So, I got Stardew Valley from my sister for my birthday last week. This was a game that I’ve been highly anticipating, and so far, it’s exceeded all of my hopes. I’m a big fan of the old skool Harvest Moon games, though I haven’t really played any beyond the first two that were released. So, playing a more modern game of this type, on the PC, is totally right up my alley.
Warning: I’m going to talk freely about the story (yes, there is a loose story) and the characters, so note there will be spoilers.
As noted above, there is a bit of a storyline that unfolds slowly as time passes in the game. It starts with your grandfather willing you his old farm, encouraging you to break away from the drudgery of working at the big Joja corporation for a simpler life in a small town.
This is a theme that continues through the game as even Pelican Town is seeing the effects of Joja nudging in on the sleepy rural life. I’m sure I’ll see this in the future, because the local Joja Mart is currently edging out competition with the local organic-grown mart, who can’t match the corporation discount prices.
I was also surprised and impressed with the character creation, which was more in depth than I thought it would be. Sure, it’s pixel art, but there were over 50 different shirts to choose from, and a color slider for many other character elements. I went with a standard “Aywren” character, and jumped right in.
Similar to Harvest Moon style games, you’re welcomed by folks from the town, including the Mayor, and led to a really broken down farm. It’s your job to eek out a living starting with just some tools and a pack of seeds. How you do that is totally up to you.
The very first day, the game encourages you to go out and meet the rest of the people who live in Pelican Town. There are 28 of them, so it’s a pretty good cast to learn about. A big part of the game (which you can choose to pay attention to or not) is forging friendships/relationships with the other characters.
You do this through interactions and giving them gifts. I noticed that you can gift pretty much every character, and gifts that fit that character’s personality will earn you “hearts” on a scale of 0-10. Though, hearts don’t mean that each character is open to a romantic relationship, as some are already married, etc.
Again, the whole relationship/marriage system is optional, and I actually like the fact that you can only gift a character twice in one week. This means you need to ensure that your gifts count, and it also means I don’t feel obligated to spend all my time wooing characters and finding gifts for them. I’ve learned to save up a few special gifts for the beginning of the week, and stop by to talk with prospective bachelors here and there, freeing up most my time for other pursuits.
The one semi-beef I have with the game is that I don’t find the selection of eligible guys all that exciting or deep. I’m a hard-working girl who is surviving and running a business off my farm. I’m not interested in a bunch of teens who are either jocks, bishie, sk8ter bois, or live in their parents’ basement and only seem to get off their computer for an hour between 3 and 4 pm or for a walk late at night (I’m looking at you Sebastian).
The only somewhat productive young adult seems to be Harvey, the town doctor. But he’s also quite…. uneventful. His whole personality sadly seems to revolve around talking about washing hands, health food, and getting checkups, none of which is very deep.
I guess I could try to befriend Elliott, who is supposed to be a writer. But I’m not sure about the whole bishie look he’s got going on. I figure a lot of the girls would gravitate towards him for that, and I kinda wanted to pick someone I thought would be an underdog. Harvey certainly doesn’t have as much written on his wiki page as Elliott! XD
I feel like the eligible female personalities are a lot stronger, more varied, and more interesting. I’m probably being too harsh on the game, but the whole marriage-relationship feature would be more engaging to me if there were more interesting candidates. I guess that’s why I heard the dev is eventually opening up Shane as a prospect, though I usually just want to push his grouchy butt in the lake.
I unlocked the community center, as everyone does the first spring, a broken-down building that you have to revitalize through items you find, farm, forage, or collect. I thought this was an excellent idea as it provides a variety of unlocking goals to work through through the seasons. I’ve heard the rewards are quite worth it, some even opening up new areas for game play.
I also like that there are challenges of varying difficulty. This allows me to make some progress on easier goals, such as foraging or crop collections, while trying to figure out some of the harder goals over time.
Farming and Fishing
So far, I’ve used farming and fishing as my main ways of supporting myself. Farming is pretty much what I expected – clear land, hoe land, plant seeds and water. I do have the ability to build sprinklers at this point, but I haven’t yet found the iron ore I need to build them.
I haven’t gotten very far into building up my farm for animal husbandry yet. I do have a chicken coop with one chick, and learned really quickly that animals don’t get fed if you don’t have a silo. So I fixed that issue and am now just starting to raise my first livestock.
Fishing has been my go-to money maker for saving up for buildings and tool upgrades. I tried fishing a few times, however, and really disliked the mini-game part of it. So I went out and found the Super Easy Fishing Mod and just bypass the annoyance all together now. Yeah, it’s a bit like cheating, but that whole system just wasn’t for me.
Mining and Adventuring
I offset my fishing with days down in the mines, where I look for rare ores and defeat the monsters who live there. I’ve already upgraded my pickax to Copper, and have just reached level 10 of the mine in a quest to find iron.
I feel like the variety of systems the game provides is excellent in providing a “something for everyone” kind of approach, which I really appreciate. I find I never get bored because I always have something to work towards — and I haven’t event talked about the little quest log and timed quests you get. So, I’m always making some kind of progress, no matter if I decide to fish or forage or mine for the day.
As seasons change, the crops that you can plant change, too. And new events come and go. I like that it’s pretty difficult to accidentally miss an event, even though that event does take up most the day. It seems to be a good measuring stick of your relationship with other characters, too.
For example, I only had 2 hearts with Harvey, so I didn’t expect him to agree to dance with me at the first spring festival. At least he looked a little guilty when he told me he had someone else in mind.
And that’s when I realized that my rival is Maru! Dang. She’s going to be tough to outclass. 😉
So, I’ve just started my first Summer in Stardew Valley, and am looking forward to continuing to play. I like that the sessions are limited to one day, and that at night, you count up your progress and save. It makes me feel like I can sit down, get a few days done, and head off to something else if needed. Of course, that leads to the “just one more day” sort of play style too… 🙂