Bloody brilliant. 9 out of 10.
I could honestly leave this review here, because I am so hopelessly in love with Stardew Valley that I would rather be playing it than writing about it. Sadly, I introduced my wife to the game and now I only get to spend half my waking hours playing it, while spending the other half watching her play it and questioning her crop rotation. At some point, I should check on the kids…
Stardew Valley was first released on PC, back in February 2016. I remember seeing a lot of buzz about it online, mostly to do with how much people were loving the heavy Harvest Moon influence. I enjoyed Harvest Moon when I dabbled with it way back when and I’ve always been a sucker for games like Minecraft, Terraria, basically anything that allows me shape my own world. Everything I read made me think Stardew was a game i’d enjoy, but I don’t tend to play a lot of PC titles these days because my laptop is basically a typewriter and a portable TV strung together with duct tape, so I held off.
Come December and the gaming community online is once again all a-quiver because Stardew Valley has hit Playstation 4 and Xbox One. I remember once again looking at it, thinking “wow, this looks like something I would really enjoy!” and then completely failing to buy it. I had a ton of games on the go already and I was trying to be sensible about not throwing money at even more games when I should be working my way through my backlog. Stardew would have to wait, I decided.
Fast forward to June 2017 and while idly browsing the Xbox sale titles for the week, I notice Stardew Valley is just eight pounds. I’d had a cruddy week, my joints felt like they’d been pummeled with a series of very heavy objects and the screenshots were so god damn cute that with a sigh, I hit the Buy button and resigned myself to waiting for days before I could play it because we live in the land that fibre forgot.
Happily, Stardew is less than 1gb in size and pretty soon it was ready to go. I fired it up, just to take a quick look, to get a feel for it before really diving into it at some point in the future.
I’ve now been playing it for about two weeks and asides from occasionally breaking to squeeze in a few games of Overwatch, I’ve played nothing else. I live in the valley now and I have no urge to move.
Stardew Valley is just so incredibly … nice! It’s the gaming equivalent of sitting in a comfy chair, feeling a cool breeze drift by on a warm day, as you sip on a particularly delicious glass of ice cold lemonade and have been promised a slice of cake. It’s lovely. I honestly believe that the developer, Eric Barone, just looked at a really beautiful smile on the face of the world’s happiest person and worked backwards from there.
From the moment I fired up the game, I was struck by how pretty it all is. There’s a lot of indie titles out there which have gone back to the 8-bit style and it can all get a bit samey, but Stardew does it perfectly. The graphic style suits the game brilliantly and it just looks fantastic. Sounds great too, the music is really sweet and the sound effects are great, although i’m still yet to figure out what the weird, whale noise is when it rains in-game. If you know, email me. Seriously, it’s creeping me out.
The opening cutscene is gorgeous and sets up for the simple story-line, which is essentially as follows.
“Hi, i’m your grandpa. I’m dead now. Working yourself to death in a cubicle sucks. Have my farm, which is situated in Stardew Valley, the nicest place ever. Love, Gramps.
P.S – Fishing is hard.”
That’s it. In a world where we have games like Destiny, featuring a tale so convoluted that you have to read most of it in Grimoire cards and there are still more loose ends than a SyFy monster movie (i’m looking at you Mega Piranha), it’s nice to play something which is simple, straightforward and fun. That being said, there is a ton of attention to detail shown in the character’s personalities and little side stories which makes this game massively engaging. It asks very little of you and gives so, so much.
Once you’ve binned the big city job at Jojamart and taken over ol’ granpappy’s farm, you have to set to work clearing the ground, growing crops, selling your produce, raising livestock, all of the things that come with running a smallholding. Of course, most farmers don’t have to contend with slaying slime monsters in caves or running errands for creepy wizards, but what’s an RPG without some booglies to bash and bizarre quest-givers?
The in-game calendar is split into four seasons, each of which lasts 28 days. You wake up each day at 6am, do whatever you need to do for the day and then tuck yourself up in bed. If you don’t head to bed before 2am, you pass out where you stand and then wake up in bed, having been charged a fair sum by Jojamart.
Each season comes with it’s own challenges, specific crops, events, etc. You can buy all the supplies for the season from either Jojamart or Pierre’s, which will effect the community centre. The community centre is a wreck and you can rebuild with the help of either Jojamart of the Junimos. The Junimos are wee men that…
Look, there’s a hell of a lot to Stardew Valley, is what i’m trying to say. You can farm, fish, fight and fu…well, maybe not the last part but you can get married and have kids. You shape your farm, decorate your house, furnish it. There’s tons of scope.
Stardew actually scratches an itch that I’ve been feeling of late, the itch to play World of Warcraft. When I was playing WoW on a daily basis I used to hop about, doing my daily quests, then do some gathering for a while and maybe get some fishing in. Usually, i’d round out the day at the Lion’s Pride Inn, enjoying a flagon of mead and staving off the sexual advances of assorted nude level 10s. I’ve not been active in WoW lately, largely due to my broadband being slower than a river of jelly in a hard frost, so Stardew has really filled the void. If they bring co-op to the game, as is currently planned, I may never need to play another game again.
I have nothing bad to say about Stardew Valley. There are a couple of tiny issues i’d like to see resolved. There are a couple of screens where you cant hover over items to see what they are, notably when putting together bundles in the Community Centre. That’s a little frustrating (and i’m almost certain it’s something that happened following the recent snap-to menu update) but it’s not a big deal. There’s a few wishlist things, of course, but they’re all things like “Hey i’d love a tractor” or “Pet bears would be cute!”. Nothing springs to mind which is in dire need of fixing or changing.
Stardew Valley is just bloody wonderful and if you’re not playing it, you should be. Sure, if farming sims and RPG titles aren’t your bag, you probably won’t fall in love with it like I have, but if you’re an FPS only gamer or one of those FIFA-or-bust types, you’re probably not going to be reading this, so why am I even talking to you? Shut up. YOU’RE sleep deprived.
Anyway, like I said before, bloody brilliant. 9 out of 10. I’m off to find Mayor Lewis’ purple shorts.*
Stardew Valley is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and is coming soon to Nintendo Switch. The copy used for this review was the author’s own, we’re not affiliated in any way with anyone to do with Stardew Valley, but if they fancy sending me one of the town maps that comes with the physical edition, I might consider knocking the review score up to a 9.5**
* No, I haven’t gone mad. There’s a quest in the game to find the Mayor’s shorts. I don’t want to give the game away, but i’ll just say this…the Mayor is a dark horse.
**CONTROVERSY! I won’t. My scores don’t count for crap, anyway. I do want that map though, it’s purdy.