Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a farming simulator game for Windows. It was developed by one man team ConcernedApe and published by Chucklefish Games. It was in development for over 4 years and was finally released on 26 February 2016 without much fanfare but has since shot up in popularity, becoming one of the highest rated and bestselling games on Steam.

The premise of the game resembles the Harvest Moon series. Players own a piece of farmland in Pelican Town that was given to them by their grandfather. The place is initially overrun by nature, and the player must work hard to rebuild the farm. Aside from farming and ranching, the players can also mine, fish, craft, cook and forage. All these activities cost energy, which is recharged by either eating, taking a bath at the spa or sleeping. The day ends when the player sleeps or when time reaches 2am.

The Good

Can I just take a moment to mention how great Eric Barone is? He’s been constantly updating the game with player feedback, fixing bugs and changing things like diagonal movement speed. He’s keeping in touch with the community. I mean, how awesome is he? He directed, designed, programmed, drew and composed the game all by himself. I know of only a few other one man developers. These people are really in a league of their own.

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Farming – The bread and butter of your income. That and processing your raw materials into artisan goods.

The game’s atmosphere is top notch. From the sounds of cicadas in the night to the sound of flies in summer. From the quaint town life to the dripping waters in the mines. Layered on top was an excellent background music that added to the overall mood of the game. Pelican’s Town’s various denizens also offer up a variety of life story that makes the game feel all the more like a small town by the sea side. From the ones who moved away from the city to escape the busy life to the ones who yearn to leave the confines of the small town. As players advance their relationship with the town folk, they open up to them and have character growth moments. For example, Leah decides that she should hold an art exhibition and no longer hide her art.

Stardew Valley also has its quirky moments. There’s a wizard tower in town and the community center is inhabited by a group of forest spirits called Junimo. And the player’s first encounter with them reminded me of the scene in Final Fantasy V where Bartz first released that Faris was a woman. This quirkiness, or charm if you will, is perhaps the biggest contributor to that nostalgic feeling I got when I played the game. It reminded me a lot of the JRPGs of yesteryears.

There are also two festivals each season which offers a welcomed break from the usual farming activities that you do. Time also freezes when the festivals take place, so you can take as long as you want to enjoy each festival. My personal favorite was the Stardew Valley Fair.

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Mining – Where your search for ore veins is interrupted by annoying monsters.

The Bad
The combat system of the game is rudimentary at best. Combat mostly consists of spam clicking your left mouse button while facing the right direction. Right clicking allows players to guard, but I’ve never found much use for it. And most of your time spent in the mine is looking for ore veins while fighting off swarms of slime or dust spirit. Occasionally, you’ll need an equipment upgrade which you can purchase from the Guild next to the mine’s entrance. Beyond that, combat really serves no purpose. The game would be just as good without it.

Pelican Town is just a slight too big for me. It takes time for me to walk from the farm to the beach or to the mines. Some of this is remedied by the mine carts and warps but the latter requires material that are better off spent elsewhere. This is especially a problem when you’re trying to find a specific villager. Sometimes I just give up and camp outside their houses like some stalker.

There is a lack of tutorials in this game. While in most games, this is a good thing. The last thing I want is an hour’s worth of tutorial that kills any hype I have at the start of the game. However, in Stardew Valley, I spent most of my time blindly stumbling along trying to figure things out. You’re not told that the corps die when the seasons change. You’re not told that animals need to be fed hay from the silo. You’re not told a lot of things. But thankfully, there’s the wiki and the reddit if I’m stuck.

Others

Perhaps the biggest and most important contributor to mass addiction is the game’s save system. The game autosaves each night after you go to bed and it is the only way to save. Let me paint you a picture. You decide to stop playing, so you chug along until night time. You go to bed. You are then given a summary of the earnings you made for the day and then the game saves. And then you wake up. You think to yourself “Hey, the cranberries are done today, maybe I should go take a look.” And then you walk out of the house, you harvest your cranberries and ship them. And then you start watering your plants, feeding your animals, checking your mail. You’re half way to the Pierre’s to see if it’s anyone’s birthday today. And then you realize that you were supposed to exit the game. Yeah, I speak from personal experience.

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Fishing – It can be frustrating at first, but with practice, it is one of the more enjoyable aspects of Stardew Valley.

But this is not all Stardew Valley has to offer. Once the developer has finish polishing the game, he’ll continue developing more content. End game content such as life after marriage is on his list. Also, there’s a 4 player co-op version coming along too. Besides this, Stardew Valley is also very mod friendly. Nexusmods already has a Stardew Valley mod site running. Hopefully this will contribute to the longevity of Stardew Valley. Personally, I hope there’s something like a legacy system where the player ages and dies and his kid takes over. That’s a lot of work though, so I doubt it will happen. The NPCs will have to keep changing as well.

Verdict

An excellent game for simulation game lovers and NES/SNES era gamers.

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