Stardew Valley is the kind of game that’ll end up sucking up your time without you even noticing. On my second playthrough, I managed an impressive twelve hours. And I found that I enjoyed it quite a bit for good measure, even after replaying it on PlayStation 4 thanks to the new retail version published 505 Games.
Stardew Valley is part of perhaps gaming’s strangest and most addictive genre; farming sims. From Farmville to Harvest Moon, gamers have shown that they’re surprisingly willing to sink time into tasks most people are desperate to avoid. I would say Stardew Valley goes beyond that, however, and crafts an experience that’s more about interacting with people and even going on an advetnure. Now, while you have the freedom to interact, free-roam and do your thing, the bottom line is that you need to keep the promise to your late grandpa and do some farming.
The basics of the farm have to do with choosing what to grow and well. The PS4 controller is actually pretty useful for navigating the menus, and most of your work will involve figuring out the right crops for the right seasons. It starts off with a touch of trial and error, but you get the hang of it sooner than later. There’s a crafting system (because of course there is ) but it’s very accessible
Stardew Valley manages to keep things smooth, so you actually find yourself going from one day to the next without much trouble and getting into the flow of things rather smoothly. Usually, you’ll need around a season to figure out the flow of things. Now, the game does challenge you by introducing fatigue into the equation, meaning you need to figure out how to organize your time.
Now what makes Stardew Valley more diverse is that there’s a whole other section devoted to spelunking. This part isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been, but basically it boils down to exploring a cave and defeating baddies to get all sorts of items and helpful resources. It’s more or less optional, but I definitely recommend it as the loot can be pretty useful.
Perhaps the most addictive part of Stardew Valley for me is the social interaction. Your farm is located in a small village, and you can interact with the people of the village right up into a nice little marriage. It does suffer from the usual problem videogames have with relationships in that getting in good with a pixelated girl seems like it’s an arbitrary process built around showering her with gifts, but it’s surprisingly immersive. In its own way, the community in Stardew Valley takes on a life of its own
Your actions in the town have an impact, and you get a real sense of affecting your environment and being a part of something bigger. Stardew Valley has a real knack for creating that kind of experience, and I think it benefits from the incredible level of detail in the town, and the animations manage to lend the whole thing a sense of vibrancy. Characters are also distinct enough to feel like they’re unique, even in the top-down view, and the little quirks in each one manage to lend Stardew Valley a real sense of personality. The soundtrack, while not my favorite chiptune OST, is a definite plus here as well.
Stardew Valley has more and more in store, and like other simulation/crafting titles it’ll get content updates as time goes on, meaning it sinks its teeth into you you’ll find yourself spending quite a bit of time on your virtual farm.
Stardew Valley was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 digital copy of the game provided by 505 Games. The game is also available on Xbox One and PC via retail and online stores, and planned to release in 2017 on Nintendo Switch. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Simple interface
• Variety of activities
• Vibrant pixel art
• Immersive gameplay
• Occasionally repetitive soundtrack
• Relationships can be slow to build