Released on: February 26 2016
Available Platforms: PC, MacOD, Linux, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Playstation Vita, iOS, Android
Price: $16.99 CND ($14.99 US)
Published by: ChuckleFish Developed by: Concerned Ape
Video games are an excellent way to explore one’s duality. For instance, I like games where the player can brutally impale somebody (Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the first example that comes to mind). On the other end of the spectrum, I also enjoy games where the player can take care of a farm and have friends, such as Harvest Moon and todayˋs game, Stardew Valley. I first heard of Stardew Valley from watching Youtubers playing it. It looked like fun, and it was affordable, so I decided to pick it up. Is Stardew Valley the game to dethrone the farming game king Harvest Moon?
Stardew Valley begins with the player working for a major corporation called Joja. Worn down by the office life, the player opens a letter that their grandfather gave to them. The letter states that grandpa left a farm for the player to take care of when he passes away. The player decides to take him up on it, travels to Pelican Town, and inherits the, now overgrown, farm. From the get-go, it becomes clear that the game takes a more relaxed approach. What makes the story of Stardew Valley so fascinating is the characters. Each townsperson has their likes, dislikes, personality, and the player can even have a loving relationship with most of them. Getting to know the townsfolk is enthralling. There is no doubt that the player will have their favorites.
Stardew Valley uses pixilated art reminiscent of the Super Nintendo, and I love it. The art style gives a sense of nostalgia, which works wonderfully for Stardew Valley. The player can customize how their avatar looks, which adds a whole other level of immersion. When the player talks to the townsfolk, they have charming individual portraits with unique facial expressions depending on how they feel. The fact that there are so many different expressions for each character is mind-blowing.
If there is one thing that sold me on Stardew Valley, it’s the gameplay. Taking clear inspiration from Harvest Moon, the player’s ultimate goal is to turn a desolate, overgrown, abandoned farm into a thriving, lively, and income-earning abode. To do this, the player uses tools to cut down trees, break rocks, sow the land, and water their crops. Using tools will increase the player’s skill level. When their skill level increases, the player unlocks crafting recipes and receives exclusive bonuses. Taking care of the farm is not the only thing the player can do, however. They can also go fishing when they receive the fishing pole. Fishing is an excellent way for the player to make money, and replenish their stamina in dire straits. If the player is feeling especially adventurous, they can explore the mines to fight monsters and get ores to upgrade their tools. When not in the mines, stamina plays a significant factor in what the player can accomplish during the day. If their stamina runs low, they will move slower. When it runs out, they will faint and wake up in the infirmary with a slight loss of income. If the player stays up past 2 A.M., they will also faint and wake up in the infirmary… even when they are right in front of their bed in their own house. When in the mines, the player also needs to keep an eye on their health, lest they suffer the same penalty. The amount of stuff to do will overwhelm the player at first, especially if they never played Stardew Valley before. When the player takes the time to get their barrings, however, Stardew Valley becomes an incredibly fulfilling game.
One significant aspect of Stardew Valley is the relationships the player can form with the villagers. The player has the option to give gifts to the townsfolk. Different characters have different preferences in presents. When the player reaches a certain level of affinity with the said villager, they will initiate a cutscene that will allow the player to move forward with their relationship. With some characters, the player has the option to marry them. What is important to note is that no matter what body type the player decides to play, they can marry whoever is available, regardless of gender. I love how much thought and care went into forming relationships in Stardew Valley. The amount of detail each interaction with the villagers has provides the player with a sense of community.
Another key selling point of Stardew Valley is its multiplayer. If players have Stardew Valley on the same platform (except for the mobile versions), they can play together. Multiplayer in Stardew Valley is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, tasks get done much faster, and players make a lot more money per day. On the other hand, players share all cash and income, meaning that communication is the key to an argument free multiplayer session. The other major thing to keep in mind when playing multiplayer is that TIME NEVER STOPS. There is no pausing when playing multiplayer, meaning that the only reprieve the players get when playing multiplayer is between days. While I do understand why pausing is not possible when playing multiplayer, it still adds a whole other level of stress when watching cutscenes, managing inventory, even when performing tasks. Multiplayer is a beautiful addition to Stardew Valley, but it makes for a completely different experience.
One nitpick I have with Stardew Valley is that it is difficult to return to the player’s farm if they’ve been away for a while. I get so confused as to where I am, what I should be doing, and what I have when I return to Stardew Valley that I usually start over. I am aware that I could take a day to get familiar, but that is a day that I could have done something, making me feel like I wasted that day.
To say that Stardew Valley is magnificent would be an understatement. Appealing graphics, deep and addicting gameplay, and so many things to do, make Stardew Valley a must-play for those who love life simulation games.