Every now and then, I feel an overwhelming need to just drop everything I’m working on or dealing with, and get away from it all somehow, even if only for a short time. I suspect that’s a somewhat common feeling among most people. The trouble with that feeling, it seems, is that not everyone who experiences the need to get away is able to do so for whatever reason. I fall into that category rather often myself.
Fortunately for me, however, I’ve discovered an excellent way to escape my troubles, without even getting up from my computer chair. All I have to do is fire up a delightful indie game by the name of Stardew Valley, and it seems that my worries begin to quickly dissipate as I play. Throughout this review, I intend to convey exactly why I love Stardew Valley so much, as well as why I especially wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who deals with such things as excessive stress, depression, and/or anxiety, as I do on a daily basis.
I shall begin this process by explaining Stardew Valley’s plot. As it happens, there really isn’t much to discuss in that regard; therefore, I shall attempt to keep this portion relatively brief. The game begins with your character working their dead-end office day job at the Joja Corporation. As time passes through the workday, your character remembers the existence of a letter they received from their grandfather.
Within the said letter, your character’s grandfather bequeaths to you his plot of farmland in a small, relatively tightly-knit community known as Stardew Valley. Your character then decides they’ve finally had enough of the Joja Corporation and city life as a whole. You then travel to Pelican Town, the nearest town to your new home, to begin life as the local farmer. That’s virtually the entirety of the exposition you get from the opening cutscene.
Upon reaching your newly-inherited plot of farmland, you’ll find that calling the land anything along the lines of “incredibly unkempt” would be a major understatement. There are trees, tree stumps, stones, weeds, and other things, taking up nearly the entire plot of land.
You’ll need to clear out at least a small portion of this debris in order to give yourself some room to plant and tend to your first few crops. You go about this by putting your rather aged, hand-me-down farming tools to use, though you’ll find that there’s a considerable amount of debris you can’t remove without upgraded equipment. I’ll cover the process by which you go about upgrading your tools at a later point within this review.
As you begin settling into your new cabin on the farm, you’ll notice that someone has left you a gift. That someone turns out to be Lewis, the mayor of Pelican Town. He provides you with fifteen parsnip seeds to “get you started.” This is likely the point in the game at which you’ll begin developing a routine consisting of planting, tending to, harvesting, and likely selling crops.
Speaking of settling in, that topic happens to bring me to one of the very few things I dislike about Stardew Valley. At this point in the game, one of your objectives is to introduce yourself to each and every one of Pelican Town’s twenty-eight residents. Even on my main save file, which I’ve played for just under twelve hours last I checked, I’ve only introduced myself to twenty-seven people. I cannot for the life of me determine who that last person is or where they can be found, nor do I particularly care at this point.
However, I feel I should add that while I personally dislike that objective, I do believe completing it could potentially prove useful for new players. Fulfilling this objective grants you an opportunity and a reason to explore Pelican Town and learn where most NPCs can typically be located, in case you need something from them, or vice-versa. For example, exploring the town will eventually lead you to Pierre’s general store, which I consider to be the most important shop in the game for several reasons.
For one, he sells various types of seeds at more affordable prices than his main competitor, the local Joja-Mart (it seems you can’t escape the Joja Corporation’s grasp even in the countryside). Secondly, Pierre also sells upgrades for your character’s backpack which, while rather pricey, tend to be very much worth the cost; especially if you go exploring as often as I do and find yourself needing the extra backpack space.
Additionally, you’ll find a message board outside Pierre’s store, from which you can often receive missions from various townspeople asking for a favor of some description. Completing these missions will often reward you with money, as well as positively affect your reputation with whoever posted on the message board.
The only thing I dislike about Pierre’s store is that it’s always closed on Wednesdays. I tend to forget about that more often than I’d like to admit, and it frequently prevents me from selling my crops to Pierre or buying more seeds. There is, however, a way to convince Pierre to keep his store open throughout the week if you complete certain objectives. I’ll discuss that process in further detail later within this review.
As far as my personal play style is concerned, the second most important shop after Pierre’s general store is the blacksmith, owned and operated by a fellow named Clint. You’ll recall that I mentioned earlier that a significant portion of the debris on your farmland can’t be cleared out unless you have upgraded tools. Clint is the man to see about that, provided you’ve got the necessary materials, money, and time.
Certain tools in your arsenal (the ax, pickaxe, watering can, and hoe) can be upgraded up to four times in order to increase their efficiency. You’ll need at least an upgraded ax and pickaxe to deal with the larger debris on your farmland, while the upgraded watering can and hoe serve to significantly expedite the process of tilling the soil and watering crops. Upgrading a tool requires a certain amount of money and specific resources, as I mentioned. You’ll also be without any tools you choose to upgrade for a short time, as you’ll need to leave your tools with Clint for two in-game days before they can be retrieved.
