Stardew Valley Review
Stardew Valley is a farming simulator/role playing game and virtually a clone of the early Harvest Moon games (apparently now called Story of Seasons for whatever reason). Anyone can pick up this game and enjoy it; it's great for kids while still enjoyable for adults. Casual gamers will enjoy it, and hardcore gamers will enjoy the break Stardew Valley provides.
Although it has nothing to do with the actual game itself, the most impressive part of Stardew Valley is that it was developed by one guy (and that alone makes it worth picking up). ConcernedApe did everything for this game: the graphics, the soundtrack, the story, everything.
Trying to explain the appeal of Stardew Valley, or other farming RPGs, is pretty be difficult, you kind of just have to play it for yourself.
Friend: Hey, what are playing?
Me: Stardew Valley, it's a farming RPG.
Friend: Oh yeah, what do you do?
Me: You farm, like plant crops and take care of animals.
Friend: That's it?
Maybe a good comparison is a third person, more casual Minecraft.
It doesn't take long to realize that Stardew Valley isn't pretty by today's graphics standards, but that's not the point. A lot of modern games get it wrong when it comes to graphics; these games are "too pretty" and the graphics take away from the game itself (I'm looking at you Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Saphire). This even happened with the Harvest Moon franchies where A Wonderful Life and Tree of Tranquility were nearly unplayable.
The story is... familiar. Anyone that has played the Harvest Moon series knows the story: you inherit a rundown farm from your grandfather and your job is to rebuild it. The caveat to Stardew Valley's story is that your grandfather tells you that there will be a time where you will get rundown and want a simpler life and that part hit home a little bit and had a lasting impact on me. I had a strong appreciation for that part of the introduction.
Stardew Valley's soundtrack is solid. You don't need to worry about getting a tune stuck in your head, it's never distracting. There's no glaring audio issues, interacting with things provide some sort of audio feedback.
The controls are pretty straight forward. If you're using an Xbox controller (and you should, support for it is built in), the left joystick is used to move around, [X] uses your tool, [A] interacts with stuff around you, the triggers allow you to switch items (just like Minecraft).
Like real life (going outside and stuff), just about everything you do in the game gets a lot easier as you do it more often. Fishing is especially difficult in the early part of the game but you shouldn't get discourage, it gets a lot easier after a short period of time. Other tasks, like watering crops, is time (and energy) consuming and can get overwhelming or repetitive if you try to do too much.
Learning how to place objects was a little tricky (quite unpleastant actually) until I learned how the mechanic worked. You'll want to use a mouse for precision placement and you'll need to remember where you left your mouse once you go back to the controller because the hidden mouse still affects your placement.
The game just kind of throws you onto the farm and it's your job to figure out how things work. A lot of it deals with intuition, but that's not always the case. For example, you save your game and advance your progress by going to bed and you can power up your upgraded tools by pressing and holding [X]. Villagers will occasionally stop by your farm or send you a letter to explain how the game works (and you'll eventually find books for the museum that offer more details).
The social system is pretty typical for a video game. Talk to someone and give them nice gifts (like flowers!) if you want them to like you. Unsurprisingly, people don't like getting garbage (or fish) as gifts. There's ten different people, five men and five women (each that fit a stereotype/clique quite well), that you can marry regardless of gender (I'll give ConcernedApe credit for being progressive about the marriage system).
After your first year...
When I first started playing Stardew Valley, I was spending hours (practically days) playing the game; I think I logged 60 hours in the first ten days of playing the game. I eventually hit a wall in the second season that I could barely through make it an in game day or two before having to take a break.
Realistically, the game has about 60-80 hours worth of gameplay. The game's first year is an amazing experience, you have plenty of (new!) things to do and the game provides plenty of things for you to do. Problems start to show up in the second and especially the third year; you'll run out of new things to do once the community center is basically wrapped up and you get married.
8.0 - Great
While a lot of this review was critical of parts of the game, the end result is still great. Stardew Valley should be considered one of, if not, the the best games of Q1 2016.
It's almost impossible to get less than $15 of value from Stardew Valley. The first few hours (and possibly days) will breeze by; you'll probably finding yourself saying, "Just one more day," and end up never putting the game down.
- Gameplay is simple enough to pick up and complex enough to keep you interested.
- Lots of different ways to play the game.
- Highly addictive
- Social system is repetitive
- Little-to-no end game; low replay value