Stardew Valley: Still Amazing Years Later
Stardew Valley is more than just running a farm and setting up a daily routine. Within the first few days of in-game gameplay, you’ve built your own system: wake up, check the weather, think about whether or not you’re going to the mine, water your crops, tend to your animals, say hello to your neighbors, go fishing, hit some rocks, go to bed. Sometimes you can’t go to the store due to store hours or holidays that must be meticulously planned around. You’ll start asking yourself questions like: Am I out of animal fodder and when does the store open? I have too much in my inventory, should I sell it or do I have time to craft gifts for people? Or sometimes you have to visit someone for their birthday and give them a gift, every villager has his/her own unique schedule of places to be throughout the week, but every day is a labor-intensive checklist.
I stumbled across Stardew Valley two years ago and spent a year contemplating whether or not it was worth the $15. I had been searching for something to scratch my Harvest Moon itch and every article I came across pointed to Stardew Valley. It’s basically the same concept: cultivating your land, farming, raising livestock, mingling with the villagers, and wooing your romantic interest. Sound boring? I assure you it isn’t.
At first I wasn’t convinced. I’m used to non-pixelated games and I’m pretty loyal to the Harvest Moon (now Story of Seasons) franchise, but I spent an enormous amount of time perusing review articles. Stardew Valley is a role-playing game (RPG), founded by Eric Barone, aka @ConcernedApe, who started this game with a similar interest in Harvest Moon titles, such as myself. This was quite a bonus for me and that alone was almost enough for me to purchase the game. But, I’m the type of person that will mull over what to spend money on, I will read review after review and I may never come to a decision.
After several days spent looking at articles, I decided to ask my fellow Redditors what their thoughts were on the video game; I posted on the subreddit for Stardew Valley, asking whether or not it was worth the $15. I expressed my concerns with the PlayStation 4 controls and how well it handled in comparison to the PC controls. The first reply to my post was “Don’t know bro. Play it anyway!” but overall, the replies were overwhelmingly positive. Even so, I waited another year to purchase the game. One of my biggest concerns at the time was whether or not new content would be released for the game. There were rumors going around that Stardew Valley would not get anymore updates after Eric Barone, took a break from the game over a year later after its launch in February, 2016. Needless to say, those rumors weren’t true, and we’ve gotten several additions, including multiplayer!
Stardew Valley Day One
The game begins with a final conversation with your dying grandfather, who leaves you a farm far away from your corporate office job. The farm is a weedy patch of land in a tiny-but-lively rural town beset by the corporation that you left behind. Several aspects of the community are broken because of this evil corporation, the closest thing to an antagonist in the game, known as Joja Corporation. I had a general idea of what to expect from Stardew Valley when I first started playing it; I would choose a farm layout, figure out how to start making money, and start talking to the villagers to score those oh-so-sweet PlayStation 4 trophies.
There isn’t much of a tutorial when you begin the game and that was fine with me; this allows players to go off on their own and really get a feel for the vast amount of activities you can explore. On your very first day, you will find a gift box in your home that contains 15 parsnip seeds from Mayor Lewis. The first several days as a new farmer are always the most difficult, but Harvest Moon prepared me, and so I did my research first on the Stardew Valley Wiki. Growing crops is always the starting point for consistent cash-flow in video games like this, so I knew I needed to purchase more seeds from Pierre’s General Store. My character wakes up at 6 a.m. and the store doesn’t open until 9 a.m., so I have a lot of time to kill.
I grab all of my tools from the tool shed and begin clearing space to plant my new crops. Before I know it, it’s 11 a.m. and I hustle over to the General Store to refuel my parsnip seed supply. Along the way, I stumble into the Mayor and I offer him a flower. He doesn’t seem too impressed but he accepts the small gift anyway. Once inside Pierre’s store, I grab as many parsnip seeds as I can carry and run back to my farm. One by one I plant them into the ground and sprinkle them with water from my rusty watering can. My character sighs at me out of exhaustion, but I ignore it and walk to the nearby forest to begin foraging for items that I can place in the shipping bin for some quick cash. I move my mouse arrow to the exclamation point on the screen and check my journal that assigns me the simple task of cultivating and harvesting parsnip; 4 days later, I receive a cash reward for finishing this request. In the days to come, I plan to follow the same routine; I’ll have more money to purchase a different variety of crops and after a few days of this routine, I might have enough to build a chicken coop.
Controls are pretty easy – you can use a combination of the PlayStation 4’s analog stick + bumper controls to quickly interact with your tools and inventory items. You can see from the above image that the game offers some tips on how to use your tools, but just in case you forget, you can bring up the menu using “start” and customizing your abilities under control settings. I kept mine defaulted and shuffled along but I was glad to have the freedom for further customization. Using the right analog, I would move my cursor to the tile in front of me, and click the square button to confirm where I wanted to place an item. You can also stand in front of a tile and place square for the same result. It was super easy to figure out. You can even hold down your Left and Right buttons to quickly scroll through your inventory bar at the bottom of your screen!
Fast forward to the end of spring in Stardew Valley
As soon as my character wakes at 6 a.m., I leave my shabby log cabin in the morning and walk over to the nearby pond to fill up the rusty watering can and start tending to my crops that my handcrafted sprinkler system can’t reach. I have to harvest and clear all of the remaining perennial crops to make way for the new summer crops and this drains my character of stamina. This process lasts until sometime around late morning. When this is done, I tend to my chickens – feeding, brushing, and collecting their eggs – and before I know it, it’s 12 p.m. At some point I have to start chopping wood for the barn that I am planning to build soon. I might not be able to gather as much as I’d like, mostly due to my lack of inventory slots that I can’t upgrade until later in the game. Right before passing out from exhaustion (the neatly labeled “E” bar will turn red), I manage to roam around the forest and forage things to sell like mushrooms and flowers. Some of the items I find I decide to keep as future gifts for the villagers. I hustle back to my farm and place what I’ve gathered inside the storage bin. I finally drag myself back into my log cabin and I end the day, already thinking about all of the tasks on my list for the next day.
A few years later and I have 40+ hours of gameplay. The visuals and narration have drawn me into the game. The characters are much more in depth than some Harvest Moon titles, and there are so many things to do and places to explore. The tasks grow and accumulate with each new thing unlocked. I started falling in love with the game just after a few hours of playing it. I loved the idea that I was able to decide on the layout of my farm and how I want everything to be arranged. Stardew Valley was made even better by its multiplayer release. I think that adding this option to the game was a great way for people in the community to interact. I was able to play with a few of my friends on the new multiplayer map that was released with Patch 1.4, called “Four Corners”, each of us had our own quadrant of the map to build upon and make our own. We were able to work in different areas and collect more items to sell at the end of the day. It made the game that much more immersive and I loved the freedom of building a farm with my friends.
You can buy the game for $14.99 on Steam, the Nintendo Switch, or the PlayStation 4 (also available on the XBox One and mobile). If you want my opinion, Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch is the best option (eShop). However, if you’re interested in modding at all, buy it on Steam.