Stardew Valley Review
Serene, addictive. These are the words I would use to describe Stardew Valley. It might sound a bit contradicting but Stardew Valley really portrays the peaceful farming life and yet brought the competitive nature out of me.
The game starts off by briefly showing the Player Character's busy and tiresome city life before moving into the farm. Soon, the valley opens up to you; its cute and colourful visuals and peaceful (sometimes rather rural) tone of music really sets the feeling that moving to the farm was the right choice.
On my first play through the game, I followed the direction that the game seemed to push me towards - playing a hard-working farmer that befriended the townsfolk, and worked to unite the community and drive away the evil corporation that I used to work for in my previous life.
On my second character, I went the opposite direction, and role played a girl who didn't bother so much with farming, but spent her time making easy money, and working to cement Joja's foothold on the town. Both ways were equally satisfying, and did not lock me out of some of the optional features and areas of the town.
With a little bit of imagination, you will find the game offers a surprising amount of replayability. In contrast to some AAA games, at no point was I railroaded into taking a certain approach to roleplaying, and the game did not artificially heap guilt upon me for assisting the "bad guys".
You can be as evil as you want... if you get my drift.
The game allows you a lot of freedom and you are not forced to be good at every aspect of farming either (that is, if you are not a completionist aiming to obtain all the achievements). While my first character tried a bit of everything (growing crops, raising animals, fishing and mining), the second character solely focused on growing berries and flowers which are subsequently used to produce artisan goods like jellies and honey; these artisan goods can be farmed with a hands off approach and in addition sell for a high profit. You can survive purely on foraging, fishing or mining if that tickles your fancy, albeit you will live on a much lower income - but fear not, this just means things will be done at a slower pace. There is no sense of urgency in this game; set your own goals and work towards it at your own pace.
What I really love about this game is it encourages you to be creative - there are very few limits on how you can build your farm, or how you decorate your house - so you can let your creative juices flow. There is really no wrong way about it. Whether you are an obsessive that has a plan for the entire farm, right down to making sure your buildings align, or a free spirit who constructs the farm on a whim as you go, your farm will end up looking unique and great. Each of my characters built their farm differently to suit their personalities - from a warm, cozy farmhouse, a luxury restaurant with plates of food on tables, to a house dedicated to showing off the various minerals you find in-game.
Aaahhh... cute animals all over the farm. This is life! Oh, and I am proud to say my chickens are truly free range.
Perhaps the feature I was most disappointed with is the villager interactions. If you decide to play a social character, you can talk or give presents to villagers to earn their friendship (or even to woo some of them). While the dialogues/interactions are well thought out, this feature is currently very limited, which becomes most apparent once you marry one of the 10 bachelor/ettes. Some villagers barely have one cut scene or special dialogue, while spouses lose their former personality or lifestyle the moment they move in with you.
Another downside is the boring combat system. The combat simply involves knocking the monster into a corner and hacking them to pieces - all done by clicking your mouse. While you need to obtain ores and gems to create machines to produce artisan goods and such, I found there is no real incentive to go into the mines as you can simply buy materials off other merchants once you get rich enough. You can obtain a few "unique" rewards from the adventurer's guild, but none that are really worth your time slaying hundreds of monsters.
Thankfully, the developer is working on adding more content including the villager interactions and improving the combat and end game objectives without any additional cost. Be wary though, each time a new patch comes out, it seems to introduce new bugs. I have encountered a bug where the spouse walks right out of your farm into oblivion and does not come back until the next day, which may be amusing to watch, but frustrating if you need to interact with your spouse.
Stardew Valley is a solid game with lots of fun features but above all, I appreciated its soothing nature. I can literally feel my stress melting away, working on my farm, watching it thrive - and what more can I wish for as a person living a busy, stressful modern life?
- Great atmosphere and world
- Allows freedom and creativity
- New content to be added in the future
- Boring combat
- Limited villager interactions, especially with spouses
- New bugs added on each update
- Childish gameplay, not for the hardcore RPG fans