It’s hard to believe that four years went into making this game as it is. It’s even harder to believe that one man built and programmed this wonderful farming simulation game from scratch. Starting off as a mere Harvest Moon clone, with similar graphics, Stardew Valley has grown into immense popularity in four short years and of course, despite most, if not all, the bugs having been worked out and the game is pretty much complete, new features and updates are still being released. Okay so maybe the game isn’t complete. Well, story-wise it is.
Speaking of the game’s story, the game starts off with a background story similar to most Harvest Moon games. You play as a city girl (or boy), inheriting your late grandpa’s farm. Upon your arrival into the peaceful village of Pelican Town, you find a run down farm that’s overgrown with weeds, trees, and whatever else you can think of. So it’s up to you to rebuild your grandpa’s farm back to its former glory… that is if you want. Unlike early Harvest Moon games, you’re not given a time frame or a deadline to rebuild your farm. As a matter of fact you don’t have to do that at all. You can do pretty much anything you want on Stardew Valley.
You can date and marry one of the ten potential spouses in the game, focus on ranching only, fishing, mining, or just lounge about on the farm, doing nothing. But why would you want to do that when there’s so many things you can do on the game?
When you first start the game, you’ll find yourself not knowing what to do or how to do anything, which is why most people, like me, went off exploring every square inch of the farm, village, and all the surrounding areas… at least what we had access to early in the game. And of course, making money was the main goal in the beginning. Once you get the hang of things, you soon find yourself getting into a monotonous routine that you don’t even have to give a second thought about. And soon you’ll find out that it’s not a few hours later when you finally come out of your room, but it’s actually in fact, the next morning or something. Yeah, this game’s that addicting.
When I first saw and heard of Stardew Valley, I wasn’t too keen on playing another farming game, probably because in my mind, nothing could ever compare to Harvest Moon. I’ve tried many other games that have tried to emulate the fun and love that is Harvest Moon and nothing has ever come close. Except for Animal Crossing and The Sims, but those two games, while having some of the same elements as Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, are completely in a different vein of virtual games and simulation. And they have different mechanics as well.
So you can most likely imagine what it was like for me to hear a game being compared to Harvest Moon and even being said to be better than nearly all the games of the series combined. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit annoying, but once my twin brother, who grew up playing Harvest Moon games with me, showed me his own little live stream of Stardew Valley, he had me wanting to play the game as well. A few weeks later, imagine my surprise when my twin bought me the game on Steam. A $15 game was metaphorically tossed into my lap and I played it.
From the first time I booted up the game, I became addicted to clearing out the excess vegetation cluttering up my farm, fishing, and mining. I even made myself a little checklist of things to buy and build arranged by their price and the amount of needed materials. Like I said earlier, when you go into this game you’ll be a bit lost on where to begin with building your new life in the valley, which is why it’s highly suggested that you go to the Stardew Valley community on Steam and read the guides there. You’ll most likely get an idea of where start. With that being said, Stardew Valley gives a free range of things to do and you can do them at your own pace. You don’t have to get married within the first year or start up a great farm within three years. You just do you and enjoy the game to the fullest.
Let’s talk about the graphics of this game. The graphics are of pixel quality, meaning they’re most like what you would find on a Super Nintendo, Gameboy Advance or any other console of the 90’s and 2000’s. But even so, the graphics are beautiful and well done. You can tell what everything is and you can even see the tiny details of seeds growing in the ground. And of course when talking with someone, you can see their face portraits in the text box (much like Harvest Moon!) and depending on what they’re saying, you can even see what they’re feeling from their facial expressions.
The music is also well done. Actually, it’s not just well done, it’s beautiful! I’d say that Stardew’s biggest draw is the soundtrack. From the soft gentle tunes of Winter that tells us the days are going to be short and that we should make most of the time we have to the foreboding eerie music of the mines that is either soft and gentle or eerie and spooky. All the little 8 bit tunes in this game is pleasant to the ears and I dont mind listening to the soundtrack outside of the game. My particular favorite is the ice cavern tune that plays when you reach the frozen areas of the mine.
