In a time when videogames have gone to the extreme; when blood and gore is highly favorable among hardcore gamers; when some big-name franchise release sequels and prequels and games that really could use a bit more fine-tuning; when mindless games have become abundant and quite redundant…there came an indie game that is all about the quiet life: Stardew Valley.
Who actually knew that this was going to be a big hit? ConcernedApe–the developer of this game–hoped so, but didn’t quite believe it when it actually happened.
And before I get to the reasoning why a game as simplistic in nature but very deep in actual playthrough with thought-provoking and poignant scenes scattered throughout (which really, I could make a post about that, but this is a review so we’ll have to do that some other time), I will proceed with the core of this post: the review. And I am not going to hold out on this game, much like how I wrote my review for MIND=Zero.
So…let’s press that “Start” button and begin!
The story of this game is actually pretty simple–as is with its game mechanics.
Your grandfather, on his deathbed, has left you with a letter when you (I am guessing, based from how the conversation went) were you were young and had instructed you to only open the sealed envelope when you feel the “crushing burden” of modern life. As this is his final wishes, you–of course–follow it through.
Skip several years and you are working a nine-to-five job, which you find to be taxing and unsatisfactory. That’s when you remember your grandfather’s letter. The contents of the letter speak of a farm that he has left you with. A farm you decide to take care of yourself.
As I have mentioned, it is pretty much a cut-and-dry story. You–the player–end up working in a farm you inherited from your grandfather. This isn’t even that original of a premise considering that Natsume’s Harvest Moon series started out with this story…before they end up thinking of other ways to make the whole farming game original again.
ConcernedApe has stated that he did, in fact, take inspiration from the classic Harvest Moon games and the niche these games have provided. So, there’s that.
Even if the premise of the game–as I have mentioned before–is simplistic in nature, the conversations with the villagers, as well as the villagers’ own side-stories are deep and poignant. They aren’t generic in a sense that you don’t feel connected to them. ConcernedApe has written them in a way that makes you understand some of them and shows the different shades of human personality.
The variety of characters in game gives a sense that this is an actual village you live in. That these can be people you actually meet in every day life. It also stresses a major point for me: that you shouldn’t judge people so readily. You get to know them first. Learn to understand them. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded about in a game.
That being said, Stardew Valley is chock-full of different kinds of characters. From the normal, to the goth, to the emo, to the hobo…there’s really a wide variety of them. And, it is up to you–and, really, it is your choice–to get to know them better, be friends with them, or totally ignore them for the favor of the other things you can do with your time in-game.
If I were to summarize without the use of any flowery words how the soundtrack of the Stardew Valley game is…I would say: amazing!! (Exclamation points, included). And I am not even kidding about that.
I find the music of the game to be perfect. It matches the events. It matches the season. It matches the ambiance of the game. Dare I even say that I find the music of this game to even be less redundant than that of the series from whence the developer was inspired by? Of course, that is simply my personal opinion on the matter.
Now the SFX (Sound Effects) in-game. There really is nothing I could say negatively about this except, maybe, the musical tiles you can obtain as a reward for donating artifacts to the museum. Stepping on those, and staying on those tiles, the sound coming from it can be pretty annoying. But, that can easily be remedied by not stepping on it, or simply not placing the tile anywhere.
But, really, I am serious about the whole not-finding-any-fault in the sound department of this game. I’m actually saving up STEAM store credits just to purchase the soundtrack from said store for his game. 😀
Now we come to the graphics of the game.
Stardew Valley isn’t a game that could boast about its graphics. It is very much 2D. It is very much “old school”. There is not an ounce of 3D in this game. Even the character portraits is reminiscent to the hand-drawn era of adventure videogames in the 90s.
Yet, despite what others may write off as “poor” graphical quality, the graphics and artwork of this game matches up with the nostalgic feel one cannot help but be the recipient of in this game. It’s lack of anything flashy (apart from the old-school flashing of lights, falling snow on winter, leaves blowing in the wind during windy and cloudy days, and the pelting of rain–which is as flashy as this game can get in that aspect), really makes it feel stripped down, compared to the other games that are currently on market. And thus, it stays true to its core and, what I think, ConcernedApe wanted to make with this game.
I find myself–in the later stages of the game (which is basically when you’ve unlocked new areas and new things to do)–that one of the biggest problem I have in this game is getting to do everything in a single day. Which is to say, there is a lot of things to do and oh-so-very-little time. Which makes it fun and not at all boring (compared to what some people may find upon learning of a game like this).
Keeping true to the norm of games such as these, the player is given a day to do whatever he/she wants to do: be it fishing, farming, tending to their animals, befriending the villagers, foraging, mining, collecting stuff, going to the casino, doing quests, or simply wasting away the time. Each aspect requires a whole lot of planning if you want to cram all of them in a single day and make use of your time.
There are (as this is a farming game) seasons. And each month (there are 4) corresponds to these seasons which has 28 days in it. And each of these seasons have something to offer that differs from the others, which may require you to change up your schedule.
It’s fun, if not a tad bit annoying at times, especially when you go off to do a quest for a villager and (as there is only a 2-day time limit to some of these quests) fail to find them to complete said quest.
Yet, despite what this game has, it also has things that it lacks.
For instance, there is no rivalry system. The villagers can either like you, or be indifferent towards yout. There really is no downfall if you end up annoying your villagers far too much.
There is also the problem with the areas you unlock. There is really no point in adventuring (unless a quest demands an item or you want to collect the artifacts or materials for upgrading) once you’ve reached the bottom of the mines, completed the secret of the hidden forest, arrived at the 25th floor of the Skull Caves.
In terms of fishing, it can be quite difficult when you start out. But my biggest gripe with the fishing aspect of this game, is the Crab Pots. You will, more often than not, end up catching trash instead of crustaceans.
There are no “generations” of characters. What I mean to say is that, even when you have been married and have children, they do not grow old to take over the farm. Neither do the villagers seem to “evolve” after the point when you’ve maxed out their hearts and viewed all of their events. They just remain stagnant. Though as I am not yet that far into the game, I can’t say if the other villagers end up marrying and having kids at one point…
Those are just some of the things I encountered that I find could do with a bit fine tuning (and ConcernedApe is still working on making this game better). And really, it’s more like preferences of what I would enjoy in a game like this and not at all the developer’s fault.
Heck, who knows, maybe he’ll implement something along those lines at a later date? (Although I do know that multiplayer is going to be added somewhere down the road for this game).
Stardew Valley is the kind of game anyone and everyone can enjoy. That is the simplest way I could state this fact. And it is not something that every game could claim. Gamers are, after all, have a variety of tastes.
If, for instance, you want to play a laid back game but feel a sense of accomplishment in seeing a once decrepit farm thrive and uncover the secrets of Stardew Valley, then you will undoubtedly find joy and entertainment in this gem. If you are a person who lacks patience, however, you might find it difficult to sit through the motions of bringing fame to your farm and improving your virtual life.
That being said, there are still quite a number of things I feel is missing from this game (as I have mentioned above). There is room for expansion and I’m pretty certain this game can only get better from here.
It is amazing–for my part–to be able to play an indie game that offers so much and one can see this as a labor of love. Whether your a fan of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory looking back to the bygone days of the simplicity these games once provided or if you are looking for a change of pace in your videogames, then this game is definitely something worth looking into.
As for me, I’m giving this a 8/10. Reserving the remaining 2 points for the betterment of the game and for its future updates.
I really have to commend ConcernedApe for this game. Please do support him and his videogame.
Well, that’s all for now. Until the next post! Dream on; Fly on!