By Dalton McClain / March 14th, 2017
|Publisher||Chucklefish Games, 505 Games|
|Release Date||February 26th, 2016|
|Platform||PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch|
Finding a good farming simulator isn’t hard to do since there are plenty out there, but finding a great one? Now that’s a challenge. A lot of farming simulators have come out recently, but they all seem to just blend in to the background. None of them really stand out. That is, until this game. But how exactly is Stardew Valley different?
When you first start a game of Stardew Valley, you’re given a choice of farm layouts. It’s your job to find the one that would best suit your preferred playstyle. You have a choice between either the Standard Farm for farming, the Riverland Farm for fishing, the Forest Farm for foraging, the Hill-Top Farm for mining, or the Wilderness Farm for combat. As per usual, you can do everything in the game without the specific farm; picking a certain layout just helps one particular skill. You can literally plan out your farm any way you want after selecting a layout. The possibilities are endless. You also get the typical choices of choosing a pet, name, and farm name, but you also get an in-depth character creation tool. You have a wide variety of things to choose from, including different hairstyles, clothes, skin tone, and sex. It may have the most in-depth creation that I’ve ever seen in a game like this. It really makes you feel in control.
The game starts out with your grandfather handing you a letter to open whenever “you become crushed by the burden of modern day life”. He passes away, and sometime later you open the letter. You leave your old life of working in a boring cubicle to work on your grandfather’s old farm. You can do all the usual farm simulation things, however, unlike most farming games, you also have the option of going into the mines. Here your job is to move deep into the mines to obtain new ores for upgrading your tools. The combat system isn’t too in-depth, but it works well for breaking up the pace and providing an extra level of curiosity of what monster could show up next.
You do different tasks and that increases your level. As your skill level increases in a certain field, you may occasionally get the opportunity to unlock a new skill. These can be anything from increasing the amount of ore you receive to increasing your profit on crops that you ship. This isn’t the only level of progression as you can learn new items to craft so that you can improve your farm, upgrade all of your tools via the blacksmith, and even upgrade your buildings by paying a visit to the carpenter. The gameplay is simple and allows for very calm and stress-free play sessions, which is exactly what a farming game should do.
At some point most farming games begin to feel like a chore, but not Stardew Valley. There’s enough variety in this game to where it’s almost impossible to get bored. You can do whatever you want as there are plenty of objectives to complete, including getting to the end of the Skull Cavern, finishing the bundles in the Community Center, helping the library rebuild its inventory, or fulfilling the wishes of your deceased grandfather and passing his judgement. The first time it happens, your grandpa will return at the beginning of year 3. If you don’t like what he has to say, then at any point afterward you can leave a diamond at his shrine. The following day he will return and reevaluate your progress. Not only are there the big quests, but a bunch of smaller quests that you can do as well to earn more friendship with the villagers, get more money, and even unlock new things to do and explore. The RPG and farming simulator elements fuse flawlessly in this game, meaning you have quite a lot to accomplish.
The characters and overall design of the game are beautiful. There are so many small details in the environment that I doubt you’d be able to find them all without really looking closely. The music always fits what you’re doing, be it the serenity of tending to your farm life or a brooding dark venture into the depths of the mines. Couple this with the absolutely gorgeous graphics and you have one beautiful game to play, both visually and audibly.
The characters might be my favorite part of this game. All of the villagers that you run into are unique and have their own personalities. None of them ever felt stale to me, and I wanted to know each of them more on a personal basis. Their stories start simple and slowly grow more complex the closer you grow to them. As well as the normal villagers, all 12 of the marriage candidates are fun and intriguing as well. That’s right, there are 12 of them in total, 6 from each sex. There’s the geeky Abigail, the quiet artist Leah, the dark and mysterious Sebastian, and so many more. There’s someone in this game for everyone, no matter your personality or type.
For only one person to have designed every aspect of this game in a span of only four years, it’s very impressive. Everything from the sound design, to the character design, to the core gameplay works wonderfully well. Right now the game is only $14.99 on Steam, which is a steal considering the sheer amount of content that you get. I have over 60 hours in this game and still haven’t done everything there is to do. The game is immensely addictive and chock full of objectives to complete, crops to farm, animals to raise, and mines to excavate. And with updates still happening, the replayability just keeps increasing. You can tell just how much love and dedication went into this game, and that’s exactly what I want to see from game developers. Definitely pick this up if you have the extra money. Whether you’re a fan of farming games or just video games in general, you’ll fall in love with this fantastic title.
Review copy provided by reviewer.
505 gameschucklefish gamesstardew valley