Publisher: Same Guy
Released on Feb 26, 2016
Stardew Valley is a timeless farming simulator that leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction–the perfect game for anyone who wants to sit down and relax after a long day at the office. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming fully self-sufficient, then you’re in luck because Stardew Valley is all about living off of the land by turning an overgrown field into your very own farm!
Genre: An Indie Farming Simulator
Before you begin, you can customize your avatar by changing their appearance and clothing. You’ll have a lot of fun experimenting with character creation, using color sliders to give your sprite some personality. There are hundreds of different hairstyles and shirts to choose from so it’s hard to resist looking through all of them.
You can generate six possible farm maps: A Standard Farm, recommended for first-time players, a Riverland Farm if you love fishing, a Forest Farm to encourage foraging, a Hill-top Farm for mining ore, and a Wilderness Farm if you want more combat. And yes, there is a multiplayer option in case your friends join the server.
For this playthrough, I will be making Haru Okumura from Persona 5 since she fits nicely into the setting of this game. I like to imagine she got fed up with Big Bang Burger’s unethical practices and decided to leave it behind in favor of joining a lively, small-town community as a vegetable gardener.
So your grandpa just passed away and he sent you the inheritance to his old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Your character is seen working for Joja Corporation and feels trapped in the rat race so they finally decide to open grandpa’s letter, pack up their tools, and start a new life on the farm.
And once you get settled in, you will be greeted by the mayor of Pelican Town, who encourages you to meet the other townfolk and help restore the community center to bring back their old way of life, before JojaMart drove mom and pop stores out of business with their low prices. Here we are with an assortment of fruit and vegetable seeds. I also bought some flowers to give as birthday presents.
Most seeds only grow in certain seasons, which means you have a limited amount of time to plant and harvest the crops. During the Spring, you can grow parsnips, kale, cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes. But in the Summer, you have to replace them with peppers, melons, tomatoes, blueberries, and hops. You need to keep track of how many days it takes to grow these crops.
Crops that only grow in the fall are pumpkins, cranberries, bok choy, eggplants, grapes, and yam. Pierre’s General Store is the best place to buy new seeds and fertilizer, in addition to cooking supplies and home decorations. You can also sell your extra crops, fresh fruits, and artisan goods here to free up your inventory. Fertilizer improves the quality, water retention, and growth speed of your crops.
At the end of each day, anything you put into the shipping bin will be sold by Mayor Lewis in exchange for gold. This includes farmed goods, foraged plants, fish caught, as well as gems obtained from mining. Materials like wood, stone, or fiber aren’t worth much but cheese and wine are much more profitable. It depends on the rarity and the quality of your products.
I always like to throw in some mushrooms, valuable minerals, and plants I find on the road. Another thing is, you will earn less in the Winter because it’s too cold to grow crops and the snow covers everything in sight. If you have no crops to sell, just go on a fishing spree or break a bunch of rocks in the mines.
You are equipped with a set of tools for watering plants, mining rocks, slicing grass, and chopping down trees. A sword is quite useful if you encounter monsters in the mines. Furthermore, your hand-me-down tools can be upgraded at the blacksmith to make them more efficient. You could till a larger patch of soil with a better hoe.
Harvesting crops is my favorite part of Stardew Valley. Here is Haru admiring her precious plants on a windy day. I crafted a few sprinklers to help water my plants while I’m busy with slaying bugs and slimes to collect their loot drops. Although farming is a time-consuming process, it is still the most rewarding thing to do in the game.
Aside from that, you have an energy bar on the right, displaying how much energy you have to spare. The most energy-consuming task is chopping trees so I would recommend leaving it until the end of the day. The inventory menu reminds me of Minecraft in which you could drag and drop items around or sort them by category. The trash can is there anytime you want to throw out an item.
It wouldn’t be a farming simulator without a crafting system, and Stardew has one to lend players a hand with tending to their crops. By leveling up your skills, you can craft many useful items and equipment: Construct a cheese press to produce cheese from milk. Combine building materials to make a new mayonnaise machine or preserves jar.
