Stardew Valley. Since I cannot write an article that consists purely of squeals and a series of random letters and numbers while I bash my keyboard out of excitement about that game, I will do my best to express my feelings in grown-up words.
Many a fellow cave dweller call this game out for having been heavily influenced by Harvest Moon. But not once will you see the word “rip-off”, a word commonly used when comparing two similar games. And there is a reason for that.
Stardew Valley took that formula and elevated it to a unique (and really addictive) experience. Sure, the planting/watering/harvesting thing is overused (looking at you – game that rhymes with Schmarmville whose name I shan’t utter), but there’s so much more to it. Oh God, so so much.
The NPC’s in Stardew Valley aren’t eternally cheery, mindless things that are there only to buy your parsnips. Each person has their own character, quirks, daily and seasonal schedules, relationships, fears and dreams. The game touches on mental health, sexuality, sense of community, moral dilemmas and fish that carry treasure chests. What, I didn’t say it was all realistic!
And all that was created by one guy. Just one dude.
You start out by inheriting your grandfather’s abandoned farm; quite a common intro for the genre, but how many ways can you go? From there on it’s all up to you to make that piece of land thrive and earn buckets and buckets of money. Cultivate your crops and your relationships, raise animals, explore the world, unlock new areas, delve deep into the mines, craft, build, upgrade, fish and engage in numerous other activities. I would hate to entirely spoil the fun.
Don’t let the simple graphics fool you; every aspect is well thought out and you’ll regularly find yourself with not enough hours in the in-game (and real life) day to do everything you had planned.
I am one of those annoying people who want to do everything correctly right off the bat, so I started my adventure in Stardew Valley over a few times until I felt I was on the right path. And, since I unexpectedly found myself without a job and a lot of time in my hands, I took this game and squeezed the ever-loving, 16-bit, parsnip-y life out of it.
In three in-game years I managed to turn my lifeless piece of land into a pretty money-making machine. I gifted enough salads to the bachelorette of my choice to make her my wife (yep, same sex marriage is completely normal and un-frowned upon), we adopted a beautiful baby and life was great.
I braved the deepest, darkest corners of the two available dungeons, tried my luck at gambling, became good friends with pretty much everyone and even grew a giant melon!
But what happens when you have everything? At the moment, I have done everything the game has asked me to, I make more money than I can spend and my only option is to finish all the achievements and complete my collections. A task for the true perfectionist, but one with few rewards and no real sense of progression.
The game is open-ended. There is a point on the three year mark where your farm gets evaluated (so you’d really want it to be at its best by then) and your TV is filled with dreaded re-runs, but you can go about your regular business for as long as you want to.
That is, however, not a situation which will discourage me from playing Stardew Valley again. I am sure that, after a brief cooldown period, I will go back in there with the same excitement. Updates and patches are rolling out regularly and a co-op feature is in the works.
I can’t wait to drag three other people with me down to the mighty addictive, hella fun adventure that is Stardew Valley.
And remember, folks: When life gives you melons, make melon wine!