FARMING can be overwhelming in real life.
In the virtual world, it seems even more so.
The eagerly awaited computer game, Farming Simulator 19 (FS19), rolled off the production line into the waiting hands of aspiring digital growers, producers and farmers last month, just in time for Christmas.
Dubbed as "the most complete farming experience ever", the game continues the high standard developer Giants Software has set in previous Farming Simulator titles but gives the player more; a lot more.
The game contains new vehicles, activities, crops, animals, tools, and ways to play - solo or with friends.
One of the key attractions for machinery nuts in FS19 is the inclusion of John Deere gear.
The 6M, 6R, 7R, 8R and 8RT series vehicles are all represented, alongside the T560i and S790 harvesters with fitting tools for a wide range of farming activities.
There are more than 300 vehicles and tools to use from all the leading brands, including John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Valtra, Krone, Deutz-Fahr, and many more.
There are more than 100 brands associated with the game.
Players can go shopping by entering the full gallery or stick with particular brands for those rusted on "big green" or "big red" supporters.
THE take-up of FS19 shows the high interest in agriculture within the gaming community.
The game sold more than one million copies in the first 10 days of its release.
With each new title, the visuals have been improved. One can almost feel the wind as it moves leaves in surrounding trees and smell the soil being turned in its intricate detail behind whatever machine chosen.
FS19 begins with three options which are basically levels of difficulty. Players can begin with no property but plenty of money, or start with a small farm with limited resources, or even from very a bare bones scenario with the aim of scratching out an agricultural career or empire.
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New crops and rideable horses massively expand the options from previous editions of the game.
Further on from that, players can transport horses between locations and even train them to be sold.
Both a male or female character option is available, with the added intricacies of refining skin tone, hair style and the all-important selection of flannelette shirt colour.
Improved multiplayer allows for up to 16 players (six on consoles) to cooperate on or compete over the same map, each with their own tracts of land and equipment to use.
As with most modern games, there is the option to expand by downloading community created mods on consoles and PC.
Pros and cons
THE sheer scale of what is possible within FS19 is both its highest point and its most straining.
There is so much to choose from and do which is something welcomed by those intent on putting in hours refining their farms.
On the other hand, getting the right set-up and tuning a property's operation could potentially become a headache as players sift through the myriads of vehicles, attachments, crop options, fluctuating markets prices, fertiliser variants, stock feeds and more.
Yet this is what players have come to expect and what makes the Farming Simulator series popular within both genuine agriculture game players and those city-dwellers who relish the opportunity to get behind the wheel of some big gear.
It provides as close to a gritty, farming experience as the user wants, or as easy as they prefer.
An option to "turn of weeds" is something many in the real world can only dream of.
Of course, there are no emotional or physical needs within the game like family duties, mouths to feed or distance education to provide, so that frees up the possibilities.
Also, it seems irrigation is not required so soil moisture profiles need not be inspected.
There is the option to play it in real time or crank up the speed so the hours whiz by.
If a player wants to do every task themselves though, they'll need to be prepared to log in some big hours in order to rip, plough, plant, fertilise, weed and harvest a full crop.
As in real life, money runs low quickly, so a heady spending spree can come back to bite the aspiring fleet owner.
The scent of the real world can be further seen in purchasing new equipment. A quick experiment in buying a new tractor and then trying to list it for re-sale shows its value automatically drop by at least a third after it rolls off the showroom floor.
IT appears that contracting out tasks provides the best value for money as the job gets done accurately and efficiently, leaving the owner/player to go about other tasks, like piloting the goods train around the map for private use.
While the scale of the game is immense, it is the little things that bring satisfying grins.
Details like seeing the driver's foot move on and off the various pedals when operating a tractor, or noticing the creeping rust damage within the cab of older machines.
As with previous iterations, vehicles can take a beating in FS19 without damage. They get muddy and need servicing but they just can't seem to be dented or smashed.
In fact, it appears none of the buildings or infrastructure can be hurt, with one exception: road signs.
Should one forget to fold up the spray boom before shifting paddocks across the highway and "accidentally" clip a sign, it'll stay down.
Again, it's a small detail that adds to the game's allure.
FS19 is not without its bugs though.
This reviewer watched a fellow player produce large pristine, rectangular bales of cotton, only to see them float in midair with no possible way found to load them.
Considering each bale fetched about $15,000, plus the cost to produce it, that's quite a hit to the virtual denim hip pocket when the contract can't be completed.
One would expect with updates still rolling out, some of the glitches will be fixed.
Farming Simulator 19 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.