So this has been a busy June/July for me – in the space of one month I went from working as a contractor, to being unemployed, to working as a fully permanent employee (take that old job! You jerks!). During my unemployment “holiday” (read: “being a no good jobless bum time”), I went to visit my friend and she showed me a game she was playing – Stardew Valley.
When she explained me to what Stardew Valley was about, the first thing that sprung to mind was Harvest Moon – and then immediately after that remembering how goddamn awful I was at playing it. I’m not talking about your fancy DS and what-have-you Harvest Moon, oh no! My memories are from my dusty Playstation, buying my copy and sitting in front of my tiny TV/VHS combo (if that doesn’t age me I don’t know what will) worrying about whether or not I will have enough decent crops to just scrape by and make any kind of profit. Seriously, I was the worst at that game and gave up pretty quickly.
My friend was quick to assure me that whilst the basic premise of Stardew Valley was pretty similar – you own a farm, you grow stuff on it and make it better, this game was way less pressure to actually be good at it. And she was right.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten older and therefore wiser (one would hope), or whether or not this game is actually designed to be easier, but I have played a full year (in-game *obviously*), and I’ve got to say I’m not actually doing that bad! I’ve managed to upgrade my farmhouse (I own my very own kitchen *smug*), got some farm animals that haven’t died or are even remotely close to death, and I even have completed a few quests (like going off to find the mayor’s underwear in the bedroom of one of his “friends”) So naturally my success has inspired me to stop being useless and finally get back into this writing malarky.
Stardew Valley is an indie farming simulation role-playing video game developed by ConcernedApe and published by Chucklefish Games. Released in February 2016, this labour of love by Eric Barone has taken the cute aesthetic of Harvest Moon, combined it with a soundtrack and adventure-feel/dungeon exploring similar to Terraria, and produced a game that is so relaxing and just pleasant to play. When I log on and see those pixel birds fly across the sky I get a warm fuzzy feeling.
I also know I will lose *hours* of my life, just playing through “one more day” or “just until the next season” – I’m not much of a gamer (as you all may remember), but I have found myself sitting in front of my computer screen at 4am forcing myself to log out and go to bed. I can’t help myself, it is that addictive (plus when I’m close to getting another heart with Abigail goddamn it I will stay awake to make it happen!)
There are so many different elements to this game, that it doesn’t matter if you suck at one – there *will* be something that you are good at to balance it out; farming, animals, fishing, foraging, dungeon crawling/adventuring – there is definitely something for everyone. I’ve been doing ok on pretty much everything (*humblebrag*), but if anything that shows you that this game is pretty playable on the scale of difficulty. There are plenty of people to wander round and befriend/woo (I’m looking at you Abigail, you beautiful purple-haired siren), and as long as you have the wiki open on a screen next to you it is so satisfyingly easy to see those hearts fill up. Before you know it you have the townsfolk saying hello to you in the town square, and you can feel a part of that happy little community.
The best way to sum up this game is to think about the goal/audience this game is aimed at. Is it aimed at full on players who play to win? Probably not. Is it aimed at providing an adorable, fuzzy, light-hearted experience for someone to dip into and escape the day-to-day? Absolutely. You play a person escaping the boredom of everyday life to look after a farm in this magical town, and I believe that this is true for the player in real life.
Buy this game, tend to your (surprisingly large) patch of farmland where you can make your own mayonnaise to tempt your future wife. I guarantee that like me you will find yourself coming back to reality at 4am wondering where the time went, but at the same time not regretting a single minute.
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