12 January 2021
Jan 21, 2020
Live off the land (not real land though) in this fascinating sprites-based farm sim game.
If you loved SNES-era Harvest Moon (the game that started it all), then this game is perfect for you. To be honest, who didn't love Harvest Moon on the SNES?
Anyways, Stardew Valley is one of those games that were capable of redefining a genre that, at that point in time, was already well established. The Harvest Moon concept got expanded exponentially, with tons of additional gameplay mechanics that are guaranteed not to bore. In Stardew Valley, you get to explore, forage, and craft items that may get you through various challenges. These are all very welcomed additions to the staple farm simulation formula.
The entire concept of a farming simulator is revamped, to the point where you may be asking whether you're raising a farm or simply just "living". However, you will find a mishmash of different concepts and tropes that are very typical of fantasy role-playing games, such as those found in games like Dragon Quest or Secret of Mana. You'll see what I mean shortly.
Surely, some of these concepts are not explained in great detail here. You will not have in-depth lore or glossary on the monsters you encounter here. Keep in mind that I'm not talking merely about a "Wiki" page but about the very motivation or reasoning behind these things. In a nutshell, they just "exist" and, by default, "make sense" within the game world.
All of this could be construed as me "complaining", but I don't really care too much about these nitpicks when it comes to these types of games as long as they provide genuine levels of fun. Now, admittedly, "fun" is a very subjective word but, still, I will be using it to describe my experience with this game, because it just happens to be the type of game I'm peculiarly fond of.
On another note, the art style here may look a bit "generic". In fact, it's strikingly similar to what you'll find in typical oft-maligned RPG Maker games. Yet, to my surprise, this game was apparently made by one person from scratch using coding and Paint.
Some people could be alerted by the fact that only one dude designed this whole game considering how relatively big it seems, leading to suspicions that some "shortcuts" might have been used. In any case, even if this game were made in RPG Maker, who cares? Why not enjoy the game for what it is instead of focusing on where it came from? Even if it were some sort of blatant rip-off or plagiarism, I would judge the game in its own right, notwithstanding the obvious ethical concerns that may legitimately be had and that I don't condone.
And trust me, this game is anything but a rip-off. There is a lot of genius originality to be found in every single facet, even if you can't escape some obvious derivations here and there. I will show some of this originality as I ruminate on the gameplay.
The game's premise is fairly simple: You inherit a farm from your granddad and must do anything to restore and maintain it. This would be your main purpose. But, just as was the case with Harvest Moon, you can also visit the village and mingle with the village boys and girls.
But the fun doesn't stop there! You can also marry your significant other and establish a family. Now, If you were a hardcore Harvest Moon player, you would probably be like "been there, done that". But, trust me, there's more!
Unlike the classic Harvest Moon experience, Stardew Valley actually has a combat system. Yes, this is a full-fledged action role-playing game that's also a farming simulator. I can just imagine the boys who developed Farm Simulator gnashing their teeth!
Now, combat in this game is nothing to write home about. It essentially amounts to button mashing to hack and slash skeletons, bugs, and disgusting gelatin monsters. However, the real fun part of this specific gameplay aspect lies in its strategic approach.
Traversing through the main cave is no breeze, as you would pass out once the clock reaches 2.00 a.m., adding some sense of dread to the whole experience of dungeon crawling. The mine has around 100 levels, so you will have a lot to explore and a harder time leaving the mines as you progress.
Luckily, you can fix the minecarts for faster travel and you can also use one of those warp totems that can be earned, crafted, or bought at the Casino. These will allow you to teleport to any of the different biomes that exist in the game, provided you have the right totem class.
Speaking of biomes (a very "gamey" word, by the way), Stardew Valley's world is amazingly diverse, at least when compared to many of its competitors. Harvest Moon, in this regard, was heavily compacted and there was just not much to explore apart from the town and, of course, your farmland.
In Stardew Valley, you can journey through deserts, mountains, beaches, and islands, as well as icy caves and mazes while you search for items and fight deadly creatures. The weather is also very diversified and each season has varying effects on crops and animals.
Yeah, how could I forget about the crops? Well, basically about farming in general, which is, obviously, the main mechanic of this game.
Growing a farm in this game is not hard in the sense that you'll get the gist of how the farming mechanics work very early on. However, you have to learn how to manage your energy throughout your first year, and energy (which is virtually a stamina system) is very scarce.
On the other hand, to get better seeds and implement auto-petting and watering systems, you need money, and it won't exactly come to you in droves early on. Good seeds also come at a steep price, so you will have to grind for a while. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering that this game is literally about farming, so it fits with the theme.
After a while, you will have most of the farming functions automated, so you're free to roam, forage, and visit the townsfolk as you please
Stardew Valley has the trapping of a legendary title that is guaranteed to stand the test of time. It's a very rewarding game that manages to deliver hours of fun for both hardcore and casual gamers, without having to show much graphical power. I wholeheartedly recommend this one. At its current price, it's a steal!
You can also let me know if you liked this game and/or this review by leaving a comment down below
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