Who here remembers Owen Paul’s one-hit wonder, My Favourite Waste of Time?
The song aptly describes the latest farming sensation, Stardew Valley.
With over 100+ hours spent on my virtual farm, I can safely tell you that I am addicted to Stardew Valley, and I am not alone. Since it’s release on 27th February, the game and its sole creator, Eric Barone, have been on the minds of aspiring farmers all over the globe. Echoing Harvest Moon and the like, Stardew Valley could be the game that keeps on giving.
Despite its obvious farming inclinations, Stardew Valley is a deep game. Not only do you get to see and do loads of tasks, everything is seemingly connected. From growing your first crops to buying your first livestock, every task you perform will open up a whole new world for the next in-game day, and that’s the beauty of this game.
Your character starts out as a disillusioned city folk (much like you and me, hence the game’s initial appeal), who has recently left a mind numbing job at the Joja Corporation.
Yearning for a simpler life, you get to your Grandpa’s old farm and what happens next, is all up to you.
Taking about 10-20 minutes of real-world time, each day in Stardew Valley can be as busy or as leisurely paced as you make it. Granted, the first season may be a slow burn, as players need to plant the appropriate seeds, water the crops and wait for the eventual harvest, in return for a modest profit.
This actually suggests that there is little to do right away but once you get past the first slow season, a deeper experience awaits.
From humble beginnings of just planting crops, you can and will grow your farm into a full-fledged production facility. Fishing, mining and investing in livestock are just some of the new farming aspects that you will come into contact with. A typical day involves growing crops, harvesting them and preparing food with recipes, all which can then be used as gifts for the townsfolk, or for health restoration in the mines.
Fighting monsters in the mine, chopping wood and mining ore will yield more resources that allows for item crafting and tool upgrades. The crafting of better items will not only enable you to be more efficient, but it will also open up new areas to explore. This perfect storm of activities, along with RPG-like elements, keeps Stardew Valley a refreshing and exciting game.
Apart from your farm, players can explore Pelican Town, and interact with the people there. Socializing with townsfolk is a simple process of establishing daily talks, finding the correct gifts for them, and helping them with favors. This is one area of the game that could be improved upon on, as this seems rather shallow, when compared to the complexity of the rest of the game. Being able to become popular by forcing your way through the standard cycle of activities is not giving the respect to the hardworking folks in town.
There were several moments when I learned something about a character that stuck with me, such as meeting a young girl facing difficulties with her mother, due to her less than conventional lifestyle, or coming across a struggling homeless guy. Such relationships can also blossom into marriage, including same-sex marriage, which is a refreshing gaming alternative to a civil union. Oh, and spouses can help out with farm chores. Hopefully, this interaction component will be more fleshed out in a future update.
After numerous seasons and plenty of farming, I can safely say that I am not done with Stardew Valley. There are still many mines waiting to be fully explored, partners still to be wed, along with more events to happen on my gorgeous farm. With a litany of secrets and interconnected systems to unravel, Stardew Valley begins slowly, but ultimately drives you to spend countless hours in the titular valley.
A complex game backed by great systems and compelling gameplay? I am never leaving my farm and you shouldn’t either!
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Stardew Valley is a game and then some. It teaches you the basics of farm simulation, and slowly draws you into its world of interconnected and beautifully realised systems. The biggest challenge is making you walk away from it. Despite a flawed relationship system, the ability to give new tasks and new stuff to the players keeps Stardew Valley from getting old.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 10/10