Stardew Valley is genuinely one man’s indie wonder as the highly touted simulation role-playing game is crafted from top to bottom by a single person Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. At its core, it’s a top-down point & click game with light RPG mechanics. The game allows players to create their own character who, in the beginning, becomes the owner of a weed-infested plot of land and a tiny house, once belonged to the avatar’s grandfather. After that, players can pretty much do anything they like, within the limits of the game world. However, being essentially a farming game, tillage is usually the best option to start the journey; hence it’s wise to attack head-on the weed-infestations by a scythe. After a couple of harvests and few dimes in your pocket, the game truly opens up, and you can start doing other things – fishing, foraging, raising animals, mining, digging artifacts, getting to know the citizens, or even thinking about marriage.
Stardew Valley has a plethora of varying content, and that’s an understatement. The abundance of different products, crops and fish is mind-blowing. Also, there are plenty of areas that open up slowly as the player gets better tools. You can pick and choose an area to specialize yourself, such as becoming a fisherman or cattleman and still find tens of hours of engaging content. Or you can do like me and try to do a little bit of everything and after 70 hours, feel like being a complete newbie. Throw beautiful pixel-graphics and a catchy soundtrack in the mix and you are in for a treat.
Wake up at 6 AM, check the weather forecast, the wine cellar and mail, milk the cows, shear the sheep, let all the animals outside, harvest the crops, go shopping between 9 AM-2 PM, evenings are devoted to mining, fishing, expanding the farm or logging, and finally fall into the bed at midnight – rinse and repeat. Stardew Valley features an addictive gameplay-loop in the form of an in-game clock and 28 days lasting seasons that keep players occupied continuously. Every in-game hour is 43 seconds, which is not a lot, so you have to be always moving and doing things. All animals and citizens have daily routines, so players need to pay attention to the clock lest they miss the activities – the sleepy cow isn’t letting you touch her udder. Furthermore, the current season affects the available crops and fish, and animal behavior. The strict seasonal calendar genuinely makes players feel the difference and benefits of, for example, Summer vs. Winter and truly live among the changes of the game’s flow.
Yet, the hasty clock and strict seasonal change are also significant drawbacks of Stardew. The clock pushes players to move and perform activities constantly without giving even a slight chance of catching a breath. That’s unfortunate as players would, without a doubt, appreciate experiencing the beauty of the game without the pressure of the clock. There are plenty of quests and upgrades for the town’s Community Center that require seasonal crops and fishes. The problem occurs if you miss a season’s products as you must live through 84+ days to get another chance.
With all is said and done, I can safely declare that Stardew Valley is a rare gem. A true masterpiece of a sole man. Beautiful graphics, engaging seasonal changes, the abundance of content and activities, and the pressure of the clock combine into an addictive gameplay-loop that should be an excellent experience for fans of simulators, RPGs and point & click games. Yet, I also highly recommend giving the game a chance if you have even the tiniest bit of curiosity.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android
Release date: February 26, 2016
Genres: simulation, role-playing
Pictures: screenshots from the game. Taken by the author.