Family Farm Review (PC)!

OO-AR. Ahem. Yes, well, to review Iceberg Interactive’s brand new farming sim/tycoon-‘em-up ‘Family Farm’, I will be reviewing in the charming guise of a 19th century farm boy. I’ve said it before- I will review anything.

Family Farm is, you might have noticed, set in the 19th century, the time when farming was all done without tractors and those new-fangled harvesting engines that you futuristic types use. No- in my day, it was all done by hand, and men were men and so were women.

Chiefly, I was impressed by Family Farm’s user friendly in-ter-face. Those of the 19th century, like me, or people not very computer savvy will appreciate how direct and clear the installation of the game is. This is bound to be a game mostly enjoyed by youngsters and elders, or those who like games with lots of management and not so much thrill seeking. Don’t get me wrong- there is plenty of fun to be had with a radish- but your average shooter fan might not get their usual ‘buzz’ from ‘being’ a farmhand.

Family Farm 1

Tending the cows, in the 19th century

Easily installed in a matter of minutes, including clear automatic update procedure, the game is ready to go. Split into three difficulty categories, each with their own ‘stories’, starting out is a no-brainer as you attempt to ‘be’ the best farm manager. The stories are actually just goals for each year- no actual drama occurs.

At first, you are presented with a basic house, a chipper young couple, not unlike myself and my wife, Hepzibah. You have a set number of years in which to complete the story goal and each year has a short term goal too- make some money, build a field, grow some radishes, renounce Satan, and so on. There is also a trophy goal for each year, which you get for going above and beyond the call of duty, like a farming legend. If you fail to get it, you can revisit the story, bucking up your ideas to get the best farm in the land. In my day, if we failed to produce enough crops, we would starve and turn on each other like rabid dogs.

Family Farm 2

Christ, that's a scary family. The wife has the chin of a boxer.

Building a farm is very straightforward- the whole game is, let me tell you, simple enough for a 19th century farm boy to use. A farmer will occasionally appear to offer tips and hints. You are presented with ‘tiles’, which can become vegetable patches, chicken coops, orchards, or if you use two tiles, corrals and fields. You can even make parks, which allow you to plant more pretty flowers and serve more food at once.

Right. So- you get your family to turn tiles into patches and fields. Each family member has stats and skills, so you can play to their strengths (which will yield better crops, especially in later years) and develop them into niches. I put the women in the kitchen. Occasionally, you will get a rockstar-like family member with high skills who can till a field, groom a horse and cook some mean goulash without breaking a sweat. I had one called ‘Kurt’ who appeared to be dressed in a leather jacket, though it’s hard to tell as the character graphics are not great. Failing that, you can hire some vagrants to work for you. Spend money to make money, my farm dad tells me, between bouts of the whooping cough.

Family Farm 3

Caroline- not very strong, bad at hard work, good at cooking.

There are many vegetables and crops to choose from. Some need more work, better soil or good weather, but will be worth more when harvested. ‘Unlock’ better crops as you gain experience for completing tasks. Oo-ar. There are also plenty of options in other areas- flowers to plant (a bit boring), animals to raise and meals to cook, for example.

Cooking is a strange activity in Family Farm. You have to churn out a meal as soon as the game allows you to, because your farmers will get mighty ornery if you don’t feed them. It’s quite amusing to make them wait. “When will dinner be ready?” they bleat, to which I reply, “Bugger off”. Most of the meals take ages to make, so I keep it simple with sauerkraut and spaghetti and the like. There are several meals that take different amounts of time and grant different bonuses to your farmers, but if you’re anything like me, you will only use two or three of them. Who cares about food, when there’s tilth to get done? Hepzibah does all my cooking- eggs and tallow, that’s all we get. That and diseases, here in the 19th century.

Family Farm 4

That's a bit creepy...

Raising animals is probably the most fun, which becomes available later in the game. You can ‘do’ sheep, horses or cows, with several types of each. Black cows, brown cows, black sheep, mottled horses and everything in between. All the animals are quite pricey, but you can increase their value by tending to them (focusing one farmer on this task will improve their skill, speeding up the process). Better animals give birth to better offspring, which you can then sell for a handsome profit.

The family part of Family Farm is fairly important. Family members and staff like need to be kept fed and rested or they will perform poorly. When you’re ‘doing’ a longer story, you can invest in the family, increasing the size of the house and making babies. This puts one of your women out of action for a while, bringing up little Billy or Ezekiel, but in the long term means you have more free staff. Me and Hepzibah have a young’un called James. Funny thing, he looks a lot like that vagrant worker we hired last year.

Family Farm 5

Top 19th century farm tip: singing to your cows like this lady is good for their feeble bovine brains.

‘Farming was never this much fun’, boasts the game box. In fairness, that’s probably true. I have to get up at 4am just to milk the corn. The graphics are fine for the type of game- you don’t need HD wheat for a simple farming sim- but they do fall a bit flat with the characters, as mentioned earlier. They all look a bit square, but then, we did in the 19th century. That’s where I’m from, see.

What we have here is a reasonably addictive (I completed it and I’ve never so much as sowed a seed in games like Farmville) farming sim with a lot of character and charm; simple enough for anyone to play, with a few harder parts to get your teeth into. It could do with being a little more complex in places, as it doesn’t take long to get the idea and master it- perhaps you could raise horses to pull ploughs or have to deal with market prices- but in the spirit of casual gaming, it’s best in show. For those who exhaust the main portion of the game, there is a story creation mode that allows you to set your own challenges and maps and such, giving some additional replay value.

I’m going back to the 19th century now, to hoe my patches and patch my hoes. Buy Family Farm for that relative you have who likes farming, or buy it for yourself and enjoy forcing some yokels to slave away chopping down trees, ignoring their pleas of simulated exhaustion.



by Bret

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