Ever sit at work in your lonely cubicle situated in an office lit with florescent lights with no windows when one day feels like the next?
Ever dreamed about working with your hands outside in the fresh air?
You should inherit your dying grandfather’s overgrown farm and become a farmer!
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into the pixelated waters of our virtual valley and embark on our land-tilling and vegetable growing virtual life that awaits for us in the indie hit Stardew Valley, which I’ve been playing this week almost addictively. Disclaimer: I really, really like this game, which means this review is going to be biased.
Stardew Valley is immediately identifiable as drawing heavy inspiration from Harvest Moon on the SNES from the 90s. You play a city dweller, fresh from the office life and thrust upon the small village existence as a farmer, starting with just 15 seeds and some inferior tools on a land overgrown with trees, rocks, bushes and grass, your job is to turn this old farm into a functioning and profitable business, make nice with the villagers, find a wife, settle down and have some kids.
Well as it turns out, yes.
There’s no real challenge here. Making money is easy, as is the story progression. Balancing your limited energy and time each day to make real progress in the game and making enough money to make life on the farm easier is the challenge.
The game starts off as an incredible grind. You wake up each morning, plant your seeds, water your ground, harvest your plants, sell your crops and use what little energy or time you have left to explore the town to improve your relationships, the mines for ore or fish for.. err.. fish. Each day you progress a little bit more towards your ultimate goal of being a successful farmer in Stardew Valley. The game is broken up into seasons and each season presents itself with different challenges – and your crops don’t survive the change of season either. Oh, and all the while you’re trying to get enough money and resources to upgrade your tools, fishing rod and help restore the town to it’s former glory through projects like fixing the bus or trains. By the way you should also try and get married and have kids.
Yes, there’s a lot to accomplish and the days feel just too short to get it all done.
As you progress things get a bit easier. You can craft things to make your life easier and supplement your income like using eggs from your chickens to make mayonnaise or drop sprinklers to automatically water your crops for you so you have more time to do things that really matter, like searching the mines for diamonds and other precious stones to shower upon the villagers to make them like you.
The conversation between you and the villagers is excellent. It’s witty and often you’ll leave town feeling abused by the comments and conversations with your fellow Stardew Valley residents, until you’ve given them enough diamonds to make them millionaires, at which point they might cheer up to you. I made one girl my friend by giving her old fish and another demanded Amethysts. I married the latter of course.
It’s not all perfect certainly. The game has a rough learning curve, not giving you must in the way of tutorials and you find yourself referencing the wiki pages often along your way but that’s part of the learning experience – you’re not supposed to know what you’re doing really – you’re a cityboy on the farm!
He also hosts the nAvTV podcast and this here website is his domain.