Stardew Valley (PC Review)
There’s nothing quite like taking a step back from the rush of everyday city living. Sometimes your heart pines for the seclusion of the country and all the activities that come with it; waking up early to your dog’s playful bark, taking a leisurely stroll into town to stock up on your favourite foods, killing mysterious creatures and harvesting their essence that you underhandedly profit on thanks to the local town’s mayor. It’s the American dream.
In every review of Stardew Valley there is always a comparison made to the myriad of cutesy farming RPGs that have existed for many years now. As my only experience close to this is breeding a Chao army in Sonic Adventure I am going to put my ignorant fingers in my ignorant ears and ignorantly pretend that Stardew Valley is the first of its kind. Which 100% it is. The player starts the rest of their life by inheriting a farm after the timely passing of their pixelated grandfather. Overrun by the elements and uncaring of its previous owner’s passing, it’s up to the player to bring this now profitless cesspit back to bountiful boom of the good ol’ days. Be it through means of crops, animal produce, fishing, foraging or the massacring of mine-dwelling enemies you’ll be sure to find a way you enjoy to raise the bank balance.
This is a universe that manages to be humble but never feels withholding. Armed initially with only an axe, a hoe, a scythe, a pickaxe and a watering can (all of which you can upgrade using that sweet sweet green) you are largely left to your own devices to find how this world works. You will gradually uncover The Mines to the north, an area consisting of over 100 levels which the player will have to descend to discover rarer minerals and defeat tougher enemies. Then there’s the reveal of the Town Hall Community Center, an area occupied by “Junimos”, cute lil blobs who ask the player to fulfil “bundles” of specific items in order to restore the building to its former glory. The charm of these seemingly endless discoveries are a lot to fit into the 13 ½ minute days but never left me overwhelmed or questioning how to spend my time.
Depressingly like real life, socialising can become a major part in Stardew Valley. The village folk are all surprisingly well crafted and each have their own traits and lives outwith the constraints of the game. Depending on the day and time, you may find that Pierre from the self-indulgently named Pierre’s General Store is taking a day off and spending all that money you handed to him the previous day. Once it hits 5pm you’ll find Willy, proprietor of the aptly named Fish Shop, close up for the day and try to catch some salmon before hitting the hay. This becomes a large part of the overall game, learning the routine of the villagers and planning your day around that. There were times I needed to buy some food from The Stardrop Saloon but given its owner’s fondness of a lie-in it won’t open until 12pm, so that gives me 6 hours to fill with a hastily created mad cap money making scheme. Fast forward 11 hours and I got so caught up in my failed scheme that food shopping will have to wait until tomorrow. This cycle continues and makes Stardew Valley so easy to get lost in, you find yourself saying “just one more day” like a heroin addict trying to convince no one but themselves.
As the world’s most famous farmer once said: “You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” (Tony Monfarmer; Farmface; 1983). These are words to heed in the cutthroat world of Stardew Valley. You will be determined to improve and succeed, not to make your obviously racist grandfather proud (c’mon, a family inherited farm in the Western world from generations ago) but just to be the best. You want to kick Jas’ arse in the find-the-eggs mini game at the annual Egg Festival. You want to show your farmy talents in Fall at the Stardew Valley Fair better than any other. You want to be a part of the community but also be a pillar.
Stardew Valley is a game that delivers so much more than it ever promised. With simple mechanics fantastically executed and a perfectly realised world that continues expanding throughout your 50+ hour playtime it’s easy to fall for this charming and endearing departure from games that are trying too hard.