Today, I want to talk about a game that seems to have won over Steam users and, if I’m being honest, has also won me over too.
I’ll say from the start: if you’ve played the Harvest Moon or Rune Factory series and didn’t like them, then Stardew Valley is likely not for you.
With that warning out of the way, let’s have a closer look at Stardew Valley.
You start the game by inheriting your grandfather’s run-down farm and your aim is to turn it back into a fully functioning farm. Over the course of the game, you’ll meet the residents of the local town and learn about it’s current state: local businesses are being threatened by the Joja Corporation and the local Community Centre is in disrepair.
As time passes, you’ll expand your farm, attend seasonal events and build relationships with your neighbours. There is very little direction given to the player, apart from a few quests to improve relationships and expand the farm.
Relationships with the other residents are the driving force behind the game as the people you meet give you quests to earn extra money. If you improve your relationship with one of the ten single characters you can get married to them, regardless of their gender. As your relationships improve, the NPCs will give you recipes and reveal more information about themselves, as well as access to more rooms in their houses.
For people who have played Harvest Moon, this will seem very familiar and it’s clear from the beginning where Stardew Valley has taken its inspiration. This isn’t a bad thing and, in fact, the game does the farming simulation very well.
However, Stardew Valley isn’t just a farming simulator, there is also a distinct fantasy element. There are little sprite creatures that help you rebuild the Community Centre; you can fight monsters in a nearby cave; there a wizard living in the edge of town and even a talking mouse that can sell you hats. Certainly, the fantasy elements of the game are where the uniqueness of Stardew Valley shine and help the game avoid being too repetitive.
This brings me to one of my criticisms of the game: there isn’t a lot of direction in the game. From time to time, you will get quests from NPCs but, apart from that, you are left to your own devices. This will appeal to some people (it does for me) but for others, it will reduce the amount of time they will spend in the game.
The developer has tried to avoid the threat of repetitive gameplay and, on the whole, has been successful. There are a lot of things for you to do from a very difficult fishing minigame to finding artefacts for the local museum. There are the events and activities tied to a particular season, like fishing for certain fish and growing certain crops.
One of the highlights for me are the different festivals – my favourites being the Stardew Valley Fair and the Feast of Winterstar. I feel the festivals help to alleviate the risk of repetitive gameplay.
One thing that is very repetitive is combat. The combat in Stardew Valley makes the combat in Skyrim look tactical. I understand the game is restricted in what it can do for combat, but it seems like a wasted opportunity, despite having a levelling up system in the game.
That’s right: you can level up your farming, mining, foraging, fishing and combat skills. Each skill can be levelled up to ten and at levels five and ten you can choose between two different abilities. These offer some customisation to your character, as well as affect how you play the game. For example, once you’ve reached level five in fishing, you can choose between making fish worth more to sell or using less materials to make crab pots.
One thing I love is the art and sound design. The art reminds me of older Zelda and Harvest Moon games, while the music is simply relaxing. The weather effects, the snow falling and the thunderstorms in particular, are amazing.
Stardew Valley avoids the pitfall that some games fall into, like Terraria, where there isn’t enough music for the game. It blows my mind that one guy is responsible for the whole game, even if it did take him years to complete. Even now, he is tweaking the game and listening to players about what could be included.
For me, Stardew Valley is worth the money.
I find it the sort of game I would turn to after playing plot-driven games or when I just want a game to relax to. I’ve found it’s a game that will take up a lot of your time, without you realising it. If you like this sort of game then that won’t be a bad thing.
Stardew Valley has already got an active modding community and the developer is working on updates, with the possibility of a multiplayer option coming soon. For me, Stardew Valley is one of the best games I have played this year, so far. If you have an urge to create and manage your own farm, and you have some time on your hands, then I highly recommend this game.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some chickens to feed.
Old McThero had a farm; e-i-e-i-o!
And on that farm she took some screenshots; e-i-e-i-o!
With property owned by Concerned Ape, first two pictures can be found on the Stardew Valley Wiki and the last picture can be found on the official website
Last play on 01/04/2016
Here a click, there a click; everywhere a click, click!
Old McThero had a farm; e-i-e-i-o!
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