Stars, the Moon, and more.
If you were to ask me what one word best describes Eric Barone’s (@ConcernedApe) latest release to the PC universe, Stardew Valley, it would be “artisanal.”
Stardew Valley is a classic, Harvest Moon inspired, open-ended, farm-life RPG, but unlike it’s spiritual successor, Stardew Valley was hand crafted entirely by one person. Every pixel, every musical note, every story-line, NPC conversation and cut scene, all designed, developed and produced by one person. This game was a four year labor of love for ConcernedApe, and it shows.
The game begins in a way that will seem familiar for players experienced with the traditional Harvest Moon games. You play the role of a person who, after working a corporate job at Joja Corp, is finally burnt out on the corporate world and decides to abandon it all to work on your Grandfather’s old farm in the middle of nowhere – Stardew Valley.
You arrive to find a shanty, generously called a house, on seemingly endless farm property – covered in rocks, weeds, trees and a garnished with a dilapidated building. You’re introduced to the local carpenter and mayor, given a few simple tasks, and off you go!
Stardew Valley features a variety of skills, each with levels and talent trees of their own.
Fishing, Farming, Foraging, Combat and Mining. Players advance in these skills simply by performing the tasks associated with each of the skills – fishing, farming, etc. You are free to focus on any of the skills or ignore them as you wish. I basically ignored farming for the whole first two seasons of my game and focused entirely on fishing, which is an absolutely addictive mini-game. I joked with my friends that Stardew Valley is the best pro fishing game I’ve ever played.
Which brings us to the main charm of the many charms of Stardew Valley – while there is an absolutely wonderful story – the game never forces it upon you, it is entirely open ended. There are quests I received on day three of my gameplay that I’m just now getting around to at the near-end of the first year and that’s absolutely okay. The only timetable in the game is the one you set for yourself. The only forced goals, are those you set for yourself!
If you want to fish all day, everyday, and ignore the town’s folk and your farm, that’s great! If you want to focus on relationships, or courting one of ten marriable characters, forgoing all else, more power to you! If you’re one of those people who want to crush the quests and strictly follow the story-line, the game has about 40-50 hours of gameplay for you, filled with warm, often hilarious, interactions with the town’s people, frequently dangerous adventures in the mines, and charming seasonal events all accompanied by over two hours of SNES inspired original music.
The open-ended nature of this game is no doubt the strongest lure for such a vast audience as the game has acquired. But it is the charm of the details, I think, that really keeps people playing and watching.
While you’re gallivanting off to the mines to do some adventuring, you might pass your romantic interest and be ushered into a cutscene, or perhaps you’ll be stopped at your door by a neighbor in need, or better yet, maybe you’ll open a letter from the Mayor, asking if you know the whereabouts of his purple shorts! (Keep it on the down-low, though!) And just like that, you’ve forgotten what you intended to do with your day and you’re off searching every home, business, person and valley for some purple shorts late into the evening. Oh well, you can always mine tomorrow, you’re in charge!
Stardew Valley is so full of original content, charm and things to do that it’s been almost impossible presenting you with even a small, tangible amount of what awaits you in the valley. Stardew Valley is best experienced, not described. If you are a fan of games like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing or Rune Factory, fly, don’t run, over to your favorite game download site and pick up Stardew Valley for the PC. You won’t be disappointed.
The Reformed Gamers rates Stardew Valley a 4.5 out of 5