The world of Farming Simulator 17 now feels more alive than ever, it feels like a living world, whereas before it felt a little static.

This is because all of the fields which you don’t own are now worked upon by their respective owners. Much like your own fields you’ll see them in several stages of growth or harvest, and as I mentioned, if you’re strapped for cash you can also give a helping hand. This is also a great way to experience new tools and vehicles as they’re provided for you to use. However, you can’t keep them, as soon as you leave the play area a countdown timer tells you to return otherwise the mission will end and any cash will be forfeited.

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Depending on what type of player you are, Farming Simulator 17 can be as simple or as deep as you want. If you want the full experience you can choose to have your harvester spit out rows of hay, which you can then scoop up into bails, then transport those bails to your barn or ship ’em off. Alternatively you could just have it spray the stuff everywhere so you don’t have to bother. Also depending on the crops you choose, you’ll likely have to fertilise the ground more than once in order to achieve the greatest yield.

In the game’s easier modes, these options are just that, options, however if you’re wanting a simulation experience that’s also there. Though I find that to be a little more punishing, especially if you’re a bit crap at multitasking.

In previous games you were left to your own devices, and I’d find myself scouring the web looking for the right tools to harvest certain crops, or how to do certain things. In Farming Simulator 17 there’s now a lovely help menu which offers written how-to’s so you don’t get lost along the way.

All in all, Farming Simulator 17 is an improvement over 15 across the board. Although there’s nothing that stands out as incredibly new and game changing, a series such as this doesn’t always require new-fangled features to be added to the game each time around.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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This review is based on the Xbox One version of Farming Simulator 17 provided by Focus Home Interactive.

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