I have spent the better part of the last week obsessively playing a new game which I’m sure most of you have heard of by this point assuming it hasn’t also taken over your own life – Stardew Valley. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last month and have no idea what Stardew Valley is, or just aren’t into farming simulators, let me get you up to speed.
You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home? It won’t be easy. Ever since Joja Corporation came to town, the old ways of life have all but disappeared. The community center, once the town’s most vibrant hub of activity, now lies in shambles. But the valley seems full of opportunity. With a little dedication, you might just be the one to restore Stardew Valley to greatness!
Now, many people attribute the game’s likeness to the Harvest Moon games for the Super Nintendo, but I can’t actually comment on that since I’ve never played the Harvest Moon games. Instead, I’ll just jump right into how this addictive-as-hell game managed to suck sixty-five hours of my life away in the blink of an eye (or rather, approximately 7 days – what the hell is food or sleep anyway, amirite?).
As the above description indicates, your journey into oblivion begins on your now-dead grandfather’s farm plot located in Pelican Town, a small town consisting of around twenty-eight people within Stardew Valley. The plot is, as seems to be the case with all farming simulators, covered in branches and grass and trees and rocks and logs and all manner of things that you’ll need to clear away in order to begin, what will surely be, your largest virtual farm undertaking since the beginning of Farmville (or Harvest Moon, pick your poison).
Take note: years occur in 4 season cycles, each season being 1 month long, each month being twenty-eight days. I know there are people who say that time passes much too quickly in the game, and that might be true on a day-to-day basis; however, let me just say that it’s taken me sixty-five hours to complete 2 years in Stardew Valley – and I’m no where near “done” in terms of game play.
I won’t beat around the bush here (except when I’m literally beating the bush) – it took me nearly a solid season to clean out most of my land and the full year to get it completely cleared. I like my things to be neat and tidy, ya know? I did manage to get some crops planted by the time fall rolled around, but that wasn’t until a good 11 hours had passed and I’d completely tuned-out anything going on around me in the real world. Things like animals and dinner time. “The dog has to go out.” – “What?”
Let me clarify something tho – if you think that your ultimate goal in Stardew Valley is to just grow crops and make money? You’d be wrong. There are a ton of things to do in the game, especially if you decide to rebuild the Pelican Town Community Center.
The Community Center is a location you’re introduced to relatively early-on after arriving in Stardew Valley. That’s good news for you guys, if you’re reading this; bad news for super-frustrated-past-me since I completely didn’t realize there was a point to the derelict building until it was too late in the year to do a few things necessary to restoring it. I’ll leave it up to you to find out what those things are, but I will say this – choosing to complete the community center (and not buy a membership to the evil JojaMart located nearby – hint hint) is going to hugely influence how you will spend your time in Stardew Valley, both as a farmer and a player.
Another hugely enjoyable part of the game for me has been the festivals that occur throughout the year. At each festival you get to do a few things, like participate in mini-games which can result in rewards. A game within a game? Gameception!
At this point, I’m pretty decent at the ice-fishing competition that occurs in Winter, but so far, no luck winning any of the other games just yet. I find the slingshot competition booth to be especially clunky and difficult, but that could just be me.
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about fishing for a second. Fishing in Stardew Valley is a bit like trying to catch a cat with a string if its tail were on fire – at first. It does get easier, so don’t give up! But at first, be prepared for a lot of swearing at your screen. Also, don’t forget to fish in all three bodies of water, at different times of day, during different types of weather (again – hint, hint).
Relationships in Stardew Valley take a bit of work, and are well worth the effort to be honest. Most villagers (save for a few non-vital NPCs) have gifts which they like and dislike. Giving a gift that a villager likes or loves results in gradually building a relationship, or “heart”, level with that villager. Giving a gift which they dislike or hate – obviously, has the opposite effect. There are five female bachelorettes and five bachelors in Stardew Valley, which makes marriage (and children!) possible. While I’ve gotten to the married stage of life, I’ve not yet reached the children stage. However, from what I’ve read, the children leave much to be desired so far, but there is talk of the developer changing that in the future.
And even better news – marriage in Stardew Valley is not limited to opposing genders only. So feel free to marry a male or female, no matter which gender you choose for yourself! Each potential spouse comes with their own themed “room”, which will be added to your own house after marriage.
Building relationships with all the villagers will trigger adorable cut scenes for you to watch, as well as result in many of the villagers sending you gifts or recipes in the mail, which can be useful for your gameplay and progression. I’ve found several of the villagers to have interesting story lines too (my favorite so far has been Linus, the raggedy homeless gentleman who lives in a tent near the carpenter’s shop).
Plus, some of the dialogue is just sure to give you a chuckle, now and then.
Above all, I have some mad respect for Stardew Valley’s sole developer – ConcernedApe – the one-man development team who brought this marvelous addiction to the masses: art, music, coding and all. Impressive as hell and I thank you, Eric Barone, for your contribution to my continued alone-time with my computer monitor! You are an inspiration to aspiring game designers and developers everywhere, I am certain. And I do hope you’ll be doing another AMA on Reddit, soon! Thank you for being such an amazing hands-on and responsive developer to your adoring fans and for dedicating so much of your time to making this game even more great.
Ultimately, I am madly in love with Stardew Valley, and would recommend it to anyone I know, provided they have a sitter who can occasionally provide them with food, water and the once-in-a-while nudge to stretch their legs and get some blood flowing… kidding. Kind of.
There is SO MUCH of the game that I haven’t covered in this review at all, but truth be told, that is because I could genuinely drone on for hours telling you how amazing this game is and how much I love it and want you to play it, that I’d really rather just give you a copy of it myself.
But first, a couple of tips for the first-time farmers out there:
- Discover the Stardew Valley Wiki. I’ve spent loads of time on it, and I’m sure you will too.
- Likewise, don’t be afraid to check out the Stardew Valley Subreddit, either. I can’t explain the number of tips, tricks and general amusements I’ve seen so far.
- Unlock all the bundles in the Community Center ASAP. Trust me on this.
- Complete at least a few of the bundles as soon as you can – several of them grant rewards, like repairing the mine carts, bridge to the quarry, and a greenhouse for your farm.
- The greenhouse allows you to grow all-season crops, year round. Had I known this early on, I’d have busted my ass completing that community center bundle MUCH sooner.
- Bring food or potions with you to the mines. Above all – don’t lose all of your health. Again, trust me on this.
- Don’t drive yourself crazy getting bait for your fishing pole. It doesn’t seem to make a huge difference (though, I could be wrong).
- You can plant trees OUTSIDE of your farm, too.
- Upgrade your tools to at least gold level. I’d recommend the axe and pick axe first and foremost.
- Have an income plan for your first winter if you don’t have a greenhouse. Animals, fishing, or mining will be your best friend for income in those times.
And now to the giveaway…
Yes, I am so madly in love with this game that I want at least one of my lucky readers to play it. So I am going to run this giveaway for 2 weeks, to end on April 20th! Just use the form below to enter, and don’t forget to share with your friends. And above all, enjoy the hell out of this game! I sure do!
If there are any issues with the giveaway form, please use my contact page to let me know. Good luck.