How might you go about acquiring the materials necessary for these upgrades, then? Well, there’s a bit of a process to that which will require some exploration on your part. On the fifth day of Spring during the first in-game year, you’ll receive a letter which mentions that the mines near town have been reopened after the entrance was blocked off by debris. In light of this, you can now enter the mines at will. Should you choose to do so, I strongly advise bringing your ax, pickaxe, and hoe with you, as you’ll need them to acquire resources from the mines. You can use your pickaxe to break rocks within the mine; doing so potentially yields resources such as ore, stone, and geodes.
If you’re able to retrieve at least one piece of copper ore from the mines, Clint will visit you the day after you acquire your ore and give you the blueprints for crafting a furnace. You’ll need a furnace, as well as at least one piece of coal to smelt the copper ore into bars, which are necessary to upgrade your tools to the first level. The process is the same for upgrading your tools beyond the copper level with steel bars, gold bars, and iridium bars. As you might expect, each upgrade level also costs increasing amounts of money, in addition to these materials.
Speaking of crafting a furnace, that idea leads me nicely to my next discussion point. Stardew Valley features an in-depth crafting system which allows players to create several types of items that will likely prove useful around their farms. As I previously mentioned, you can craft furnaces in order to smelt various types of ore once you’ve got the blueprints and materials necessary to do so, but furnaces are quite far from the only useful items you’re able to craft.
For example, you can (and very well should) craft and place at least a scarecrow or two early in the game to keep those dastardly birds away from your crops. You can also craft things that affect your crops directly. Two examples of such things include several types of fertilizer with various effects, as well as preserves jars, which turn any fruit placed inside them into jam or any vegetable into a pickled version of the original crop. Jams and pickled vegetables tend to sell for higher prices, which means more profits for you.
The crafted items I find to be of the utmost importance, however, are sprinklers. Without a highly-upgraded watering can, the process of watering all my crops tends to consume the majority of my character’s energy and leave me unable to do much else for the rest of a given day. As you might imagine, I’ll take any help I can get with that process, outside of waiting for the occasional rainy day. That’s where sprinklers come in, though they do require a considerable amount of materials to craft.
Speaking of rain, I realized somewhat late into my first encounter with Stardew Valley that you’re able to check each day’s weather forecast via the television in your character’s home. Every time I do this, I hope to find out that rain is in the forecast. I personally look forward to rainy days for several reasons, chief among which is the fact that as you might expect, the rain will water your crops for you. Considering that, the entire process of watering crops without sprinklers consumes most of my character’s daily allotment of energy, I greatly appreciate the occasional temporary lessening of my daily workload. One might even go so far as to say I, “bless the rains,” so to speak.
So, aside from the daily requirements of farming and crafting things around your homestead, what is there to do in Stardew Valley? What are you meant to accomplish, exactly? Well as it happens, one of my colleagues asked me a similar question recently, and I spent a considerable amount of time developing my answer. That’s actually the main reason I decided to write this review so that I could strive to answer the question that was posed to me, in as much detail as I consider necessary for the benefit of anyone who might be interested in Stardew Valley, but may not immediately see the game’s appeal. I shall conclude this review by attempting to answer the questions I’ve just posed as best I can.
For those who are unaware, Stardew Valley is played over a three-year period of in-game time. Each season only lasts one calendar month, which means that a year is four months long. You are virtually absolutely free to spend that time however you wish.
You can freely focus on pushing yourself to make your farm as efficient as possible in order to maximize your profits, while casting everything else aside. You can conquer every enemy present in the 120 floors of the previously-mentioned mines. Alternatively, you can take things as slowly as you desire. Rather than farming all day, you can do more relaxing things such as fishing, or even just going for a walk around Pelican Town and its surrounding areas. Beyond that, if you so desire, you can begin the process of courting a resident of Pelican Town who happens to be single, and eventually, marry them if you play your cards right.
Ultimately, you can even take steps to become the “hero” of Pelican Town, as I call it. For the sake of new players, I won’t spoil how you go about becoming a so-called “hero,” but I will say that the process has quite a lot to do with the town’s community center. On a final note, I’m well aware that Stardew Valley is commonly perceived as little more than an indie farming simulator akin to games like Harvest Moon. I acknowledge that such an idea is indeed accurate to some degree.
However, it is my hope that, over the course of this review, I’ve done my part to change the way the game may be perceived. Stardew Valley means so much more to me personally than just the “farming simulator” aspects of its gameplay. As I said at the beginning of this review, I especially recommend Stardew Valley to anyone who suffers from excessive stress, depression, and/or anxiety, as I do.
I only say that because I’m confident that at least a portion of people dealing with those things, who decide to purchase this game, will find it as relaxing and cathartic as I always do. I feel that way about Stardew Valley because, as I said, players can take the game at their own pace and do what they feel is relaxing, cathartic and, most importantly, fun. At the end of the day, isn’t having fun doing things your way what gaming is all about?🔥21