My grain-fueled quest to understand ‘Farming Simulator 22’

To get that bread, you must first gain that grain

I started my life in Farming Simulator 22 with just two things: a cowboy hat and a dream. As it turned out, this was a huge mistake – actual farming takes so much more effort, especially when you’ve got dreams of being America’s biggest grain baron.

Last month, I caught wind of the hype surrounding Farming Simulator 22 – it’s already sold 1.5million copies, and in November it attracted more players than a freshly-launched Battlefield 2042. Jaded with the launch of Battlefield 2042 and looking to try something new, I felt compelled to understand what brought over a million players to greener pastures. I’m no stranger to gaming’s romanticised approach to the rustic – I’ve spent more time in Stardew Valley than I care to admit, and – like so many others – the island living of Animal Crossing carried me through the early days of our first lockdown. Despite that, I remained impervious to the allure of Farming Simulator – and it was time that changed.

As I made my first tentative steps into Farming Simulator 22, I realised that change wouldn’t be coming any time soon. In a moment of agricultural hubris I had picked medium difficulty, and I was plonked into the middle of a field like a yokel Terminator. Without any land – or any notion of what to do – I began wandering the countryside of small town America. I come across a few buildings – mostly diners, gas stations and supermarkets – but none of them can be entered. Feeling a little like Eric Andre, I hammer against door after door that refuses budge. Meanwhile, I feel myself growing steadily unsettled – I haven’t seen a single living human, every building is inaccessible, and it’s weirdly quiet. It’s a bit too much like 28 Days Later for me, though at least I’ve traded in Cillian Murphy’s hospital gown for more dignified country attire – a cowboy hat and duster.

Farming Simulator 22. Credit: Giants Software.
Farming Simulator 22. Credit: Giants Software.

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I return to the lonely field of sorghum I started in, and notice it’s owned by a man called Leroy Wilson. Right off the bat, I despise Leroy Wilson. He has everything I want in life: a fancy red barn, and fields of prosperous veg. He doesn’t seem to be around, so I walk into his basement and petulantly chuck his belongings on the floor. I launch a duffelbag – probably full of stupid sorghum – into one particularly muddy-looking field and cease my paltry home invasion, wondering if there’s any sort of law enforcement in this game.

In a moment of post-home invasion clarity, I realise where I’ve gone wrong. A city-slicker like me? Picking medium difficulty? Rule one of farming – if you can literally turn down a difficulty setting, do so. Realising the error of my ways, I make a new save file – meticulously recreating my sullen (and now criminal) cowboy character and getting down to business.

I appear in the same field, except this time I’m delighted to see that the area now belongs to me, and I appear to have Thanos-snapped Leroy Wilson out of existence. Good riddance, idiot. Now that I’ve picked an easier difficulty, the game throws me a lifeline – a tutorial that teaches me the basics of Farming Simulator 22. Yes please!

Farming Simulator 22
Farming Simulator 22. Credit: Giants Software.

And so, my quest began anew. I once envisioned myself as a cattle-raising magnate, but my dreams had changed. I’d witnessed first-hand how difficult Farming Simulator 22 could be, and my skills with a combine harvester confirmed that having other animals rely on me was a no-go. My dream had turned to shit, but that was fine –  the seeds of my next grand venture were already sown, and I’d need the fertiliser.

The tutorial for Farming Simulator 22 has you harvest and sell grain. It’s a humble tasking, but the entire process is deeply satisfying. From harvesting your grain to trucking it along winding country roads to sell, I saw a glimmer of potential in the whole affair, and knew what I had to do. The world of grain farming seemed simple enough for my cosmopolitan sensibilities, and I’m not too ashamed to admit that I was already sold on the promise of doing something I could actually understand.

Farming Simulator 22
Farming Simulator 22. Credit: Giants Software.

I quickly set to work planting the seeds for my empire to grow. The first step is quite literal – I buy a pallet of seeds to grow – and from there, I use everything I’ve learned in Farming Simulator 22 to ensure they grow just right. Where once I was out of my element, lost in fields that weren’t my own, now I’m thriving. I’m going to be America’s biggest grain baron, and there’s not a Leroy Wilson in the world to stop me.

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I grew to love my humble routine. I used to find cultivating a field a little tedious – now I find it deeply satisfying. The rural township feels less like Silent Hill, now that I’ve got the company of a quiet radio station. As my knowledge of Farming Simulator 22 grows, so too do my profits. My margins are a little grainy (sorry), but I’m eking out a living – and more importantly, slowly cornering the market.

I’m wrapped up in my own backwoods zen when disaster strikes. With another successful grain sale wrapped up, I realise that my grain guy (a menu screen in front of a mill) is offering me less and less cash for my produce. I check my transactions, and shock: it’s been steadily decreasing for awhile. At first I think it’s a ploy from Big Cereal to crush my enterprising spirit, but another glance at my finance explains what’s going on.

In my lofty dreams to become a grain baron, I had forgotten some very basic economics and shoeboxed myself into failure. The more you sell of something, the less people are willing to pay for it – and boy, had I been selling a lot of grain. My (very specific) goal had been crushed – this just wasn’t going to work out the way I had planned. There was, however, one silver lining to be found in the throes of my failure: I finally understood what brought people to this game.

Farming Simulator 22
Farming Simulator 22. Credit: Giants Software.

I came to Farming Simulator 22 expecting a game like Stardew Valley, or Animal Crossing. I didn’t think there would be much foreknowledge expected, let alone any complicated mechanical features or painful learning curves. I expected the Call Of Duty of cultivation, and instead got an agricultural Arma. My road to success was bumpy, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately a dead end, but once I approached Farming Simulator 22 from another angle – respecting that it was far, far deeper than thousands of self-deprecating reviews would suggest – I slowly came to grips with the intricacies of the game, and had a much better time for it.

So, in the end I got half of what I wanted. I understand now why Farming Simulator 22 is so popular – I even got caught up in it myself – yet I still have no empire of grain to my name. Farming Simulator 22 is for those who want to get into the nitty-gritty details of farming life, and while I might not always fit that picture, it’s an appeal that I suspect will stick with me for a long time.

What’s next for my days of farming? I don’t know – maybe I’ll take another swing at those cows that I was too afraid to purchase, or I’ll even rope in another player to be my farmhand. There’s a lot to do in Farming Simulator 22, if you’ve got the patience to learn it – just heed my words: stay away from the grain mill.

If you’d like to try your hand at country living, you can play Farming Simulator 22 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 and PS5

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