Stardew Valley: Game Review and Fangirling Session

I grew up on video games. More specifically, I grew up on Legend of Zelda and Harvest Moon. These are two franchises I hold very closely to my heart, and when my friend told me about Stardew Valley, a game released on Steam that was based on and heavily influenced by the older Harvest Moon games, I quickly purchased and downloaded it. I’ve been playing it and spam-messaging my friends about it for over a week now, and it’s clear where the Stardew developer, Eric Barone or ConcernedApe, receives his inspiration. But Stardew is special in a way that the more recent Harvest Moon games aren’t. Barone has rediscovered the magic that made the popular farming simulator so enjoyable and woven that magic into the very foundations of his game.

When I first began playing Stardew, I was practically shaking with excitement at the prospect of revisiting my childhood and early gaming years. I had read incredible reviews about Stardew Valley-the remake of Harvest Moon that the fandom so badly needed. There were the obvious Harvest Moon throwbacks woven into the plotline: your character being the grandchild of a previously successful farmer who inherits a farm in some unknown town and leaves their city life for a fresh beginning in the countryside. But Stardew Valley is hardly a Harvest Moon imitation- the game quickly takes on its own life and identity, creating a new world with different opportunities, extensive storylines, and multi-dimensional, lovable characters.

I have fallen in love with the residents of Stardew Village, and the world they inhabit. It is clear how much love, attention, and hard work Barone has poured into his debut game. Everything from the beautiful and charming art style, to the complex, in-depth stories you can unlock by befriending each individual resident is engaging and rewarding for the player. While it is possible to spend your time discovering the most efficient and effective ways of becoming wealthy, the spirit of the game is one of escaping the capitalist rat-race we live in. Stardew’s aim is to allow players to see how we all need to reconnect with each other and think about how we can better the world we live in, rather than simply following directions from large corporations, such as Stardew Valley’s Joja Corporation.

Speaking of Joja Corporation, within the game there is an ongoing conflict between the “old ways’ and Joja’s “modern ways”. Joja is trying to take over as much free land in-game as possible, whereas Mayor Lewis and some Stardew Village residents would rather their land, flora, and fauna be left alone to live in a peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship with the town. This is where players are allowed to make a choice. Players can either become members of Joja’s membership program, or they can work with the town to revitalize their old community center and leave the land as it is. Throughout the game, players are given smaller choices to make such as deciding whether animal-raising or plant-care will be their focus as farmers, which lucky bachelor or bachelorette they wish to marry and begin a family with, and what skills they want to level up more than others.

Stardew Valley is a treasure- it’s a game that fills in the holes found in Harvest Moon and other similar games with its lack of restrictions. It’s a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing game, that can fill multiple in-game years worth of time. Its appeal is difficult to explain to those who have never felt the call of the virtual-farmer life, but for a game that is so inexpensive compared to the good-but-not-amazing ($60.00) Fire Emblem game I also bought recently, I would strongly recommend Stardew and its incredible soundtrack to casual and hardcore gamers alike.