Game Review: Stardew Valley

 

The 26th of February marked a year since the release of the indie farming simulator Stardew Valley. In the first two months it was the best-selling game on the PC gaming platform, Steam, and in just a year the game has sold over a million copies. Now, if you are not into video games you could be forgiven for glazing over but this game is different.

The creator, Eric Barone, was the sole master-mind behind the game, taking 4 years to create it from scratch by himself. Also since the huge success of the game he hasn't fizzled out yet, he's tackled most of the bugs fixes personally and still uses the alias 'ConcernedApe' to interact with the community that has generated around the game. This makes the player feel special which is a highly valuable trait in the current MMO and shooter game dominated market. He initially decided to create the game because he was a long-time fan of the Harvest Moon series and wanted to change elements of it. 

The gameplay is simple enough: you create a character who loses interest with the impersonal modern city life and leaves to Stardew Valley to the farm your grandfather left you. Once there, you can restore the farm to working order, get to know the locals, fish, forage and find your way around the town. You can build a relationship with the NPCs and even have the ability to marry whomever you woo. You can raise animals and find the best way to grow crops. There are the mines to explore, new locations to unlock and plenty of secrets to keep you entertained.

The game is so expansive that it has created an extensive community of people with all sorts of play styles and goals. A community has sprung up to work out the best crops to grow, the best places to mine and how exactly you should go about wooing your chosen one. There is a real heart to this game and a real earnest want to make people better because of it. It includes the ability to have a same-sex marriage, befriend a homeless character and defy the modern need to have to function inside of a soulless corporation such as the Joja Corporation you left in the beginning. Joja serves as an antagonist force, encouraging you to spend your hard earned money with them and ruin the local magic. This displays one of the game’s greatest strengths: it gives you the ability to choose. You also get to choose your play style— are you in it for the money? Do you want collect everything? Enjoy fishing more than farming? It is completely up to you.

When I bought Stardew Valley on Steam over the Christmas Holiday Sale, I got it for a bargain at £7.36 (although the usual price of £10.99 is completely reasonable too). You can be forgiven at this point for still not seeing the appeal and as someone who, on writing this, has 48 hours of playtime currently logged I can still agree with you. The cut scenes for relationship events can be still cliché and it does sometimes leave you in the dark with what you should be doing, but time and time again I keep being drawn back in. Maybe it is the original soundtrack? The simple pixel art? Or maybe I am destined to become the greatest virtual farmer of them all?

Stardew Valley is currently available on PC/Mac, PS4 and Xbox One.