Stardew Valley (2016)
Just about anyone who plays indie games, or anyone who plays games - or even people who don't have played Stardew Valley. I've debated back and forth about reviewing a game that's already such an incredible hit and has been for years now. However, it's my birthday week, and I decided what I really want to do is write about my love for this wonderful game despite all of that and add it to my list of games. I guess if I have to narrow it down to a short description: Stardew Valley is a pixel-style farming simulator.
Eric Barone, also known as ConcernedApe, had a simple idea: create a "renaissance" for Harvest Moon. When I was little I played only a little bit of Harvest Moon, a later one on Gamecube. I rented the game so I didn't get to enjoy as much as I would've liked to, but I loved how limitless your world and list activities was, while also being a peaceful and relaxing game. I didn't have the opportunity to really "fall in love" with the classic Harvest Moon games like many people have, but I feel like I can say Stardew Valley has created a very similar feeling for a later generation - so yes, I'd say it definitely met that initial goal. Stardew Valley isn't just farming - it's also mining, exploring, fighting monsters, romancing, fishing, sidequests, and much more.
I've put 63 hours into this game, which really isn't that much for Stardew Valley, there's still so much left for me to do. About 90% of that time played has actually been in multiplayer. I play Stardew Valley with my partner and it's become a weekly or so go-to for us to play to unwind after work. The mystifying thing about it is you can work hard at improving your farm and yet it's a perfect way to clear your mind from actual work. Stardew Valley has become perhaps my favorite multiplayer game, maybe with the exception of MapleStory when it was its peak (wow, I still miss it). Working on your farm collectively with someone else becomes such a fun routine, and you each find your niche in what you like to do. For me it's checking on the animals every day and then producing a bunch mayonnaise, cheese, cotton, and oil to sell. You end up naming so many animals in this game that we've thought of categories of names for all of our animals to make it easier - for example, our cows are Street Fighter characters: Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li.
I recently purchased the official Stardew Valley guidebook from Fangamer and quickly realized how many layers there are to this game that I've yet to explore. I knew there was marriage, but, also divorce apparently?? Since I've gotten the book I've been focusing on trying to have every kind of animal, even the rare ones, and exploring new areas that we hadn't gotten to before. Reading through the beautifully illustrated book just made me more excited to keep playing. The part of Stardew Valley I've least explored, though, is the villagers and romance. Playing multiplayer, we've been focusing on the mines and our farm more than the characters, so I've yet to actually marry or date any of them. However, anytime I'm walking up north I take it as a chance to visit my favorite boo, Sebastian. He's absolutely my number one pick, but... he's also my partner's favorite, so Sebastian basically getting aggressively wooed by the both of us. It's our internal, non-assigned competition.
Stardew Valley's soundtrack has been one of my go-to playlists for quite a while to listen to when I want to relax or work peacefully. Each season gives a different set of emotions in the music, and I especially love the music for special events (Dance of the Moonlight Jellies!). The keeps every change of season new and exciting even after you're past your first year on your farm, thanks to the music and change of environment. Stardew Valley makes incredibly detailed locations but also beautiful landscapes using its pixel art style. The amount of complexity in how many combinations of products you can make using different materials continues to blow my mind, especially knowing that this game was made by one person. At times, I do feel overwhelmed in how little time I have to do all that I need to. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say the days should last a little longer, it would be nice, but I do wish there was a way to pause time during multiplayer games. Time doesn't stop when you pause during multiplayer, so it's hard to take a second to think about what to do next or look something up. I'll probably return to playing single-player at some point to have the concentration to be more deliberate and patient with the choices I make on my farm.
Stardew Valley is as close to perfection as a multiplayer farming simulator can be, in my opinion. I also personally theorize that part of the reason why it's resonated with so many people of all ages is because it came out at the perfect time, in 2016. We're in a time period where a lot of us feel like news, often bad news, over-saturates us through social media. Stardew Valley was the early part of a rise in "wholesome" games that give you an, I believe, healthy sense of escapism and self-care. If you haven't heard, Stardew Valley has become such a phenomenon that Twitch Rivals actually hosts a team competitions. Yes, it's e-sports now, apparently. As someone who doesn't watch a lot of competitive sports or even that much e-sports, the feeling of being so hyped up for other people playing Stardew Valley was new. Some of the players are absolute professionals and you can tell they've put hundreds of hours into understand every pattern and detail of the game. I learn a lot from them because sometimes my play style is pretty aimless, and they show a lot of shortcuts and efficient ways to achieve results.
Stardew Valley is extremely special to me, it already brings very warm and fond feelings for me, and yet at the same time I still have some of the excitement of a "new game" about it, since there's so much to do. I can't imagine anyone not falling in love with this game after putting some time in, I've literally given it to friends as a birthday gift and recommended to just about everyone I know. It's the perfect game for this era of time that sometimes feels overwhelming and dark. You can do anything in Stardew Valley, marry anyone, and be anyone.
Stardew Valley is available on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Android, and App Store.
Played on: PC
Last Played: 7/22/19
Playtime: 63 hrs