Farm Manager 2018 is only the second game released by Cleversan Software, and unfortunately, their lack of experience is reflected in the finished product. Keep reading to find out what I mean by that.
Farm Manager 2018 is available on Amazon for $22.79.
Tutorial / Campaign
In the tutorial, you start with a small farm and receive a few tasks which need to be completed before the next tasks are revealed. I'm not sure at what point the tutorial was supposed to become the campaign but since I kept playing on the same farm it always felt like a tutorial, which became tiresome after a week so I moved on to other game modes.
The tutorial provides you with just enough information to find your way around but omits a lot of vital information. One example is when I was playing around with the autosell feature where you can set certain products to be sold at the end of each month. There is a number input next to each product which I eventually, through trial and error, figured out was the amount that will remain in your stores at selling time. Next to that though, was an infinity button which I still don't understand the use of.
My main frustration with the tutorial / campaign was the long waiting times caused by seasons. I had one task to harvest some strawberries which should have taken only a few minutes. Unfortunately, I received this task at the start of Winter, at which time strawberries "rest" and don't grow so I had to wait for the season to pass just to complete this one task. Later on, I had a list of different crops to plant in separate fields. A simple enough task, if not for the fact that I was asked to plant in Spring and received the task during Summer. Even with the game speed set to 3x, seasons take ages to pass.
Farm Manager 2018 lets you manage all the aspects you would expect from running a farm. You decide where the fields and animal enclosures go, which seeds to plant, and who to hire to tend to everything. There are various animal enclosures and crop types available, all of which react differently to the seasons, take different amounts of time to produce a harvest, and fetch different prices at the market.
After creating a field it first needs to be plowed, cultivated, and fertilized to ensure they'll yield the best crops. You can then purchase the desired seeds from the market and instruct your workers to plant, water, and later harvest. You'll require many hands to make light work and so the game provides a long list of permanent and seasonal employees to choose from, each with different skill sets and wage demands. Obviously, a higher qualified employee will cost more but will also be more efficient. You also have the option of training your staff in their respective specialties at additional charges.
When you start working with larger fields you can also make use of machines to lighten the load. You seek out your desired machines on the machine market where you'll find both new and used products. Used items come in various states which gives you the option to purchase a lower quality tool when budgets are tight. There are a great number of machines available in the game, each with different uses. Most tractors can be used to work all types of fields but an orchard can only be worked with an orchard tractor. The tools being pulled behind the tractor usually have a very specific purchase so you will require loads of machines if you want to save on manual labor, and they don't come cheap.
Once you start harvesting crops or collecting produce from your animals, you'll need to store the items in one of several storage facilities. Everything you produce can either be used to feed your animals or can be sold at the market. The market functions like a real market with prices fluctuating on all products. Milk was a pretty steady product with the price of 100 units moving between 367 and 384 during the time I monitored it. During this same time strawberries moved from 900 all the way up to 1500 for 100 units. I mentioned before that there is an autosell feature which you can use if you're not interested in keeping an eye on market prices but if you want to squeeze every bit of profit from your products then you need to keep in mind that everything has an expiry date and can't be stored forever.
In addition to training your staff, you too can head back to class to improve some aspect of your farming. The Annual Agricultural Schools course costs a whopping 100 000 but improves your harvests by 10% and unlocks further training, while Farm Financial Management costs a mere 2 000 but only reduces your bills by 2%.
Animal enclosures require a full-time employee assigned to them who then functions without any help, but fields have much more to do and require you to assign workers to perform each task when the time calls for it. Most of your time in this game will be spent micromanaging your crops.
Apart from the campaign, you have two other modes, scenarios and free mode.
Scenarios provide you with an established farm and a specific goal in mind. One scenario informs you that your daughter who has turned vegan urges you to remove all animal enclosures from your farm and make a living with crops only. Another scenario provides you with a farm that's close to bankruptcy with the simple goal of getting finances under control.
Free mode, is just that, you have free reign to do whatever you like and I highly suspect this is where most players will be spending their time.
Regardless of the mode, you will receive the occasional popup quest. A neighbor might challenge you to see who the superior farmer is by being the first to breed 2 turkeys, or a government grant rewards you with cash if you train a worker to a top level in one of their skills. These quests come with a time limit and can be rejected if you're not interested.
Despite the subpar visuals, Farm Manager 2018 had some unbelievably long load times, I'm talking minutes here. I played this game on an Asus ROG gaming laptop which is more than capable of handling even the latest AAA titles on decent settings, but every time I launched this game the cooling fans went berserk. This makes me think that somewhere in the backend, resource management might require some optimization.
bugs and other issues
There were other issues that may not have been bugs but still crawled under my skin, like keyboard input that can't be remapped or the fact that you have no indication how large a field needs to be for it to be workable by machinery, leaving me to waste lots of money breaking down and rebuilding fields. The game features about 40 different machines, and since I have no real world farming experience, most of them are alien to me. You'd think then that each item would have a substantial description explaining its purpose, you'd be wrong.
It's clear that a lot of planning went into this game to make it a fairly realistic simulator. It features a lot of content and the game mechanics work well but as a complete package, it's lacking so much.
A good balance of micromanagement is what makes games like this fun, too much becomes tedious and too little isn't stimulating enough. Farm Manager 2018 leans toward the latter by providing some micromanagement but also provides ways of automating things that essentially take away your role in the game. Winter seasons are the worst because you are left with barely anything to do when your fields, which normally require the most attention, are either resting or dead. The occasional popup quest is an attempt to throw some curve balls your way but ultimately do very little to affect gameplay.
The start of a game, when you struggle to find your feet, is the most exciting. However, as soon as you make a bit of profit, you start playing the waiting game. Wait for a crop to finish growing so it can be harvested, wait for market prices to improve so you can sell, wait for funds to rise so you can buy the next thing that will increase your profits. Once you get things off the ground, there's really nothing left to challenge you and that in my view is the ultimate failure in any management game.
All this coupled with a seemingly endless list of bugs makes me think that Farm Manager 2018 was harvested in the wrong season. Now Winter has come, and everything is dead.