I wanted to wait until I finished upgrading my house, marrying, & having kids before doing a review. I have nominated this game for a Steam Award though and one of the challenges with that is writing a review. I have nominated it for the category that was obvious for me, the “Just 5 More Minutes Award”. Everybody can nominate their favorite games, so I definitely recommend that you go and give your favorites a vote! This game is so addicting, I’ve read some reviews and blogs and I agree that one of the main contributing factors is the day and night cycle. Getting to the end of a day and seeing all the gold you have racked up by harvesting, crafting, mining, or fishing, really makes you want to press on and accomplish more of your goals the next day. You might say, well you could just save whenever you want right? No that is the beauty in the design choice that keeps you hooked. The only way to save is to get to the end of the day and go to sleep. So “Just 5 More Minutes” is really more like “Just 20 or 30 More Minutes” in reality.
I love the pixel graphics, it doesn’t do it for some, but I have always found this style to be pleasing. This really is a beautiful pixelated game too, it is top notch in the category for sure. One of the most amazing things about Stardew Valley is that it was created by one man. His developer name is ConcernedApe and his real name is Eric Barone. He worked on Stardew Valley 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, and still managed to work part time at a movie theater as an usher. All of that was kept up for 4 years and the result of his dedication is one of the most amazing stories of 2016. This game has been topping the charts on Steam and is coming to other platforms. Barone has been keeping up with fixing bugs, crashes, & other general problems better than many large companies. It is so expansive and detailed that it is hard to wrap your mind around it being made by just one guy.
So let’s get to the story, you inherit a farm from your grandfather who gives you the deed and a letter but tells you not to open it until life starts breaking you down. Working for the Joja corporation you begin to tire of the daily grind and realize the gift you have received. Once you arrive to Pelican Town in Stardew Valley you have your work cut out for you on a sizable chunk of farmland. This game definitely takes inspiration from a number of predecessors. The most obvious one is Harvest Moon, there is also some hints of Animal Crossing, early Zelda games, and from what I hear Terraria because of the amazing crafting elements. Crafting is definitely one of my favorite aspect in the game. You keep the wood, sap, rocks, minerals, etc, and create different fertilizers and machines that aid you in your journey and make your crops more profitable.
There are so many different ways to build up your farm and character, while making the money you need to sustain your current ventures. The fishing mini game is notoriously difficult at first but seriously fun when you get into a groove with it and get it down. The mines have monsters that you fight off with swords and recover items from, while you collect the precious ores that you use to craft items and upgrade your tools. It may sound silly but even just clearing land and preparing your crops can be loads of fun if you are in the mood for it. I have gotten to the point now that I just craft sprinklers to sustain what plants I can and focus more on the villagers, fishing, and mining. The great thing though is I can always change that if I tire of those things and switch to another set of daily tasks to get more fulfillment. All these tasks do drain your energy, and in the case of the fights in the mines, your health. There are several options to help restore these two meters. You can eat food that you find, buy, cook, or are gifted by other villagers. You can craft potions once you level up to a certain point, out of mushrooms and other items. You can also take a trip to the spa for some quick relaxation that helps get you back in working shape. Of course the other option is to just go ahead and crash out and give it another go the next day.
One thing I kind of glossed over but is an awesome feature that was done very well in my opinion, is the relationships. You build bonds with the townspeople by talking to them and giving them gifts that they like. You can also complete quests for them from the town bulletin board that is in front of Pierre’s the local store. You can go in blind and play the guessing game with gifts until you find out what they really like, or you can go to one of the wikis or walk throughs to see what it is that person you have an eye out for really loves. There are some really neat cut scenes the further you get along with a character. It also takes a great direction towards sexuality. You can romance and be married to anybody you like that is single, regardless of gender. If a couple of two men or two women marry they are able to have children through adoption. I was worried they would be excluded from children or have them show up unexplained, but this was a great step to work that out. A new feature in the game is also digital divorce. This was added with a plethora of other features such as being able to move barn buildings after having them built, and an awesome line up of starting farms to choose from. Such as one with better mining, fishing, or foraging opportunities, or one where the monsters come out at night and you have to be prepared for battle.
Events are another great strongpoint in Stardew Valley. They have activities such as fishing competitions or mini games, all of the townspeople get together, & there are usually items that you can get that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I also would like to mention the awesome little museum right next to the blacksmith that you are able to bring your treasures to that you find while out mining and foraging. This makes for an great display of your finds and you are rewarded for the items you bring in. The library that it is connected to I thought was a very clever way to give tips and hints. You dig up lost library books while foraging under what appears to be a few little worms or something, then they appear for you to read at your leisure with the rest of them. There are a lot of little touches like that which give Stardew a great sense of care and personality.
There are some features I would like to see added. It is hard to find people (even though they do follow strict habits that you can figure out over time). I feel like this could be fixed with a little gps dot on the map showing the people’s locations, it would help especially with the tasks from the bulletin board that need to be completed within a couple of days having to do with people you don’t usually follow around, so don’t know their habits. I do also see how this could go against the feel of the game, it is very wholesome and everything is done the old fashioned way, but it is just a thought. I’ve gotten to the point where I can craft warp totems with resources for a single use to the beach or the mountains. This is a good feature for how big the map is with such little time, but I would have liked to see a larger permanent option, possibly from Robin the carpenter. It could cost a ton of money and resources and it would be totally worth it. **Edit** I have been watching some YouTube videos and they do have some form of permanent warping function later in the game. */Edit* One more small suggestion would be a little more depth with conversation, such as more times that you are able to choose what to say to the person and having that effect future conversations, or more times that you can play mini games with the person. These are just some thoughts after putting a good amount of time into the game, but I still really think that it is a nearly perfect game, and such an amazing accomplishment for one man.
I hope I have done the game justice because this one deserves every bit of the praise it is getting. Thanks for taking the time to check out my review, and I hope you have a happy holiday season!
For more video game news & reviews be sure to follow the blog & follow on instagram & twitter @SublimeReviews