So Stardew Valley has been out for quite some time now. Time for me to give my two cents. I’ve put 45 hours into the game and am into my second spring. For those of you who may not know what Stardew Valley is, it’s a farming sim of sorts.
You inherit a farm in the quiet rural pelican town located in the titular Stardew Valley. You start out with a few tools, a house and an overgrown field full of grass, shrubs, trees and stones. The idea is to turn this into a thriving farm. The game doesn’t hold your hand very much with a few simple missions at the beginning to get you going and then you’re largely left to fend for yourself.
There are the usual four seasons each of which has 28 days to take advantage of the varying conditions to grow crops, fish or go mining. It’s entirely up to you on how to proceed. You can roll up your sleeves and get to clearing the field so you can til the ground and sow crops. You can go fishing in any of the various lakes and rivers and even the ocean if you visit the beach. Or, unlike many games of this type you can go dungeon crawling, facing monsters to mine for minerals and materials you can use to upgrade your tools. And of course, there is the town itself and its inhabitants whom you can befriend, and if you want you can even marry one.
One thing you’ll find very much against you in Stardew Valley is time. The clock is always moving and you’ll be wanting to take as much advantage of the hours in the day as you can. But the thing that really differentiates the game is that even with the time pressure, it’s still quite a relaxing game to play. The graphics, animations and sound effects all come together really well, creating a lovely atmosphere that really makes the game a joy to play.
Stardew Valley has been a labour of love and probably at times hate of a team of just 1. Eric Barone spent 5 years making Stardew Valley from scratch. He initially used creating the bespoke engine to learn programming, wanting to create a game similar to Harvest Moon (now Story of Seasons apparently) but without the flaws as he saw them. He did everything from graphics to sound to code and at times it shows, but never really detracts from the experience of the game. And since it’s release on steam Eric has continued to refine the game releasing regular updates to address problems and improve the game.
Reportedly he spend much of those 5 years in self imposed crunch, essentially working dozens of hours of overtime every week to make sure the game reached the level of quality and functionality he was looking for. While I can respect someone working hard to achieve their goals, and the results in this case speak for themselves, crunching like that isn’t something I’d recommend myself. I can only hope his health didn’t suffer to much from it and he’s enjoying the benefits of his success without going down that road again.
Overall Stardew Valley is a pretty unique experience, especially in the Steam ecosystem, added to the fact that it’s a game that’s easy to enjoy and even easier to loose yourself in I couldn’t recommend it more. Especially if you’re looking for a game to play to help you unwind after a stressful day.