A Girl in the Game: Stardew Valley
A show of hand for who all saw this one coming? Yes, this has all been leading up to Stardew Valley, the game I’ve been playing every chance I get for the past two weeks or so. It started with a friend, as it always does, texting me to ask if I’d heard of it and telling me it was a lot like what she’d heard me say about Harvest Moon. So naturally I check out the video for it and decide that I need it. This is the first game I’ve ever bought on my own off Steam. Usually I just get free games or my husband buys a game he knows I want and gives it to me as a surprise. But this one I purchased for myself and I felt very grown up about it.
Stardew Valley is a super new game, just released at the end of February. It doesn’t even have a walkthrough on Game FAQs yet. That’s how new it is. It’s basically Havest Moon adapted to take advantage of being a PC game, and it does that pretty wonderfully. The premise is, naturally, you grandfather left you a farm in Stardew Valley for when you found yourself in need of a simpler life. You get sick of your big corporate job and more out there to start life as a farmer. The farm is overrun with trees and rocks and weeds, but you clear them out and start making friends with the villagers. There are festivals to go to, single villagers to woo, animals to buy, and places to explore. At it’s core it is very much like Harvest Moon.
As I said, though, the game takes advantage of being a PC game. This adaptation allows you to point and click to talk to people and interact with things which gives you a wider range of interaction. You can chop wood that’s at a diagonal from your square, which is nice, and interact with the tings in your back pack much easier. It’s a little wonky, though, sometimes when your facing one direction and your mouse isn’t perfectly in front of you you’ll turn to the side to do an action you meant to do else where. Aiming is not always as easy as you’d think. Other than that, the mouse is integrated really well into the game. You can also get achievements, because Steam, which unlock hats you can buy from a cat in a little house south of your farm. It’s quite delightful.
There are many other differences that make Stardew Valley stand out from Harvest Moon. You can customize your character for one, choosing gender and skin color and clothing and hair and all that. You can pick some funky colors, which is interesting, except that I wasn’t paying attention when I made my first character and stopped on the first flesh-ish color I found after the vibrant blue and purple and green, which turned out to actually be an ashy-grey color. Ah well. It’s always fun to make your own little avatar. All bachelors and bachelorettes are woo-able by both genders, which I think is a little funny because it means that any friendship with any single character is taken as flirting. There are still ten friendship hearts to earn, which you can keep track of from your inventory page for the whole village, which is super nice. You can only give gifts to any one person twice in one week, though and once in a day. Most Harvest Moon games allowed for as many gifts given as you wanted, though they only earned you friendship points once a day.
You are also given the ability to craft things in Stardew Valley. A page in your inventory screen allows you to build things like fences and sprinklers and fertilizer and machines that you would have and to buy from the shopping channel in other games. I kind of love this feature because it makes a lot of things you gather much more useful, and gives you more to do. Things like chopping wood and mining become more quests for components than ways to pass the time and get money. It’s also a lot easier to generate wood and stone for buildings this way. Mining is also made more interesting by the addition of cave monsters. You need a sword and a pickax for mining in this game. The monsters you find in the mines change as you go deeper and become more challenging, but also give off components needed for things and items to sell, which is nice. For instance, bug meat is turned into bait for your fishing rod, so I spent a lot of time running around the upper levels of the mines looking for cave bugs to kill. There are also more gems and things to find in the caves than I’ve seen in other games.
Fishing is a special process in this game. It’s a mini game that requires you to keep a bar behind the moving fish by clicking the mouse. It takes a lot of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it can be pretty fun. You just have to suffer through the first few fishing levels to get things that help. There are also lots of different fish to catch which are used in different recipes. Some fish are harder than others to catch, but you can usually buy the really hard ones from the gypsy who comes on Fridays and Sundays.
Similarly to Rune Factory, villagers will give you quests to complete while you play through the game. You can check the bulletin board for timed delivery quests for the villagers, or you’ll occasionally receive a letter or have a villager come to your house to ask you to do something without a time-limit. I tend to avoid the timed quests unless I know I have what they want. Sometimes they’ll ask for a vegetable, or a gem or something that I have lying around, sometimes they want a fish, or for me to catch a bunch of one fish, which is just not going to happen. The game doesn’t like me that much. The blacksmith keeps asking for more and more copper ore, which I have, but to complete the quest you have to actually go and mine it in the two days you’re given. This was fine when it was like 20 pieces, but 35-40 pieces of copper ore? Unless I saw it first thing and mined all day I doubt I would get it.
Unlike Harvest Moon, the game doesn’t culminate on your marriage. You can get married and sometimes your spouse will help you out on the farm, and if you play your cards right, you can have up to two children, but the game doesn’t center around that event. You move on a keep playing almost like nothing happened, though apparently your spouse can get jealous when you give other people gifts. I’m enjoying the fact that there’s still lots to do even though I’ve accomplished that goal. There are new areas you can open up after playing for a while and doing certain things. My favorite is the community center you can restore by completing bundles inside it. Once you’ve collected all the items needed for one section the little sprites who live in there will restore the room and fix something in the town or surrounding area. It’s pretty fun.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with Stardew Valley. My husband might be a little concerned with the amount of time I’ve put in, thus far, but It really is rather addicting. I have a few minor complaints here and there, but over all I’m really enjoying it and I would highly recommend it for those who enjoy this kind of game. Give it a try, I bet you’ll have fun with it too.