The characters all have their unique charms and like the characters of Harvest Moon, they have their likes and dislikes and a set schedule throughout the year. Whether it’s the somewhat shy Dr. Harvey being cooped up in his office in the early morning or the ever busy carpenter, Robin, making her rounds in the mountains, chopping up wood, you’ll almost never see the villagers all staying in one place for too long.
The gameplay of the game is pretty good. You might make a few mistakes like accidentally eating a carrot when you meant to give it to a villager or accidentally hitting your cow with a sickle (again, oops!), but the buttons are flexible, meaning you can change the shortcuts and keys to your liking. Though there are some that can’t really be reassigned but it doesn’t take much to get used to the buttons. The mechanics of the game is amazing, too. Remember how I said you inherit a farm? Well, you can turn your farm into pretty much anything farm related. You can make a farm for growing Sunflower seeds only or just make it a ranch for raising cows, chickens, sheep, etc. You can pretty much do anything with your farm.
One of the most useful mechanics I found in the game is the crafting system. As you get the hang of cutting up wood, breaking stones, clearing the land, mining, etc, you’ll find yourself collecting an excess of items, most of them appearing to be not so useful; but, in fact, everything you get from your daily activities is useful, whether it’s a broken CD you fish out of the water or little pieces of clay you get from tilling the field - everything has a use. There’s a crafting system within the game that allows you to turn these seemingly junk items into something useful like a fence so you can make a safe pasture area for your cows to graze in peace or bait so you can catch better fish.
Another mechanic is fishing. Fishing is one of the fun things you can do in Stardew Valley. It’s not high up on my list of favorite things to do in the game, but it helps make some money when I’m low on funds and don’t feel like venturing into the mine. Fishing in itself is actually a minigame, one that’s hard at first but it’s fun and relaxing. And not to mention, a lot of the residents of Stardew Valley seem to request various fish for one reason or another in their quests.
Which brings us to another gameplay mechanic: Questing! Questing is where the villagers will post daily requests up on the board outside of Pierre’s General Shop. The requests range from gathering some building materials to going into the mines to kill of an x amount of slimes. Completing these Quests will not only earn you money and rare items on occasions, but you’ll gain some friendship points with the villager that put in the request in the first place.
Mining is probably going to be the biggest part of the game. Why? Because depending on how you want to design and run your farm, you’ll be going to the mines frequently for ores and gems to upgrade your tools and crafting things that will benefit your farm. I honestly don’t know how many times I've went into the mines just so I can find some iron ore to build some iron fences with for my farm. As you get further and further into the mine, you’ll encounter all sorts of monsters that you have to fight off before you can break up the rocks in peace. This is where the RPG/Zelda like elements come in. As soon as you enter the mines, you’ll see that you have a health bar and an energy/stamina bar. While it’s normal for your energy bar to be at the lower bottom of the screen, the health bar only shows up when you’re exploring the mines. Be sure to pack plenty of veggies and food that can restore both your life and your energy because once you collapse in the mine, whether it’s from losing health or running out of energy, you’ll collapse and when you wake up, you’ll lose some of those valuable items you bought or found in the mines, lose some money, and you’ll lose your memories of the last ten levels you’ve explored.
I believe that’s about all I can say the game. There are tons more I could say about the game, but I honestly haven’t experienced in the game yet: like making friends with the villagers, cooking, getting married (okay I have gotten married but I haven’t been married long!), and the battle with the big bad corporation called Joja Mart over the fate of the town’s community center, etc. I’ve only put in about 200 hours into Stardew Valley (from playing it for a year and a half) but even I have to say that i’ve barely scratched the surface of the game that is Stardew Valley.
- Great Gameplay Mechanics
- Mindless fun
- Wonderful graphics and beautiful scenery
- Lots of open gameplay
- Creative ways to play the game and run and design the layout of your farm
- Entertaining villagers
- Pleasant music
- Variety of said pleasant music
- Character customization in the beginning
- Can have same-sex relationship/marriage with the many marriage candidates
- Farming (chickens and cows especially!)
- Not many options for choosing your pet in the beginning
- Bit of a lag sometimes
And so with this review done and read, I will leave you with these parting words, inspired by the evil corporation of Joja in the game: