Farming games have always had a very niche crowd. Whether it is realistic farming games or games from years ago that still hold water compared to more recent agricultural games. But, it should be noted — and underlined — that Stardew Valley is by far one of the best farming-sim games to hit the market in years, easily.
Whilst it may not be a super-realistic farming game, the farming elements within it have been done very well. Already it is being heralded as the spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon games (despite the fact they keep churning them out year after year, without having released a new game that really wowed people), as the game practically reeks of Harvest Moon.
However, that is not to say Stardew Valley is a simplistic clone of the Harvest Moon games by a long shot, as Stardew Valley has a ton of originality which makes it a very unique gaming experience. It may bring on some feelings of nostalgia, but it definitely shows us how a game like Harvest Moon can be taken, dissected slightly, and improved upon in many different areas, making it a much more exceptional and memorable title with a lot of replayability. It’s a kind of replayability I can only truly compare to the Civilisation series’ mentality of ‘one more turn’, only with Stardew Valley it’s ‘one more day’.
Stardew Valley is a great farming-sim, but it isn’t just left at growing crops and taking care of farm animals. Much like the old Harvest Moon games, there are a lot of other things to do and discover in Stardew Valley. Aside from meeting and interacting with the huge cast of characters that live there, and in the surrounding area, you are also capable of marrying a large number of the villagers (just not all at once). All have their own personalities (and in some cases, perks) and all have their own story arc that reveals itself once you reach certain affection milestones with them.
Personally it took me three years’ in-game farming until I finally got around to trying this aspect of the game, since I was very much into just the farming itself. But having this option gives the game a much more heart-warming feel and is a selling point for a lot of the fans. It also provides you with other activities to do aside from just farming.
Stardew Valley is a well and truly packed-out game. The farming aspects give you choices on the many crops to grow, as well as livestock to purchase, look after, and even breed, as well as being able to design your farm the way you want. This includes being able to choose from several different farm layouts initially, some of which give you interesting advantages: building where you want, custom fences and pavements in a variety of styles and even special buildings that unlock from doing challenges and quests.
Occasionally, you watch your TV every morning in your little house and get a few channels — cooking, fortune telling and the weather forecast. You’ll find on some rainy days you have much more time on your hands since you don’t have to water all the crops. Fear not, since there are several other things you can be doing whilst this is happening, such as fishing in the many different environmental spots (even the sewers!) to sell or exchange for a challenge or quest, and there is also mining. The mining aspect, however, isn’t just digging through rocks and finding gems. Although it is that, too. It also features a combat mode, in which your first weapon is a rusty sword. There are many different kinds of monsters that live in the various levels of the mine, each providing specific materials for building or selling. Although the combat isn’t terribly exciting as a whole, it feels good to have gotten down fifteen levels of the mine on a rainy day and to come back with all the loot and materials you’ll definitely need to improve your farm further.
Perhaps the most impressive and famous part of Stardew Valley itself is how it was developed and created entirely by one person, Eric Barone (also more well known as ‘ConcernedApe’), so everything you see in the games — its mechanics and features, its dialogue and even the soundtrack — was all produced by one person. The creator himself has said that he created the game to fill the void that some of the more recent Harvest Moon games were not able to fill, also saying that he drew upon other games such as Animal Crossing and Terraria for inspiration and ideas on how to make the best game he possibly could. Considering the actual amount of content in the game, and the easy amount of hours you can spend sinking into it creating the perfect and ideal farm, this shows how well Eric Barone unquestionably did his homework for this one.
Overall, Stardew Valley is absolutely a must if you were ever a fan of the old Harvest Moon games. That being said, even if you’ve never played any kind of farming game, this is a fantastic place to start. With its relatively cheap price, it is affordable for most people and can provide literally hundreds of hours of entertainment, so there is definitely a lot for your money’s worth. Now, what with it becoming somewhat of a fan favourite for many (with a large and growing community), it may become one of your favourites too.
It’s without a doubt one of mine.