Stardew Valley Review
Stardew Valley dropped rather suddenly on me. I recall hearing about the game a few years ago, and liking the idea, but I never stayed abreast of the games development. To my surprise, when logging into Steam the past few days, the game has been comfortably sitting at number one on Steam’s top selling list. After watching a few launch day streams, I decided to pop on it and I am so glad I did. The game’s art and sound design is absolutely incredible. The 8-bit aesthetic is fitting, but also beautiful in design, with each new season altering the landscape with different vibrant colors.
The game is very similar to Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. Your grandfather passes away, leaving you to take over his farm. The town welcomes you with open arms, but wants you to fix a rundown, dilapidated, old community center over your stay. Fixing the community center can be done through the collection of various types of material. From here the story becomes what you want it to be. The player can choose to be a hermit (like my playthrough) or engage with other townsfolk. Relationships can be created through the game’s gift giving system. Stardew allows for any type of romance, allowing the player to go after whatever citizen tickles their fancy. This is nice to see and adds to the sandbox nature of the game. I must admit I have not fully explored the relationship system, but for those of you that enjoy that facet of these types of game, I can assure you it is present. For myself, the bulk of my enjoyment of Stardew so far, has come from farming & exploring.
Ahhh farming. Nothing like spending hours upon hours, planting, watering and ultimately harvesting crops. Stardew does an excellent job in this area. The farming does not feel overly tedious. Each season (spring,summer,fall,winter) is part of the year cycle and comes with differing crops and events. An interesting leveling system encourages players to farm as each level adds valuable benefits (+1 hoe efficiency for example) to the player. Other ‘craftable’ upgrades exist, adding to the need to gather and store resources. Just as watering my crops started to become a ‘chore’, I reached a point where sprinklers became accessible. Sprinklers allow for autonomous watering. So now, being able to put sprinklers down by my crops allows me to focus on other areas of my farm.
Farming also encompasses animals allowing the player to raise cows, chickens, slims, fruit bats and other less common animals. O̶n̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶a̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶b̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶m̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶a̶u̶t̶o̶m̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶l̶i̶v̶e̶s̶t̶o̶c̶k̶ ̶c̶h̶o̶r̶e̶s̶ ̶(̶I̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶ ̶h̶a̶r̶v̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶y̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶s̶i̶l̶o̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶u̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶p̶u̶t̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶s̶)̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶u̶n̶f̶o̶r̶t̶u̶n̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶i̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶p̶p̶o̶r̶t̶u̶n̶i̶t̶y̶.̶ ̶L̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶t̶e̶r̶i̶n̶g̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶p̶o̶i̶n̶t̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶i̶v̶e̶s̶t̶o̶c̶k̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶m̶e̶c̶h̶a̶n̶i̶c̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶e̶d̶i̶o̶u̶s̶.̶ This proved to be incorrect. All the higher end buildings include a automated feed system. Other elements that I would call ‘farm gameplay’ includes foraging (Animal Crossing style collecting) and fishing. Both of these offer a nice reprieve from a day of farming and pay well too. However, if all of these activities do end up becoming tedious, this game has something that I really enjoy, combat and exploration.
The inclusion of combat was a good decision. Stardew revolves around a need to constantly be upgrading and advancing. Ore soon becomes a sought after material and helps in introducing the combat element of the game. Ore is found within the town mine. The town mine is crawling with critters, critters who don’t want you to get the ore. Armed with a sword, the player can venture into the depths of the mine (the lower you go the better the ore). This ‘Terrariaesque’ system is welcome. Ore equals better farming equipment, which equals more crops, which equals more money. Each time I was in the mine, I kept feeling the draw to go deeper. Balancing the risk/reward is incredibly fulfilling. Fear of dying is a real thing, as dying means losing money, resources, and ‘knowledge’ of a random number of dungeon floors (you have to replay x number of floors when you respawn), so I found myself playing it safe pretty often. Bringing back a huge haul of ore, dramatically altered my farm allowing for more profitability, and I love profitability.
I can easily say this has been the best gaming experience I’ve had in 2016 (so far). An indie game like this being created by only one person is mind blowing. Stardew Valley seriously raises the bar for indie developers. The existence of so many systems all acting together creates a wonderful experience that is a direct reflection of the love and care the creator put into the game. Not only is the game well designed, the price point is perfect. Coming in at $16.99 CAD, the game is a steal. I’ve put in a shameful 20+ hours and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the nuances of this game.
What I Liked
- The art style and design are fitting
- Few issues at launch
- Easy control scheme
- Deep upgrade mechanics allow for literally hours of gameplay
- A seemingly endless amount of things to discover
- Dev is already updating the title
What I didn’t Like
- Missing some higher end upgrades
- Stayed within conventions. Would love to see more interesting farm equipment (cars exist but no tractors?)
- Minor bugs
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Arbitrary Rating: 9.5/10