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ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco, Simulated Gambling, Mild Language, Mild Blood)
Release Date: October 5, 2017
Single Player, 4-Player Co-Op
Nintendo || Steam || Xbox || Amazon
You play as yourself (or whoever you want) after your grandfather dies. He left you a note and tells you not to open it until you feel your soul being crushed. Well, that day comes, you open the letter, and it contains a deed to his farm in Pelican Town. You move there for a change of pace and to get the farm back up and running. But it’s not just the farm that needs help, the town needs you!
I would argue that Stardew Valley started the pixel art craze. It’s by far the most popular one, and it seems like every new game afterward adopted the retro style. Obviously, it’s not the first game to ever use pixel art, but it definitely had a hand in its current resurgence as a game style.
All that said, the game looks great. The graphics are pretty crisp and it’s not hard to see what each blob of pixels is suppose to be. I can’t even imagine this game using any other graphics; it just works. I love the colors and how they change across the seasons. Even the simple weather effects are effective without getting in the way. Not to mention that there are plenty of visual mods to make the game look just about any way you want! I did my first playthrough umodded, but I’ll definitely be trying some out for next time.
I only experienced a few graphical glitches, which were simply objects clipping through other objects or the background. The most noticeable being trees growing at the back of the train station. I just chopped them down. No biggie.
Sound Effects + Music:
I really like the music in Stardew Valley. Each season has its own sound, and different locations use different tracks as well. I absolutely love the main music, and would open up the game before I was ready to play just so I could listen to it while doing whatever else. I also really like the music in the mines and the volcano dungeon. The music never annoyed me, even when I noticed a track repeating, since I’d play for a few hours at a time.
Stardew Valley also has a lot of different sound effects. Almost everything has an accompanying sound. Naturally, your footsteps make different sounds depending on what kind of terrain you’re walking on. You’ll hear animal noises and wind and rain and the squeak of your fishing rod. The one sound that I hate, not because it’s annoying, was when you lose a fish. It’s just so judgemental! You know you’ve been defeated when you hear that sound! Dust sprites sound really cute, so it’s a shame you need to kill them…
Gameplay + Controls:
Stardew Valley is the ultimate farming simulation game. By that I mean it has everything you’d expect from a farming sim plus a whole lot more. More than I would have expected. It’s definitely in RPG territory with its leveling system and combat. Of course, you can ignore those aspects and just farm if you want to.
The farm is the heart of the game. You have to start by clearing out the overgrowth before you can till the land. Then you can plant a variety of crops depending on the season. There’s plenty to choose from as you progress. Don’t forget to water your crops (unless it’s raining)! You can then sell the crops directly or use them to make other products and artisan goods. Foraging for wild crops is an additional way to get produce and supplies.
Crafting is another major component in running your farm. Using your crops to create new goods is far more profitable than selling the produce, although it does take more time. Along with crafting is cooking. Once you upgrade your house to have a kitchen, there’s a ton of recipes to unlock. Some simply restore Energy and Health, but others give you additional buffs that come in handy.
And you can fish, which I didn’t enjoy too much at first. The controls are kind of fussy, making it difficult to catch anything in the early game. Of course, leveling up the fishing skill and purchasing better equipment does make things easier. But the more I fished, the more comfortable I got with the controls, and the more fish I was able to catch. Oddly enough, fishing was the first skill I got ten points in! It’s a great way to make money when you have no/very few crops and animals.
There’s also mining, which I had the most fun with. You’ll need tons of coal and ore to craft items to improve your farm, so it’s in your best interest to start working your way down the mines as soon as you can. Working in the mines is a race against the clock as it takes time to find the ladder to the next level. You will get an elevator button every five floors, so as long as you find your way down to a level with an elevator you’re good to go.
Mining also brings combat! Or if you pick the Wilderness Farm to start, you’ll already have some experience with fighting off night creatures. As you make your way to lower and lower levels, you’ll encounter increasingly hostile enemies. You can use your tools or a sword to fight them off at first, but you can get better and more types of weapons as you progress. Then there’s the Skull Cavern with even tougher enemies, but even better rewards!
Stardew Valley is one of those endless, forever playable games. Once you finish the main story, you can keep playing to your heart’s delight until the end of time. And there’s so freaking much to do! With that said, there’s also multiple ways to complete the story and different starts to the game. You have six options for your starting farm, which will change how you get started and fix up the farm. Then you can either fix up the community center to improve Pelican Town, or you can team up with Joja Mart. Not to mention the self-imposed restrictions and challenges you can make for yourself.
This game truly is whatever you make of it. There’s so much content that you’d think starting from scratch would be overwhelming or a chore. But there’s so much content that you won’t be doing the same thing twice, even though the story missions will remain the same. Of course, you can completely ignore the story and the missions, and just do whatever the heck you want!
I loved Stardew Valley more than I was expecting. Obviously, I expected to enjoy it or else I wouldn’t have played it. But it’s just so jam packed with content! It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that a game of this scope and quality was created by a single person. That blows my mind! It’s clear that so much thought and care went into this game. There’s truly something here for everyone.