the walking writer

Stardew Valley is a farming simulation game that was recently released on Steam. This amazing game was developed by one person and was inspired by the Harvest Moon series. Although I don’t have much experience with Harvest Moon, I’ve played (and loved) Rune Factory 3 and 4. I find this type of game very charming, so on the day Stardew Valley launched, I read a few reviews and quickly purchased it. Turns out, it was a smart choice and I’ve already put in quite a few hours into the game. This is not meant to be a comprehensive review; rather, it’s a just a collection of my thoughts as I’ve played the game.

A Fun and Engaging Beginning

The beginning of games of this type are always a little tricky. Some games don’t give you much to do when you start out; you have to play more to keep unlocking things. This is true in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, among others. In Stardew Valley, you hit the ground running. There’s no long tutorial, unlike A New Beginning. You can immediately start exploring the town, plant some crops, fish, start making money and much more. The game gives you some directions in case you’re not sure what to do in the form of some easy introductory quests. There’s really nothing in particular that you have to do when you start; you can immediately take the game at your own pace doing whatever you want. Some things, of course, are not immediately available, such as the mine. But you’ll still have a long list of things you can do from the very beginning.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

A Solid List of Characters

For the most part, Stardew Valley has a good cast of characters. A few of the characters seem a little flat, but I assume as you build up a relationship with them, you’ll learn more about them. I’ve already seen this with a couple of the townsfolk that my character has managed to befriend. I was impressed with the addition of Linius, a homeless man who lives in a tent and is on the fringes of Pelican Town. Where I live, homelessness is currently a very polarizing topic, so it is nice to see his story handled with care. A few of the female characters could use a little more variety; their portraits alone make them look very similar to each other (Penny, Leah, Jodi and Robin). I will say that overall, it’s nice to have only one character that seems to hate your guts right from the beginning, which is better than I’ve seen in other similar games.

The Bachelors and Bachelorettes

One of the first things I wondered about when I got the game was whether the player character could marry a bachelor or a bachelorette, regardless of the gender of the player’s character. I know for many people, it has been frustrating that you couldn’t marry whoever you wanted in the various Harvest Moon/Rune Factory games. I was pleased when I found out that you could marry either gender if you so wish. This adds a nice level of inclusion.

As for the choices themselves, I do wish there was a bit more variety. On the male side, I feel several of the choices are a bit too young. Sebastian, Alex and Sam seem like they’re supposed to be in high school. The same is true of a couple of the girls. I guess the point was to give players some variety, but I think I just wish the choices tipped a bit more to the older side. But, I don’t find the marriage aspect as important as the rest of the game, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Charming Music and Cute Art Style

The music of Stardew Valley is very peaceful and pleasant to listen to. While it may not be hugely memorable, it perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game. The game has a couple of types of music: music that fits the outdoor areas and the kind of music you might expect in a rural and rustic town. I love that the music changes with the seasons and matches very well with the weather. Summer’s music is nice and upbeat, while fall has a pleasant melancholy feel to it.

Stardew Valley’s art style is sort of a retro/pixel look that you’d expect from an older game, but it really works for this game. Even though your character sprite is quite small, you can still add detail to it and really make it your own. I’m sure that this simple style means that the game will run quite well on older computers and could potentially make a jump to mobile platforms.

Looking out into the ocean.

Looking out into the ocean.

As mentioned above, Stardew Valley was created by one person. ConcernedApe (his moniker) is active on Twitter and the Stardew Valley reddit (and perhaps others places as well). He’s already released several patches to fix some bugs and has mentioned future content that he’d like to add, including adding more to the post-marriage parts of the game. Multiplayer options are also on the to-do list. In other words, Stardew Valley has a lot of room for growth and is clearly cared for by its creator. It’s a refreshing thing to see a game get that much devotion from a developer.

A Single Tip for New Stardew Valley Players

You won’t have to look far to find long lists of tips from players to help you maximize your playtime. In my opinion, I think it’s best to skip these lists and just discover things on your own. Yes, you may end up needing to wait another season or even a year to accomplish a particular task, but I think it’s more fun to just play the game organically and focus solely on what you want to do. If you worry too much about optimizing the game, you’ll miss out on the fun and it will feel more like a job. Who wants to keep consulting a list of tips when you’re playing a game?

As is probably pretty clear, I think Stardew Valley is an exceptional game that is well worth the money and the time. It’s the type of game that can easily appeal to just about any type of gamer. I look forward to seeing what happens in the game’s future.

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