Welcome to the simple life.
If I could summarize my experience with Stardew Valley in one word, I would use the word: charming. To review a game like this with only one word would be a massive disservice to a game that’s captured my attention so easily. It doesn’t fit into the mold of many similar games, but that’s a good thing for many reasons.
I originally believed Stardew Valley to be an Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon clone, and while that proved to be a selling point for me (I love those types of games), I was pleased to learn that there’s far more to it than meets the eye.
Life is simple in Stardew Valley. You wake up, tend to your crops, say hello to the local townsfolk, try to strike up a conversation with the pretty people, go spelunking, fish for crabs and boots, forage for fruits and vegetables, fight giant moths and slime monsters, aid the local magical creatures, and fight the man.
Also, you occasionally get to attend a festival or two.
While the the story is a major focus of Stardew Valley, the manner in which you accomplish your goals is a matter of choice. If you lack a green thumb, you can earn cash by heading into the mines to either collect precious metals or slaughter fiendish foes. Of course, it’s rather easy to make a big profit by growing things like cauliflower or strawberries, raising livestock, or going fishing.
Each activity is well handled in the game, with controls being of the clicky nature. Managing your inventory is relatively easy, though juggling items initially can be a challenge with only ten slots to store things in on your person. Obviously there are other limitations to contend with as well, such as your health and energy levels.
Health really only comes into play when you’re engaging in combat, like when you’re delving into the depths while carrying out tasks for the townsfolk and Adventurer’s Guild. Luckily, you won’t die if your health drops to zero; you just get picked up and carried off by the locals to safety.
Energy, on the other hand, is a far more precious resource. Everything you do takes up your energy, whether you’re fishing, plowing soil, or just going on a lumberjack’s frenzy through your property’s flora.
Stardew Valley appears to follow the design philosophy of games like Terraria, favoring retro graphics and written dialogue over more realistic visuals. Like with Terraria however, that isn’t a detractor. Stardew Valley‘s art direction is delightful, drawing from the SNES era of games, with sprite-style characters paired with detailed portraits for conversations. It’s by no means ground-breaking, but it works perfectly for the purposes of the game.
The same goes for the sound design. Dialogue is forgone in favor of text, with retro game sounds and a catchy 16-bit style soundtrack. So catchy in fact, that I decided to get the soundtrack for my own personal enjoyment!
Like I said earlier, when I first saw Stardew Valley, it reminded me of games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. The objective of building relationships and pursuing a simple life, paired with light story elements. One thing’s for sure though; Stardew Valley actually has something more to it.
I’ll say it again. Stardew Valley is a charming game, which is sadly pretty rare these days. There’s a good mix of drama and humor, along with a little bit of fantasy. Who doesn’t want to slay a few monsters in a cave between bouts of watering plants?
In Stardew Valley, you play as someone who has grown tired of the daily grind, working for
Walmart the Joja Corporation. The protagonist is heir to a plot of land in a small, quaint town, and eventually gives in to the promise of a better life far away from the issues of modern living.
Moving out to the boondocks carries with it new challenges, and possibly even love. It quickly becomes apparent that JojaMart (a subsidiary of the company the protagonist worked for) is trying to encroach on the town’s economy and drive out the local competition.
The story itself is fun and lighthearted, even though it delves into the topic of consumerism quite heavily. Surprisingly, it’s possible to give into the benefits of supporting the JojaMart over the community, which changes the game’s dynamics slightly. Doing so makes sourcing seeds for your farm a little more difficult, because JojaMart charges a premium for them compared to Pierre’s (the local market).
I never had the heart to do that however.
WILDCARD: RELAXING WHILE WORKING
On paper, Stardew Valley sounds pretty boring. The majority of the game consists of doing chores, day in and day out. But somehow it isn’t… It’s weird.
I mean, you’d have a helluva time convincing me to go out and plow a field, sow seeds, and water them every day, but for some reason I feel totally at home in Stardew Valley. The way that the tasks, quests, and overall story is laid out works well. Everything is doled out in smaller increments, and that works out in its favor. Those small changes over time give the sense of constant accomplishment, which is the psychology behind clicker games. The only difference here is that the game is actually good.
I knew I had a good feeling about Stardew Valley when I first heard about it. The retro graphics, the calm tones of the wonderful music, and the excellent setting are a perfect combination. Stardew Valley is a must-buy for anyone that’s a fan of games like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, or a game that can be played in small increments.
And if Stardew Valley ever makes it onto the Nintendo Switch, it will be even more of a hit.
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