Gaming: Stardew Valley

The game begins with music, bucolic and calm, and a lush green valley appears onscreen shortly afterwards. The title menu is set in a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds, every bit rendered in charming, nostalgic pixel art. It’s a quiet, relaxing start for Stardew Valley, the indie, farm-simulation RPG that, since its PC release earlier this year, has quickly made its way to Steam’s Top Sellers chart.

Owing to its flexibility of style of play, Stardew Valley can be a laid-back and enjoyable game for the casual gamer, and at the same time can be an intense and challenging one for the perfectionist and the completionist.

The playable character is introduced to Stardew Valley when they decide to escape the monotonous and tedious life in the city to seek a quieter life in their late grandfather’s old farm.

The game is played in years, in cycles of four seasons of 28 days each. Crops, seeds, fish, and items for gathering are only available during their specific seasons, and may not be found at other times. Apart from growing in only one season, crops and other produce are harvested after a specific number of days (parsnips, for example, grow only in the spring and are harvested after four in-game days). Such factors make it important for a player to effectively use their limited resources (money, time, energy, and farm space) to make the most out of each cycle.

Aside from farming, a player is able to do a number of varied tasks, including: fishing, mining, foraging, raising livestock, crafting, cooking, and more-—and this wide range of abilities is both freeing and absorbing. There is not a hint of a lack of things to do in Stardew Valley, and this feature is notable and much-appreciated.

The RPG element is not lost in this farm-sim game as the map is extensive, the quests are numerous, the non-player characters are aplenty and the opportunities for choice is sufficient. There is no limit, for example, to the number of in-game years one can play, while the mines offer more than a hundred randomly-generated levels to explore. Other areas not present in the first few seasons of the game are available and unlockable with items, in-game coins, and quest completions.

Quests are an important part of the game, as they allow the story to move forward. There is a bit of a story, yes, and although it does not seem immediately urgent to complete it, the story quests are still important in that they introduce the player to interesting locations and characters. Later on, these story quests also open up subsequent quests.

The main story quests start early in the game, when we are introduced to Stardew Valley’s capitalist threat-—the Joja Corporation. The corporation represents everything our playable character dislikes about working in the city, and the player is given a choice to either repair Stardew Valley’s Community Center or join forces with the Joja Corporation. The latter choice results in the tearing down of the community center to make way for a warehouse. Choosing to fix the community center will offer the player collecting-and-gathering quests to help repair the town, while siding with the Joja Corporation will offer the player town repairs bought through coins.

Aside from farming, a player is able to do a number of varied tasks, including: fishing, mining, foraging, raising livestock, crafting, cooking, and more–and this wide range of abilities is both freeing and absorbing. There is not a hint of a lack of things to do in Stardew Valley, and this feature is notable and much-appreciated.

The RPG element is not lost in this farm-sim game as the map is extensive, the quests numerous, the non-player characters many, and the opportunities for choice sufficient. There is no limit, for example, to the number of in-game years one can play, while the mines offer more than a hundred randomly-generated levels to explore. Other areas not present in the first few seasons of the game are available and unlockable with items, in-game coins, and quest completions.

Quests are an important part of the game, as they allow the story to move forward. There is a bit of a story, yes, and although it does not seem immediately urgent to complete it, the story quests are still important in that they introduce the player to interesting locations and characters. Later on, these story quests also open up subsequent quests.

The main story quests start early in the game, when we are introduced to Stardew Valley’s capitalist threat–the Joja Corporation. The corporation represents everything our playable character dislikes about working in the city, and the player is given a choice to either repair Stardew Valley’s Community Center or join forces with the Joja Corporation. The latter choice results in the tearing down of the community center to make way for a warehouse. Choosing to fix the community center will offer the player collecting-and-gathering quests to help repair the town, while siding with the Joja Corporation will offer the player town repairs bought through coins.

Numerous side quests are also available and are mostly completed in exchange for coins and friendship points.

Friendship points are part of another feature that makes Stardew Valley interesting–the game offers the possibility of relationships with the town’s non-player characters. There are over 30 unique villagers in the game that a player can befriend (or antagonize). Friendship points are gained by talking to the villagers and giving them gifts, and each villager will react differently to different gifts. A social calendar on the bulletin board outside Pierre’s mart shows the townspeople’s birthdays, and giving them presents on their birthdays gain more friendship points than a regular, everyday present. Befriending someone can merit the player cutscenes, items, gifts, and the friend’s stories and secrets.

Also included in the villagers list are 10 single and eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that a player can marry, should they achieve maximum friendship points with them and should they choose to.

Overall, Stardew Valley is a wide, wide world with lots to do–there’s a lot to grow, a lot to collect, and a lot to explore. I highly doubt that one can stop playing it so quickly. It’s been beautifully brought to the screen in striking color and charming art, with over two hours of original music–and the game is still growing. Concerned Ape announced in May 2016 that planned updates will include more content and a co-op multiplayer version. Releases for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U have also been announced and are expected to be ready by the end of 2016–while OS X and Linux versions are currently in the making.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2016 issue

Words by Rachel Castañares 

Developer: Concerned Ape (Eric Barone)
Publisher: Chucklefish Games | Platform: PC

 

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