Stardew Valley was clearly the game of the year 2016 for me. I didn’t manage to finish the review on time, but now that the multiplayer beta is live, I think it’s finally time to write down my thoughts about the singleplayer mode.
This indie gem has done so many things so well, it doesn’t really matter that it basically just combines things from the earlier famous titles of the genre. There is no need to always make something huge or explosively innovative, when one can combine all of the good stuff into a package that feels like the best thing ever.
The game is made with care. It’s pretty, with vivid and detailed pixel art. The music is pleasant and the surroundings are rich with sound effects. Overall, the game is also quite polished.
Stardew Valley is a game about farming, gathering and crafting – small village life, relationships, magic and adventure. It’s a farming simulation with light RPG elements and a dating sim with multiple romantic interests – both male and female.
Pelican Town is a pretty and quiet place, with rather positive ambiance. But there is a big chain market that is trying to kill the local store, and even some danger lurking around in the mines. The player’s task is to fix all the troubles and make the town thrive.
The villagers are a nice bunch of people, and each one of them has some kind of backstory to unravel. While the residents represent a lot of cliche personality types, they are still quite lovable – either right away or at least under their somewhat reserved exteriors.
There are a lot of options how to approach the game. Stardew Valley has just tons of things to do, to further the story and expand the horizons. The player can focus on their favourite activities to some extent, though many things require completing several different tasks, so it might be needed to leave the comfort zone now and then.
I wasn’t a fan of the dungeon crawling, though it’s not exactly horrible, and there are several kind of weapons available for different combat styles (which unfortunately still are purely just 1 button 1 attack styles). The dungeons are pretty much endless and player needs to enter them now and then to get ore for crafting and updating tools.
The farming in the game is luckily a lot more complex and satisfying task. It can certainly be a chore too, but the whole attraction of these kind of games comes from working hard and seeing the results. There are also cute farm animals to take care of, and of course the adorable – but basically useless – farm cat/dog.
Every season has a couple of special events when some rare items can be bought or won by minigames. Some of the events also have a romantic aspect to them for dating purposes.
The villagers are easy to please with some conversation and gifts. Befriending them doesn’t take a huge effort and their personal little “cut scenes” are rather funny and sweet.
Pelican Town has a museum and a community center that require a ton of collectibles. Completing quests for the community center will open up some new smaller areas in the game. There are also a bunch of more obscure achievements to hunt.
Stardew Valley is quite easy to get into, and the days roll by fast. Suddenly “trying this out a bit” has turned into 6 hours of gaming. And then a few nights has turned into 100 hours of play time. The game can only be saved by autosave every morning, so “just one more day” can easily become an issue.
The game isn’t hard but it does give actual penalties from messing up, like losing energy, money, crops and even items. No screw-up is permanent though, so it is possible to play Stardew Valley very casually too. I’d actually recommend it very much. In-depth casual games are rather rare, and this one is a gem whether playing casually or hard core.
Stardew Valley’s charm is undeniable, and every time I see a screenshot of the game, I immediately want to play it again. Unfortunately the replay value could be better. There are a few farm layouts available, with emphasis on different resources. The town will remain exactly same though. So while game mechanics and atmosphere are excellent, the story will be mostly the same every time. Even though it is a good story, one might want to have a decent break before spending another 100 hours on a second character.