Farm sims have been a niche genre that has garnered a small amount of attention over the years. Games such as Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and Rune Factory have been enjoyed by a small group of fans for years. Despite having a moderate fanbase, the games have only shown minimal changes to a well-worn formula. Stardew Valley takes these loved mechanics and perfects them into the best farm sim in years.
As someone who has grown tired of the daily grind at the corporate office, the game takes off by the player inheriting their late grandfather’s farm. The character abandons their job and decides to start a new life as a farmer. Apart from the opening, Stardew Valley contains very little plot; but keep in mind, it doesn’t need one. Becoming friends with the villagers leads to charming cutscenes where the player can discover more about the townsfolk. With that being said, Stardew Valley’s story is dependent on how the player approaches all it has to offer.
Daily life in Stardew Valley is ultimately up to the player. Fishing, farming, foraging, mining, cooking, and tending to farm animals are just a few of the activities available. There are multiple options to earn income, which works favorably according to player preference. Trying to tackle all of the activities can become rather tedious. Avoiding this “butter spread over too much bread” approach, rewards players with rich narrative if they choose a play style that is more focused and less scattered.
One of the most amazing attributes to Stardew Valley, is its unique cast of characters. Whether it be the seemingly hipster doctor named Harvey or the emo boy named Sebastian who traps himself in his room with his video games, the diverse civilians of Stardew Valley are what make the game so interesting. Rather than have a game filled with kawaii farmers with neon hair and Asian characteristics, most characters are very in-tune with Western society. The game has the classic nerds, jocks, and even valley girls. However, when you get to know these characters, there is so much more to them. This “Eastern but still Western” vibe is what makes this game feel familiar but fresh, all at the same time.
Farming, like everything else in Stardew Valley, can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The hoe is used to till dirt that can then be planted with the desired crop. After watering that crop every day, it becomes ready to harvest and is in turned used to accomplish a multitude of goals. The plants can be used as gifts, cooked from recipes, or sold for a quick buck. Farming is the best way to start earning cash early in the game.
Tending to animals in Stardew Valley is identical to the way it’s handled in Harvest Moon. They player must first build a barn or coop in order to house farm animals. The livestock must be given food every day to receive their product. The animals can also be used for breeding or sold off for cash.
While mining in the various caves, the player will come across enemies that prevent gathering precious materials. Cave combat is very similar to A Link To The Past — not complicated, but still enjoyable regardless. More powerful weapons can be acquired at the Adventurers Guild. This helps take down the most powerful enemies that can be found closer to the bottom of the mines.
Marriage is a great component to Stardew Valley. Players can gain affection from specific townsfolk (either gender) that will eventually lead to lasting relationships and nuptials (keep in mind, these relationships can be hetero or homosexual). Cutscenes between the player and the desired partner are placed within how far along their relationship is. The townsfolk affection for the player is displayed by hearts. The more hearts a townsperson has, they are more likely to send gifts and initiate cutscenes.
The daily loop that Stardew presents gets addictive quickly. Every time the player goes to sleep, the game is saved. The game then shows the amount of income that was earned that day. It also shows upgrades and new crafting items that are now available. On top of that, the day cycles often bring changes on your farm, and in the town itself. It’s a rare to find nothing of interest happening when the player walks out of the house each morning.
There is little to complain about when it comes Stardew Valley. The character’s movement speed can seem slow at times and the inventory system can become a tad messy in the later stages of the game. Aside from those minor flaws, the game is nearly perfect.
When ConcernedApe, the dev behind Stardew Valley, decided to take on this venture all on his own, I was excited to see what he would come up with. After playing over 60 hours in this amazing world, I am more than convinced that ConcernedApe not only exceeded my expectations, but left me with a profound appreciation for one of my all-time favorite genres.
With a developer who is engaged with his player community, ConcernedApe takes any minor issues that the game has and remedies them for the player. As I ventured through out the town, I found myself standing in awe under the twinkling sky, soaking in the admiration. It is clear that Stardew Valley is ConcernedApe’s baby, and it shows in his work.
Stardew Valley is a refreshing take on a genre that has rarely made any improvements on its aged formula. Simply, it takes the tediousness of Harvest Moon games while still retaining the charm and relaxing gameplay. If you’re looking for more detailed (and spoiler free) information and more reasons as to why Stardew Valley is amazing, check out 8 Reasons Why Stardew Valley is Better Than Harvest Moon here at The Koalition!