A perfect escape from real life? – Stardew Valley Review

titleStardew Valley was inspired heavily by Harvest Moon, but also bring a whole lot more to the table in terms of content.  Eric Barone created this title by himself.  He designed and programmed the game himself,  composed his own music, and created all of his own artwork.  For those who followed the games progress while being developed  couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.  Back in April 2015, Barone announced he intended to only release the game when he felt it was complete, refusing to put the game onto Steam’s Early Access program, or accept any pre-sale payments what so ever.  When the game was finally released this year, on February 26 quickly rose to the top,  becoming one of the best-selling games on steam, selling 400,000  copies across steam and GOG.com in the first two weeks alone.  Being incredibly well received, Stardew Valley already had an active modding comm   unity, with players creating additional content and features to an already well Developed indie game.  And with Barone anticipating to add more end-game content in the future, along with official support for user mods, we can only wait and see what’s to come in the future,  from both Barone and the Community.

Stardew Valley starts off with your grandfather giving you an envelope, telling you only to open it when your life has essentially become a broken record.  XX years later,  you find yourself in a cubicle sitting in front of a massive CRT monitor before you finally decide to open the letter which happens to be conveniently in the top drawer of your work desk.  Inside the envelope you find a letter address to you from your grandfather, telling you he also at one point in life felt the same.  Enclosed the envelope he left you his deed to his farm in Stardew Valley where the game begins.  There isn’t much of a story to this game,  But was I expecting one when I bought it?  Nope.  I am glad that they do have some explanation as to how your character came in possession of the farm and why they moved in,  it helped set the pace and send you on your way along.

Time progresses rather quickly meaning early on it takes a lot of effort to anything.  You start off with a low amount of Energy to spend during the day,  a hand full of gold in your purse, Ineffective tools that need to be upgraded to be more efficient.  The map is a rather large one,  It took me almost a full 2 years in-game to finally have gone across the whole map and even then I haven’t seen it all, I’ve barely touched the desert cave.

Map

Early on in the game foraging is probably the best thing you can do for money.  While you wait for crops to grow early on you will find yourself spending a lot of time walking around the map, you will spend whole days picking up shells off the beach, berries in bushes, and fruits and wild Veggies on the ground throughout all 4 seasons.  This became less of a chore for me later in the game when I got my horse to travel with which made time-consuming chores I once considered a hassle a breeze.  Fishing is also an important part of the game, with a few rare and legendary fish to hunt down and reel in,  the fishing mechanics in Stardew Valley is a lot of fun,  some fish require a lot more work to catch than others making it sometimes impossible to predict and capture early on or until you upgrade your fishing rod.

Fishing

The mines are similar,  it gets progressively harder as you go deeper.  Harder and more enemies means you either have to take time to  buy weapons from the adventurer’s guild,  or tough it out and hope you come across gear to help you out.  You can also craft stair cases which will drop you down one level,  helping you progress quicker when your days are turning to nights.

Mine fight copy

The citizens of Stardew Valley all have their own schedule they follow,  with changes from day-to-day,  from season to season and even with rain and snow.  This has made the game very interesting for me, seeing the NPC’s interact with each other, always walking around and doing their own thing from day-to-day made it a challenge for me to do quest from some of them,  having to walk around looking for a certain person,  or maybe walking into Marnie’s or Peter’s Shop only to see that they aren’t behind the counter preventing me from being able to purchase items.

Shopping

Sometimes you are requested to do fetch quest for some,  whether its finding an axe or looking for the mayor’s lost underwear which just happened to be in Marnies bedroom.  This was the first sign of NPC backstories for me in Stardew Valley,  when I first spotted the Mayor’s underwear in Marnies room,  It also explained why they’re always talking to each other in the bar as well.  There is a whole lot of character development in Stardew Valley.  You have to give gifts to everyone to raise your hearts with everyone, and with most character when you go up two hearts you get a scene with them,  possibly a pattern change in their behavior and for your marriage option you will most likely get a date, and at 10 hearts,  you get to propose.

The game plays as you would expect,  with simple controls anyone can just in and play right away.  sometimes though, the game can’t tell whether it should Swing what ever tool your holding in the direction you’re facing or the tile you’re clicking on,  which early on can make the difference in having enough energy to finish your day and not to mention accidentally destroying a crop,  I have restarted my days far to often because of it.

This is a game that doesn’t hide what it really is, a grind fest.  you do the same thing day after day and you can’t get enough of it,  its how you progress in Stardew Valley.  Early on you can spend days,  even weeks collecting rocks, wood, clay, and so on,  just so you can build a Silo and a chicken coop.

Crafting is also a pretty big part of Stardew Valley,  early on you may be tempted to sell Miscellaneous items your found but the smart thing to do it hold on to them.  Every item as a purpose, from making fertilizer, or a cheese press, Fermenting Barrels, and many other craftable items that can be used to turn basic resources into items that sell for more money.  You can use crafting to help decorate your farm as well,  make things more cozy in your tiny shack.Farm

Stardew Valley’s graphics and audio are pretty much what you would expect out of a 16bit game.  Its isn’t anything special but it gets the job done well.  It’s very pleasing to the eye with matching colors that don’t clash.  The wind and rain animations surprised me at first,  they weren’t intrusive like I’ve seen in other games.  The audio for the game is on par with the graphics,  although the background music wasn’t the best I’ve ever heard it was definitely not bad.  throughout my first play through that lasted 2 years I never once turned off the music.  All I did change though was the SFX volume,  simply to save my own sanity at times.  Spending days at a time collecting rocks, hearing the pickaxe hit the stone over and over again would get the same response out of anyone.

Over all Stardew valley is a fantastic game.  I couldn’t put it down when I first bought it putting 40 hours in my first week alone.  Eric Barone did a fantastic job on this title.  all the work he put into it shows up clearly in the end product.  For any fans of Harvest Moon out there, Stardew Valley is one game you shouldn’t pass up.  and for the rest of you who are looking for a calming game to unwind with in the evening than this is definitely a game to consider.  There are hours upon hours of content to go through and just when you think your done everything  you’ll end up find more things to do in no time.  Not to mention catching yourself saying “One more day” over and over again.

 

-Barcinice

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