Genre: Farming Simulator RPG
A few years back, a friend of mine tried to get me to play Animal Crossing on the Gamecube. I will shamelessly and publicly admit that my first reaction was blatant confusion. I couldn’t understand the point of the game, and the lack of adventuring legend of zelda-esque sword chopping features just didn’t do it for me. Fast forward another couple of years: a friend of mind fires up Harvest Moon on an emulator on his Wii. I thought it was interesting, especially considering my budding interest in gardening, and watched it played through for a week. I never played the game myself though; I never got around to it. Let’s bring this all up to the modern day, though: February 27th, 2016. I noticed on my steam friends list that every single person online at the time was playing a game called Stardew Valley. My wife and I went to visit @The3rdPlayer and his partner to discover… they’d also started playing Stardew Valley.
“I’ll hold off.” I said, telling myself I’d wait until multiplayer came out for the game. Just last week, I had finished assembling my brand spanking new state of the art gaming computer, and rejoined the PC gamer master race. Surely, I would finally be catching up on my years of backlog, playing state of the art games like Bioshock and Fallout 3. I logged onto my computer, and there it was again: my entire friends list was playing this freaking game. “$#&* it.” I told my wife. I had to start playing a game when it was new and fresh. I took the dive, shelled out the money for it, and was playing it within five minutes.
First thing to know about Stardew Valley: the purpose of the game is similar to games I mentioned in the beginning. It’s gameplay focuses on making a profitable farm, becoming friends with the people in the town you live in, and helping to make the town a better community, whether by building up the community center or assisting the megacorporation you used to work for to strengthen their foothold in this small seaside town. There is a little bit of combat, but it’s not the focus of the game.
It’s an odd niche genre, to be sure, but an enjoyable one. While the game draws largely from inspiration of Harvest Moon, it also doesn’t let itself be wholly cloned by the idea. There are an enormous amount of things to do about town, nearly overwhelming at times with the amount of planning you have to do for your time and energy, making you have to hustle around and about the town. The fact that this was all made by just one guy astounds me: the graphics, the music, the gameplay. Whether you like the game or not, you have to admit, it takes talent.
The main purpose of this game is farming. If you haven’t seen or played one of these games before, the basic game mechanics are as follows. You have different tools to assist you in your farming endeavor: a hoe, an axe, a pickaxe and a hand scythe. To plant seeds, you need to till some dirt with your hoe, then you can sprinkle seeds into the ground, which you then need to water with your watering can.
The game has quite a bit of depth – you can travel to the mines, which will net you a sword to defend yourself against slimes and cave bats as you go ever deeper to find more precious ores. When your farm is growing, after you water plants, you can spend time running around foraging wild plants or fishing to take up your spare time. You can make friends with the townspeople, whether to woo them (or to “pick your waifu” as they say) or just to learn more about their characters, which will provide you with new crafting recipes and ideas about what they or other townspeople like.
The music is great. The soundtrack is actually on sale on their website for $5, which I would seriously consider throwing money at. it’s fitting for each scenario, it’s catchy and quirky, it really adds to the rustic charm that the game is trying to capture.
Graphically, the game looks like the old Harvest Moon games. It’s a wonderfully rendered game most of the time, with portraits for all the characters. One of the biggest hurdles of the game: at night, it is so dark that it’s nearly impossible to play and see what’s going on. Early on in my delving into the mines, I actually found a ring that gives me a small ring of light around me at all times, so I’ve gotten around that. It’s not common, however, and I can see that being irritating for many people.
The great strength and weakness of the game is the near overwhelming amount of things that you can do. I have been extensively speaking to three other people playing this game, and we are playing in a completely different manner. While I’m growing a few fruit trees, wooing the ladies and fishing focused while farming just for enough extra pocket cash to fuel my upgrades. Others are focusing almost entirely on farm animals, while others are hyper focused on actual fruits and vegetables, while a certain handsome blogger I write with has to have hit the deepest parts of the mine by this point.
Overall, it’s a charming and idyllic vision of life in the country, on a farm. I know that my wife and I have definitely discussed doing something just like this game promotes in the beginning. It’s a labor of love and near obsessive attention to detail, and the game shows. I can think of nothing more to say on the matter, because I really need to get back to playing it. It’s currently priced at $15 on Steam, GoG and the Humble store.