The long-running Farming Simulator series has proven to be an interesting contender in the vast world of simulators. Developer GIANTS Software has made it a point to crank out a new release every year for a decade, with one focused on home platforms and the other focused on portable devices. Back in 2017, the Switch was served up a port of FS17 after it was released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC a year prior. Now, Farming Simulation 20 has the Switch getting the other end of the stick — the latest “mobile-focused” entry.
Farming Simulator 20 uses last year’s Farming Simulator 19 as a foundation. This can be mainly seen with the new additions and improvements like an enhanced graphics engine, 3D cockpit views, AI helpers, rideable horses, the inclusion of John Deere machinery, and two new crops: oats and cotton. By and large, Farming Simulator 20 basically feels like an “FS19: Lite Edition” of sorts.
There is one new map, Bluecrest Valley. It’s not huge by any means, and just about every point of interest and field will require a mere few minutes of driving time. The driving physics of the tractors and other vehicles do feel weightier than in the console/PC releases, which is a good thing. But the actual gameplay is simplified.
One running theme that I picked up is that of automation. Much of the gameplay process has been cut down to go straight to the point. For instance, there’s no manual coupling of implements. All you have to do is back your vehicle up to a tool, and it will couple automatically. Even starting up a tool is automatic; simply hit one button, and it will unfold and start running. When doing fieldwork, this can be a bit of a problem as the automation forces a full shutdown and folding of the tool as you swing around to drive down the next section of the field. When using AI helpers, they can keep the tool running on their own, so it’s strange that this isn’t available to the human player. Other interactive processes are automated, such as washing vehicles, loading seeders/sprayers, and dumping trailers. Even lights can no longer be toggled on/off at will, nor can their intensity be changed.
The simplistic nature carries over to other aspects of the Farming Simulator 20 experience. You cannot exit any of the vehicles and walk around on foot. Thus, the aforementioned horse riding is done by means of selecting one via the menu. Time cannot be manipulated, and there is no weather system. Crop growth rate is extremely fast and unchangeable; as soon as you’re done sowing a field, sprouts will generate in mere minutes. Even the HUD has been simplified: There is no speedometer, no crop volume is shown in trailers/harvesters, and there is also no in-game radio. Further missing are entire gameplay elements like pallets, front-end loaders, and forestry. Thus, the amount of machines and tools is less than in Farming Simulator 17/19. Machines can also not be customized or upgraded, nor can they be rented.
Missions are missing from this package as well, which means your only source of income is the yield from your own crops. More fields can still be bought, but management can get a tad tedious. AI helpers do make the load lighter by setting one to plant seeds and spread fertilizer, but this is more expensive as the seeds and fertilizer in the spreader are replenished in real time. This happens in the console/PC editions too, but it’s optional. It’s not optional here.
Really and truly, this more mobile-focused approach to the formula is a step down when compared to the last FS Switch entry. FS17 offered two maps and more gameplay features. The only real step up that FS20 has over its predecessor is the improved graphics. Lighting, shading, shadows, and reflections look much better. There also appears to be some light anti-aliasing, as there are far less “jaggies.” Actual model complexity does seem to be on par, though it’s arguable that the polygon count is slightly less this time around. The frame rate also holds up very nicely, with a smooth 30FPS. Machine audio is still really crisp and detailed, and each engine sounds relatively realistic.
Portable plotting with Farming Simulator 20
Since Farming Simulator 20 is a mobile-focused game, the experience from console to handheld mode is very consistent. Graphical quality appears to be the same across both modes, and the HUD is optimized for handheld use in the first place. The icons are big and touch-enabled. Considering that this is the same game as what’s on smartphones and tablets, this isn’t all that surprising. Thus, Switch Lite players should feel well taken care of. There’s even the option to use motion controls.
When compared to the last mobile entry —Farming Simulator 18 — which came out on mobile and 3DS, this is a pretty big step up. However, while I do find Farming Simulator 20 to be well put together, considering that GIANTS got the ball rolling on Switch with a port of the home console/PC experience, this does feel like a step back. Personally, I would have preferred a port of Farming Simulator 19. Now that the studio has taken both paths, it’s hard to say exactly what the next entry on Switch is going to look like. But as it currently stands, it seems like GIANTS prefers to see the Switch in the same light as mobile devices. So, if you don’t mind having a more simplified farming experience, Farming Simulator 20 is a decent experience. And if you’re looking for something more in-depth, then check out 2017’s Farming Simulator: Nintendo Switch Edition (FS17) instead.
A review code was provided by the publisher.