Genre: RPG, Simulation, Indie, Crafting
Welcome to Stardew Valley, where your now dead grandfather (who looks remarkably like Santa Claus) bequeaths to you his farm after a rather moving, yet super depressing comment on your immediate future. Years later, as you sit in cubicle hell for a corporation that doesn’t give a damn if you live or die, you decide to say ‘screw it’, quit your crap job and head for your inheritance.
Sounds like the kind of fantasy many would have while working a dead-end job. Someone at ConcernedApe MAY have worked in retail hell or something to that effect, methinks.
Trust me, we know. We get it.
If you’ve ever played the classic farming/crafting/RPG Harvest Moon, or the lesser known Rune Factory, you know exactly what Stardew Valley is about. For the rest, it’s a farm management game with a crap ton of sidequests. Basically you’re a newbie farmer who is also trying to win over the villagers, woo a love interest, forage like a survivalist, and kill monsters like a seasoned warrior, all the while managing your diminishing stamina all in the space of a day.
I mean it. If you’re not in bed by 2am, you black out and get charged a fee by whoever drags your sorry butt home. Bonus for blacking out in a mine: you get random stuff pickpocketed from your inventory, too.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Still a little salty over losing a rare sword that way, only to NOT quit the game to prevent my fail run in the mines like a smart person would, but automatically hit ‘sleep’, thus saving my failure, permanently losing said sword.
I MAY have vocally lost my mind for a second after that one.
What starts out as a simple game gets much more involved, but the beauty of this kind of game is that it’s up to the player as to how involved they get. Just want to run a farm? Sure. Kill everything that moves in the mines? Why not. Flirt you way into the hearts of the townspeople? You are one patient person.
JUST PLAY ALREADY!
You can play with either a keyboard or a gamepad controller, and tweak settings on the options page, which was surprisingly large.
You start out with only 500 coins, a grown-over field, and the basic understanding that you need to plant crops to survive. You have a stamina bar on the bottom right of your screen, and every action lowers it. To recover lost stamina, you can eat crops or foraged food. Your other option is to sleep, which also saves the game.
Each crop takes a certain number of days to cultivate, which is affected by watering crops and using fertilizer. Time management is important, not only for being in bed before blackout time, but each season is a month long, and most crops can’t survive the change.
You can have livestock, which are unlocked by completing a short quest line. A lot of the content is unlocked this way, or by achievements. Yes, completionists, there are achievements in this game, as well as Steam trading cards. Have fun!
You earn cash by selling crops and other items, as well as completing quests. The quests often include a boost of your friendship level with a certain townsperson, too, so they’re doubly useful.
Your friendships with the townspeople is useful for questing purposes, earning items, and finding a partner, whom you can marry and have move onto your farm to live with you.
My first thought was “Sweet! Free labor!”.
As you can imagine, I was more focused on exploring the monster-riddled mines than farming or schmoozing the locals. Desperate for cash, I finished up a few quests that led me to my two current love interests; Sebastian, a freelance programmer who enjoys playing tabletop games and riding his motorbike at night (yeah…can’t tell if tortured soul or Mach Rider), and Elliot, a writer who lives in a shack on the beach working on his ‘great novel’, or staring out into space in random locations around the area.
A gamer and an artist. Shocker.
Everyone has certain items they love or like. Gifting these items raise your friendship level with them, leading to cutscenes that can also affect their regard of you. Do your research, because I gave a character an item they ended up hating, and it wiped out my accumulated friendship earned with him. I thought a Wizard would appreciate winter Holly. They’re kinda like a Druid. Meh.
Only when you max out a friendship level with a person can you propose to them. There are items and things needed, because of course there is.
I’m just gonna see if I can create a harem of potentials and pick whoever annoys me the least.
…and they say romance is dead.
So far, I have played through an entire ‘year’ in the game, and I keep unlocking more and more. Between achievements, questlines, and following the underlying story that has been hinted at between seasonal festivities and random conversations. Summed up, your choices will affect Stardew Valley for good or ill, depending on your outlook. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but damn the man!
This game is like crack. I have meant to play a quick game and have looked up at my phone to see it was suddenly 1am. I have played similar games only to get bored, but so far I am fully involved. Craft, socialize, farm, kill monsters, repeat. I am loving this game.
Unsurprisingly, the Stardew community has created some fun mods, from reskins, new music (although the soundtrack itself is pretty decent) to changing some game mechanics, like fishing. I suck at fishing. Might try out that one, alongside the Undertale dog skin to replace my dog, who I named Esplodie.
There’s a very stupid backstory to that one that I won’t bore you with , but it involved alcohol and dollar store keychains in the shape of cartoony animals.
Try it out-plant a few crops, adopt a pet, wander the forests. Meet new people and find your niche.
Oh, and EXPLORE EVERYTHING. I mean it.