Is Stardew Valley Worth Your Time?
Good god, yes!
What Did We Think Without Spoiling It?
As of this publication, I have sunk over 100 hours into Stardew Valley. When I purchased it, I spent 12 hours straight playing it. I think that should tell you everything you need to know.
Why It Works?
Stardew Valley won’t be for everyone. If you like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon or other similar games, then you will absolutely love Stardew Valley. It’s takes the best of both games and manages to create a wonderfully deep and charming experience where you actually care about the characters. Plus the developer is still updating the game and recently released multiplayer so you can enjoy the game with your friends.
How It Plays
The basic premise of Stardew Valley is that you’re a city person who gets tired of corporate living. Your grandparent left a plot of land in your name over in the countryside and one day you decide to “Screw it. I’m going to become a farmer.” And that’s exactly what you do.
Stardew Valley has a host of colorful NPCs that you can befriend, marry, divorce and have kids with. Yes, that’s right. You can divorce your current spouse for another eligible bachelor or bachelorette that catches your eye.
Let’s put that aside for now. Gameplay is fairly straightforward but it works incredibly well. You can use a controller or mouse and keyboard. I went the keyboard and mouse route. Most actions are accessible with a simple mouse click and even combat doesn’t require more than the same mouse click. There’s also an indicator showing where you’ll perform an action that you can toggle on or off. I preferred to keep mine on as it was easier to farm.
As with any farming simulation, the bulk of the game revolves around your crops and animals. You can purchase seeds from the general store (support local business!). The store will generally only have seeds in stock for that specific season so you don’t have to worry about buying the wrong thing. Later on, you’ll be able to craft a seedmaker so you can turn your vegetables into seeds and save some money.
You’ll need to clear and till the land on your farm in order to plant the seeds and, of course, water them daily. If you don’t water them, your crops won’t progress to the next stage of growth, which will eventually lead to reduced profits. Each crop has a different growing time with the more expensive crops like pumpkins taking the longest.
Animals, on the other hand, are a bit easier. Chickens lay eggs every day and cows produce milk every day. Later on you can get goats, ducks, pigs, sheep and rabbits, but they’re not necessary and only produce items every other day or so. The happier your animals, the better quality materials they’ll produce. You can either refine them further into cheese, mayonnaise or cloth, gift them, or keep the food products in your fridge to create recipes.
Okay, okay so this is the other main gameplay element of Stardew Valley – the NPCs. Each person has their own backstory, which you learn about as you get more hearts. You can essentially increase your heart rating with them by giving NPCs gifts and completing quests. Giving them a gift on their birthday gives you even more rep!
While you can’t marry all of the NPCs, there are quite a lot of options available as you can date both men and women. Just be forewarned that if you end up dating all of the potential partners in-game they won’t be too happy with you.
Who you marry is up to you and what kind of person you like. While each one doesn’t have a sad backstory, there are definitely a few (Shane) that will pull at your heartstrings. It’s just, too real man. And this is really where Stardew Valley shines.
The developer really put a lot of thought and effort into making each NPC a real person. Someone who you want to get to know. Sure, a lot of them come off kind of gruff initially, but as you coax them out of their shell you’re rewarded with an amazing story. I love Harvest Moon, but I don’t even think they were able to pull off this level of depth.
More importantly, I can interact with NPCs in weird ways. Take for example the picture above. I find it hilarious. I was able to sneak into Abigail’s house before they closed the doors and I waited for her to go to bed and then went into bed beside her. What makes it hilarious is that I have this freaky mask on and she’s staring wide-eyed into the corner. I can’t help but make up a scenario where Abigail is pretending to ignore me all the while she’s frozen in sheer terror at this person leering over her in a mask. It might be wrong, but dang if it isn’t funny.
I would love more games to focus on the story and characters more. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy playing games – because it allows me to feel like I’m transported to another place. While not all NPCs stories are as strong, each of them have their own personality that you won’t forget.
Graphics and Music
There’s not a whole lot to the soundtrack here, but I never found the background music to be annoying. It was soothing and inoffensive to the point I was able to forget it was even on. Plus, on rainy days there was no music so you appreciated it more during the sunny days.
The graphics are adorable as well. It took the developer 5 years to complete the game as a solo developer and the polish shows. The sprites are well-detailed from the people down to the items in your house. And the character portraits are beautifully drawn with each one providing a range of emotions for the various interactions.
There’s loads of other things you can do. Mining is a huge component of the game and it also brings the very basic combat. Mining isn’t the most “fun” aspect of the game, but it does help you get ore that you need to upgrade your tools and to craft other items. You also will get some gemstones and artifacts that you can put in the library to complete the museum collection.
The combat is not the game’s strong point. It’s pretty basic and ultimately really easy. You mostly just need to swing push up an enemy against the wall (if they’re based on the ground) or swing your sword whenever a flying enemy gets close. Most enemies take a few hits to go down even with the best sword. Honestly, it probably wasn’t necessary to have combat in game, but I guess it keeps you on your toes.
Fishing is also another component of the gameplay and this is slightly more fun than mining. It’s a simple mini-game where you have to keep the fishing bar within the meter. As you level up your fishing skill it gets easier to catch harder fish and you can also attach bait and hooks to make it even easier. There are also legendary fish you can catch that require you to have your fishing at max level in order to catch them. Sadly, you can only catch legendaries once.
It’s hard to find fault in this game. I pretty much adore everything. The only thing that would be cool is if more crops opened up in later years. It would also be nice if the dialogue changed for the various seasonal events for each consecutive years for the NPCs, but these are very minor issues.
Just get the game now if you haven’t already!
- Available on Steam, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
- Rated E
Developer Twitter: Concerned Ape