Stardew Valley is the farming game PC users have been waiting for.
The Nintendo 3DS has been the recent system for the Harvest Moon and Story of Season series to call its home. Any fans and loyalists of the series had to get a 3DS in order to indulge in the oddly addicting farming franchise. But that’s not the case any more. Stardew Valley epitomizes the adventure, fun, sense of discovery and warmth that Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons is known for and brings it to the PC. Now that isn’t to say Stardew Valley is a clone or copy-pasted version of the latter games. In fact, Stardew Valley easily crafts its own identity through its cast of characters, interesting town, and its plethora of secrets and oddities. PC gamers are definitely fortunate to have this gem in their grasps.
After customizing your character, the game opens to a cutscene where your grandfather is on his deathbed. He says if there ever comes a time when you become tired of the city and its complications, you can come back to the farm to live and pursue a much more meaningful and “realer” life. Years later, the repetition of city work finally takes its toll. Your character opens their office desk and finds the invitation to live on the farm. The time to lead a new life has finally arrived. Without a hitch, you arrive in Pelican Town to discover a disheveled farm. The land is overgrown with weeds, trees and rocks, but it rests on you to restore the land and craft your story.
Veterans of Harvest Moon will find the first day gleefully familiar as it consists of clearing parts of your farm, exploring the town and introducing yourself to your new neighbors. Stardew Valley is extremely friendly to players who have played similar farming games before, but it isn’t completely difficult for newcomers in the genre. But before any player becomes an expert, there are multiple aspects to explore in Stardew Valley’s gameplay: farming, ranching, mining, fishing, adventuring and socializing.
Each of these different parts of gameplay allow players to create their own unique farm and adventure. Stardew Valley is excellently malleable as a player’s farm is limited only by their imagination and dedication. Some may morph their lands into a giant ranch, filled with animals like sheep and cows, while others may build a profitable orchard that bears the best fruit around. Stardew Valley shines when you’re discovering what path you want to pursue and then following up with hard work. It’s an extremely rewarding experience that you’ll be happy to do day after day in the game.
But as I mentioned before, there is much more to the game than just farming and living as a rancher. Mining and adventuring plays just as important a part as watering your crops. Combing through dark tunnels, fighting hordes of slimes and weird underground baddies (yes, combat, though it is very simple, exists) and digging up precious gems and resources will only help in expanding your farm. It’s refreshing that Stardew Valley, while letting players decide how to build their own adventure, utilizes one of its gameplay elements to support another. Killing bugs and turning their meat into bait can help with fishing, mining ores will allow players to upgrade their tools, and giving the townsfolk fresh products from your farm will increase their disposition towards you. Stardew Valley strikes a wonderful balance with its gameplay.
Because Stardew Valley is a farming game, players must learn the ins and outs of the different seasons. There are four months in a year, and each month is akin to a season. The weather is different in every month, so that means only select seeds, animals, festivals, and flaura and fauna will be available at certain times. There are tons of things to discover and some of those things are only available in specific months.
A player’s first year in the game, especially for newer players, will be more or less the time it takes to really get the hang of Stardew Valley and its world. The game has minor RPG mechanics alongside everything else. The more you farm, fish, forage, mine, or participate in combat, the better your character becomes at those activities. Reaching level 5 will allow you to pick a perk and specialize your character’s focus. For example, the combat perk will allow you to either deal more damage in the long run or increase your critical hit chance. The RPG elements are definitely an interesting addition for any farm-sim fans who haven’t played any of the Rune Factory games, but it works really well within Stardew Valley. It is very simple, though, and you’ll eventually reach the final levels if you just keep playing. But nonetheless, it’s a great element to include in an already stellar farming game.
For a game that was developed entirely by a single person, Stardew Valley is filled with great detail. The booming summer thunder looms in the distance, a sitting dog with a wagging tail will make patting sounds if it’s seated on a hard floor, and even the townspeople will say “hi” or “hello” as they pass one another. The world bubbles to life as you explore more of the town and talk to its citizens, as learning about both is another great part of the fun. Whether it’s Linus the vagrant who has to dig through the town’s trashcans for food or the unemployed Pam who sits in the bar every night, every NPC has a story to discover. Not to mention, you’re able to marry one of the 10 eligible bachelors or bachelorettes.
The detail of Stardew Valley is further propelled by its fantastic soundtrack. Each season has its own assortment of songs that capture the weather perfectly. The softer icy pings of the winter songs are just as atmospheric as the Caribbean-esque sambas of the summer season. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the soundtrack of the game. It’s blended so well with Stardew Valley that you’ll find yourself smiling just from fishing or watering crops as one of the game’s perfect tunes unfolds in the background.
Sadly, I can’t say I’m a fan of the graphics. Stardew Valley, in its defense, absolutely makes its pixel aesthetics work, but I much preferred the art direction in the Story of Seasons series. The character designs, while great in their different personalities and variety, look very generic. There were several characters whom I couldn’t tell apart for the longest time. Then again, the entire game was made by just one person. So if the graphics would be the only real complaint, then you know that it wouldn’t stop Stardew Valley from being a great title.
The release of Stardew Valley marked a great landmark for PC players as it brought a type of farming game that has not really been seen on the platform before. Stardew Valley definitely gives a lot for Harvest Moon fans but also for newcomers to the genre. Whether it’s farming, mining, fishing, or even just talking to your neighbors, Pelican Town is a fantastic video game world to spend tons of hours crafting your own adventure. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling like one of the citizens in Stardew Valley.