Home Indies The Fantasy Farm Life – A Review of Stardew Valley

The Fantasy Farm Life – A Review of Stardew Valley

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Stardew Valley is a 2D RPG fantasy farming simulator game that is reminiscent of Harvest Moon. The game centers around the player’s character who leaves to start a new life on the farm they inherited from their grandfather. Stardew Valley is a surprisingly popular game, reaching Steam’s “top sellers” list when it released on February 26, 2016. The game was entirely developed by one person known as ConcernedApe. So what is it that makes this indie game such a huge hit?

The Good

There are a lot of activities to do in the game. Besides farming, players can also fish, make friends, go mining, explore dungeons, and discover new locations. There’s so much to do that the player may not have all the time each day to do it all. There is even a 4-player co-op feature that is planned for the future.

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The characters are interesting. Even though it’s tempting to just make money and neglect making friends, Stardew Valley makes friendships worthwhile. Each character, even those who aren’t romanceable have their own unique stories, friendship events, and will also give the player gifts and useful recipes.

The game feels very familiar and relaxing. The game was inspired by Harvest Moon, and it feels very much like the classic game. Stardew Valley feels like a good mix of Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and Terraria. People who are familiar with those games are sure to enjoy this one. The game’s calming soundtrack adds to the game’s relaxing atmosphere.

The game is gorgeous. I’m not a person who judges a game by it’s graphics since I believe that graphics don’t determine whether or not a game is actually good, however, while Stardew Valley uses pixelated 2D graphics, the art is impressive, using a colorful and extremely detailed art style. It even uses impressive lighting and weather effects that enhances the game’s beauty.

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You can level up in the game. The player’s character can gain experience and level up different skills, which unlocks more crafting recipes and improves the proficiency of certain tools. At level 5 and 10, the player can choose perks with a variety of bonuses depending on the profession they choose.

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There are same-sex marriages. This is a feature that is not available in Harvest Moon. There are five bachelors and five bachelorettes that can all be married, even by a player of the same gender. While there are games that allow same-sex relationships, there aren’t many that allow all the romanceable characters to be romanced by a player of either gender.

Since the game is on PC, there are plenty of mods available for it. There are helpful mods, such as those that show where NPCs are and what gifts each NPC likes. There are also aesthetic mods, such as those that add more hairstyles, and those that change character portraits.

The Bad

Although Stardew Valley is very fun, the game does have a few areas that it could work on.

The instructions are unclear. Stardew Valley does very little to introduce players to many of the game’s controls and mechanics. When my friends and I first started, we had no idea how to perform important actions such as crafting items and feeding animals. We didn’t even know there was a crafting menu! There were no in-game tutorials, guides, or even hints on how to do these things. Sometimes the instructions are just confusing and unhelpful, such as when the first time the player is fishing. The game will say to “keep the green bar behind the fish” to catch it, when in actuality, you have to keep the fish inside the green bar to catch it.

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The controls can be clunky. If you try to interact with something with a tool equipped, you might accidentally use the tool instead and end up wasting energy. There were times when I accidentally used an axe on my crops while harvesting them, which ended up destroying the plant. Also when trying to interact with something while holding an edible item may cause the game to think that you’re trying to consume the item instead. This gets especially annoying while trying to harvest multiple crops. The “do you want to eat this?” message keeps popping up, interrupting your actions and breaking immersion.

You can’t move farm buildings after they’re constructed. So to change the placement of a building, you have to build a new one and destroy the old one. It’s an annoying and inconvenient issue, because money as well as resources, are needed to build and upgrade buildings. Additionally, it takes 3 days to build or upgrade a building. At early levels of the game, the player might construct buildings in places that aren’t ideal, since buildings can’t be constructed on top of other objects, and it can difficult to clear the the land for at the start of the game. All of these factors just to change the placement of a building makes it time consuming, annoying, and just inconvenient.

The male bachelors aren’t very attractive. While the portraits for the female characters are all very cute and attractive, the male portraits pale in comparison. Personally, it might be because I’m more used to the anime style portraits of Harvest Moon, where almost all the bachelors are cutesy and attractive. Luckily, there are mods to change the character portraits.

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Final Thoughts

Stardew Valley is an extremely fun and addicting game that will provide plenty of hours of gameplay. The game uses a colorful and detailed pixelated art style that interesting characters. Although the game is far from perfect and still needs some work on the game’s controls and mechanics to make them smoother. But despite that, the game is still worth playing. The game was all created by one person, and ConcernedApe deserves recognition for the wonderful game that he created.

Are you one of those people that are enjoying Stardew Valley? Tell us what you think based on your experience.

Review overview
Graphics
Gameplay
Characters