Review: Stardew Valley – Your Daily Dose of Vegetables

Review: Stardew Valley – Your Daily Dose of Vegetables
5

Platforms:

Windows PC, Steam

Game Name:

Stardew Valley

Publisher(s):

Chucklefish

Developer(s):

ConcernedApe

Genre(s):

Simulation, RPG

Release Date:

February 26th, 2016

Stardew Valley – What We Think

Are you stuck in a cubicle, punching in from 9 to 5, working for someone other than yourself? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to break loose from your corporate shackles and start over? Well, in Stardew Valley from developer ConcernedApe, you can experience this firsthand.

Often labeled a farming sim, Stardew Valley is about wanting more out of life. It’s about feeling stuck in your job and the desire to spend more time enjoying the little things. It’s about hopping on a bus and heading to a farm bequeathed to you from your grandfather, and – with a little help from the residents of Pelican Town – starting over.

Stardew Valley game screenshot 10

Stardew Valley is also about discovery. I could go on about the game’s mechanics and the plethora of things you can do in-game, but instead, allow me to guide you through what a typical day entails on the farm and in Pelican Town.

A Regular Day in the Life…

I awaken at 6:00 AM, as usual. It’s the 21st of Spring and it’s a beautiful day. I immediately head over to my chicken coop to feed my chickens and ducks and grab any eggs they have laid. Pop one of those eggs into my mayonnaise machine and it’s over to my cows, all of which I named Keanu. Nope, no milk for me today, which means tomorrow or the following day I can milk them and make some cheese.

Now it’s time to tend my fields. I see that my strawberries and potatoes are ready to be harvested. I pick them up, and spend some time watering my cauliflower, kale and parsnips. I return to my kitchen, but not before placing some strawberries in my jam maker. I deposit half of my potatoes in my kitchen storage box so I can make some hash browns later, and I make an omelet from one of the eggs my chickens so graciously provided for me.

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At this point it’s noon, so I head over to Pelican Town. Pierre’s general store is open at 9:00 and he’s itching to move some product. After engaging in some small talk with the saloon owner Gus (who stocks his supplies every morning), I sell today’s remaining crop of potatoes and strawberries before purchasing more potato seeds from Pierre to plant tonight or tomorrow. My strawberries will grow again from the same plants.

I’m running a little short on cash for the barn upgrade I want next, so I decide to spend the rest of the day fishing. I head down to the ocean to forage for some clams and coral, and fish for a few minutes. I’ve caught several sardine and herring, so around 8:00 PM I head to the lake below my farm for some night fishing. My energy bar is getting dangerously low, so I eat the omelet I prepared earlier.

Stardew Valley game screenshot 15

After catching a few lake fish, I notice the time is quickly approaching midnight, so I head back to my farm. Mayor Lewis was nice enough to leave a container beside my house so that I may sell any products I don’t need from the day, so I deposit the fish I don’t need for cooking recipes. I check the TV before going to bed. Hmm, it’s going to rain tomorrow. Sounds like a great day to visit the mines…

All of those actions were completed in about 12 minutes of real-world time, and I’m eager for the next day to come so that I can see how much money I’ve made the day prior. Maybe first I’ll chat up Alex or Robin before my trip to the mines.

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Time Keeps on Ticking

Aside from special festival days, it’s very easy to fall into a routine while playing Stardew Valley; however, it is anything but monotonous. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything you want to accomplish, and this is one gameplay factor that has kept me hooked for 60 hours with no desire to stop playing. Your time is your own, and how you spend it is entirely up to you.

Stardew Valley isn’t just about farming, foraging and fishing; it’s also about mining, action-based combat and item acquisition. Is this variety of gameplay the reason why gamers have been raving about this title since its release? Partially, but I believe most of its appeal lies within a design that really resonated with me: Stardew Valley is about community.

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Add Personality

It becomes quickly evident that each of the NPCs in Pelican Town have their own unique personalities: Shane hates his job at the JojaMart and drowns his sorrows at the saloon every night. Abigail plays video games or helps her father Pierre in his store during the day, but has a dark streak at night with her interest in the occult. Demetrius is struggling in his relationship with his stepson Sebastian, while still trying to be a good father to his daughter Maru.

It’s obvious a lot of care and effort went into the stories of these characters. In turn, they become relatable. I look forward to speaking with them every day, as higher friendship levels unlock new conversations.

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With a little help from my friends

Stardew Valley is an emotional roller coaster. I smiled while resolving an argument between sisters Emily and Haley. I felt pity while providing a cover story for the homeless loner Linus when he was almost caught digging through George’s garbage. I restarted my game in frustration when a group of red bats siphoned the last of my hit points in the mine, and I found myself at the entrance with more than half of my items missing. I forgot to eat that fish taco I brought along for healing.

All of these factors come together to create a phenomenal experience and is a true testament to the ability of Eric Barone, also known as ConcernedApe. Eric spent the past four years of his life composing this masterpiece from concept to creation. He singlehandedly developed this game, including writing the thought-provoking script and scoring the nostalgic soundtrack.

He’s now even busier than ever, spending most of his days working on updates for the game based on player reviews. This kind of determination and commitment to a project is something that really distinguishes Stardew Valley from similar progenitors like Harvest Moon or Rune Factory.

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Yes, I actually do have a cat named Burgers in real life.

Even as Eric Barone continues to develop updates, there is absolutely nothing I would change about Stardew Valley. The simple charm and relaxed gameplay immediately pulled me in, keeping me hooked for hours as I discovered just how vast this game world really is. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve spent with this title, and I look forward to many more hours exploring new areas while also beautifying my farmland.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to purchase that next barn upgrade. I need a pet goat in my life.

Stardew Valley is available via Steam.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Watch the trailer for Stardew Valley below:

michael.duhacek

[Toronto, Canada] Michael Duhacek is an avid gamer who also works in the entertainment industry.

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