Place fruits and vegetables in kegs to ferment drinkable beverages. You’ll realize that artisan goods like cheese and wine are valuable products to sell on the market, further enriching your farm business. Even though you are just picking up chicken eggs or milking the cows, it is strangely addicting to collect jars of mayonnaise and fruit-flavored jams once they’re done processing.
There is a fishing mini-game if you’re keen on selling fish caught from nearby rivers and lakes. I prefer fishing by the sea because the dock is located near a fish shop that sells bait and tackle. Once you’ve hooked a fish, you’ll see it dash up and down while casting your rod. You have to move the green bar until it lines up with the fish in order to land it. Fishing rods must be upgraded to catch rarer species.
Are you on the hunt for prized gemstones and metal ores? The mines are a great place to start digging, as long as you’re carrying a pickaxe and sword. Almost every floor is overrun with monsters, from weak slimes to dust sprites. You should definitely stock up on health-restoring food, explosives to blow up rocks, and torches to light the tunnels.
The elevator will take you to every fifth floor so you can continue where you left off. If you are ever low on health, climb the ladder to return to the entrance. Rocks and geodes are a dime a dozen. There are also ancient artifacts to donate to the museum. –You never know what’s in those geodes until you visit the blacksmith to crack them open.
Pelican town has many shops, not counting JojaMart because the villagers dislike them. Robin runs the Carpenter’s Shop so she sells all kinds of furniture and blueprints. She can construct a new chicken coop or barn for your farm once you bring her the right materials. She will offer to upgrade your farm buildings if you want to purchase additional livestock.
If you need to feed your livestock, just pay Marnie’s Ranch a visit. You can buy animals from Marnie, such as cows and chickens. Clint the blacksmith sells ores for smelting into metal bars and will help you process geodes. When you don’t have enough energy to spare, you’re always welcome to drop by the Saloon and enjoy a warm meal with a cup of coffee (or a cold beer).
Every season has exciting festivals and events you won’t want to miss. It is a great opportunity to socialize with villagers and earn their trust as an outsider of the community. This is the Night Market which takes place only in winter. It is the best time to shop around for rare items or go on that submarine tour of the twilight zone. Just don’t stay up past 2:00 am or else your farmer passes out and loses some energy.
If you contribute to the potluck or swap gifts with another villager, you could easily impress them. My favorite event is the Stardew Valley Fair where the farmer enters a contest by placing nine of their best products on a grange display. It has a few minigames like slingshot target practice and “Test Your Strength”, kind of like a carnival with prizes to win.
Speaking of hearts, the game keeps track of how many hearts you have with every villager in town. Once you reach a certain threshold, you’ll unlock a cutscene featuring that character. The game has many love interests to choose from and is inclusive towards the LGBT community. Some events are exclusive to romanceable characters, revealing their personalities and hobbies.
You can eventually marry one of them and start raising a family on the farm. It is very similar to real-life in that aspect. The one thing I didn’t like was figuring out what gifts to give each villager on their birthday because they all have very picky tastes. But the payoff in dialogue is well worth it.
Before I finish this review, I have to admit Stardew Valley is one of the few games that could keep me invested for over a hundred hours. Similar to Minecraft, players slowly expand their farmhouse with barnyard upgrades while they level up their skills in multiple professions to craft better equipment and earn more money selling artisan goods.
And if you’re bored, you might as well do some decorating around the house as I did with the kitchen and bedroom. Collecting paintings and statues is a lot of fun too. Then, there’s the abandoned community center in a state of disrepair. Magical creatures called the Juminos have agreed to repair the place but only if you bring them the item they ask for.
Of course, the game encourages you to go exploring, and who knows, you might be able to complete those community bundles someday…to save Pelican Town from Joja’s greedy clutches. Make friends with everyone, find out how to reach the desert, and most importantly, have fun growing your farm business. It truly is the ultimate farming simulator!