Less for more.
One of the more interesting markets in gaming is the growing niche of ‘simulator’ games that strive to be mundane and realistic simulations of some facet of everyday life. Games like PowerWash Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator can be good ways to just vibe and relax, but Farming Simulator 23 is a game that struggles to hold the same magic for me. My only previous experience with Farming Simulator was reviewing the Switch version of Farming Simulator 20 a few years ago, and the 2023 edition has failed to hook me for many of the same reasons as its predecessor.
The basics of Farming Simulator 23 are obvious: you’re tasked with managing a realistic farm, carrying out all the necessary steps of agriculture to grow crops, cultivate livestock, and expand your business into more varied fields (both figuratively and literally). In order to produce any sizable yield to sell at the markets, you’ll need to have multiple vehicles running different parts of the process simultaneously, which is where automated workers can be hired to pick up the slack. This automation is as boring as it is necessary, since it means that the actual amount of work on the fields required from the player is relatively little.
The real meat of the gameplay appears to be in the actual management and upkeep of your farm and equipment, which makes it odd that the in-game tutorial almost entirely focuses on the ground-level process of harvesting crops. Once I had everything set up and automated, I was completely lost on what to do next since I didn’t even know where to begin with setting up a new area of expertise for my farm, and since new equipment is realistically in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars I didn’t exactly have the wiggle room to experiment with things to figure out what sticks.
Even some of the basics of harvesting weren't adequately explained, which I discovered when in-game notifications told me that my fields had not been adequately plowed. I needed to buy a new piece of plowing equipment—something which the tutorial never brought up in any way—in order to adequately set up my fields for a good harvest. Experienced veterans of the Farming Simulator franchise will likely go in already knowing what they’re supposed to be doing, but as an outsider I found the wide breadth of things that I could (and sometimes should) be doing to be utterly impenetrable.
On Switch, Farming Simulator 23 also comes off as a bit cheap. Switch players are receiving a stripped-down mobile version of Farming Simulator which is scaled back from the latest PC and console release from 2021: Farming Simulator 22. Features from Farming Sim 22 such as beekeeping and multiplayer are absent and the number of machines and vehicles has been scaled back from over 400 to roughly 130. It’s telling that the game’s marketing boasts the addition of chickens to the mobile versions—a feature that has been in the PC versions for over a decade. The graphics are also obviously a massive step down from Farming Sim 22, but the biggest problem I had with the previous Switch release—a low draw distance that made it difficult to tell when crops had fully grown—has been improved.
Farming Simulator 23 is not a game for newcomers. My time playing was largely filled with confusion, and the in-game tutorials and guides do very little to point a new player in the right direction. It may appeal to core fans of the franchise since it is at least a portable version of the game, but the scaled-back features are likely to be what those players care about the most, and anyway the price tag of $45 is frankly a joke compared to the $8 this same version of the game costs on Android and iOS. Perhaps I’m wrong and there’s some X factor a hardcore Farming Simulator fan can tell I’m missing, but Farming Simulator 23 is a clear non-starter for newcomers that clearly lacks plenty of content that longtime fans have come to enjoy on more powerful hardware.