If you spent hours playing any of the Harvest Moon (HM) games when you were younger, you can see immediately why Stardew Valley (SV) is so appealing. This game was created by just one person, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, and published by Chucklefish.
- Complexity (for new players)
Much like HM, the story has you become an owner of a farm and your job is to turn this plot of land into a thriving agricultural enterprise. I did find it odd, however, that the game starts by having you get away from the stresses of modern living but also rewards players who optimise the hell out of their farms. Of course, if you can’t really be bothered with all that, you can always just go fishing, explore the mines, flirt with the locals, or water some spuds.
The gameplay is borrowed almost directly from HM but without the limitations and drawbacks the series suffered from. There are more tools to use, more crops to harvest, more ways to customise your farm, more NPCs, and more events throughout the year.
The graphics are your classic hi-res pixel art imitating the 16-bit era aesthetic. If you loved the visuals of the fourth generation, then there’s little doubt that you won’t love these graphics.
The soundtrack does the trick as you toil away in the fields or mines. There are some nice tracks which, given you’ll probably spend hours at a time on this game, don’t grind on you.
The characters are arguably the game’s biggest improvement on the HM series. While in the original games, there was basically a handful of one-dimensional women that you’d go about romancing, in SV, not only do you have a choice of both male and female NPCs to court. Luckily for the player, everyone in your new town is happily bisexual as long as you’re giving them gifts.
My main criticism would be that the game may be difficult to get into if you haven’t played any of the HM games or other farming RPGs. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into and it may all be a bit overwhelming and if you’re not familiar with the the genre, you may not know where to begin.
There’s so much to do in the game that you may be torn between what to focus on at first. However, this does give the game a lot of replayability if you’d like to go back to the start and take a different approach.
Stardew Valley is charming, deep, and a very easy way to lose days or weeks of your life. I didn’t find it to be a pick-up-and-play game but if you’ve enjoyed farming games in the past, this is the one for you. If you’re new to the genre, it might take you some time to work out how everything works, but it’ll definitely be worth it.