2016 was a boring year for me in terms of gaming for me personally, the entire year I found myself struggling to find any games that truly captivated me. Yes there was plenty of Triple A releases throughout the year, including Blizzard’s Overwatch, FromSoftware’s Dark Souls 3 and Game Freak’s Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon (check out my review of the new Pokemon instalments here http://www.unkindbrotherhood.com/news/games/pokemon-sun-moon-review/). While the new Pokemon instalments captivated me from release there wasn’t much else that caught my attention last year, except on shining gem. That gem is Stardew Valley.
Stardew Valley is an indie game developed by Eric Barone, who goes by the alias ConcernedApe, and published by Chucklefish Studios released on February 26th 2016 on Steam and later released for Playstation 4 and Xbox One on December 13th and 14th respectively. Stardew Valley fits the role playing simulation genre and follows a journey that the player creates. It takes a lot of mechanics form the Harvest Moon games yet gives it it’s own twist making the two quite distinguishable.After creating your character and customising them physically and inputting their own likes the player is placed on their Grandfathers old, overrun farm outside of Pelican Town and lets them begin their new life. The game allows players to farm, cut down trees, forage for wild produce, mine, fish, fight monsters and develop connections with with the villagers of Pelican Town. During character creation the player is given a choice as to what farm they would like to play on. Originally there was only the basic farm but since receiving a major update late 2016 it is possible to choose between 5 different farms, 4 of which specialise in a different area of the game.
The core focus of the game is to restore your grandfather’s farm back to it’s former glory. How you go about this is your choice. As mentioned earlier there are plenty of methods to make money and slowly restore the farm. Selling vegetables and fruit, animal products, wood, various ores and gems as well as fish will allow the player to make money and work towards the goals they themselves set.
One of the features that almost every player will experience is developing bonds with the villagers of Pelican Town. Throughout the game the player can learn each villager’s likes and dislikes, their schedules and their personalities, and in doing so grow closer to the villagers individually. Like some of the Harvest Moon games you can marry one of the villagers once the bond between you has reached a certain level. This is measured by a hidden number that increases or decreases based on the player’s actions towards a certain villager. At the time of writing this article there are 6 male and 6 female villagers that are available for marriage. A nice feature is that the player can marry any of the 12 combined villagers regardless of their character’s own gender.
The “Antagonist” of Stardew Valley is the Joja Corporation, a large supermarket chain who has a store in Pelican Town. The head of the store wants to make the town more useful for his store, you as the player can choose to either work against them or work with them. Throughout this part of the game the player fixes up the town, the method of doing so changes depending on who the player sides with.
The villagers of Pelican Town throw events within the town, these events range from real world events like Easter and Christmas to the Flower Dance. Each event has it’s own adventure and challenge to overcome, Easter has an easter egg hunt, Christmas has a randomly generated Secret Santa and the flower dance gets the player trying to find a partner to dance with, of course you can sit it out too. It is these events that add more character and personality to each of the villagers allowing the player to create more meaningful bonds with them.
For today’s day and age Stardew Valley has a very unique art style, by opting for Pixel art Eric Barone has captured the hearts of Harvest Moon fans and new gamers alike. Graphically it is simple yet very detailed. The characters, environment and even the weather are greatly detailed and add great character to the game. Along with it’s great art style, Stardew Valley also has a phenomenal Soundtrack, it contains 70 songs and themes created solely for the game. Each song fits the area it is used in and as well as the game’s graphics. Even the loading screen theme is unforgettable. The soundtrack is available as DLC on steam, Official Stardew Valley site and streamable on Google Play Music and Spotify.
As with all games it has it’s downsides. The game focuses on growing your farm and to do so there can be parts of the game that feel very grindy, you may find yourself repeating the same tasks for several in game days simply because you need one specific item or don’t have anything else to do and are simply playing to get to the next significant event. There aren’t many downsides to talk about but I found that to be quite a significant.
As the player progresses they will grow closer to the villagers, unlock new areas of the map, restore the town and your Grandfather’s farm and create a memorable story that the player will surely enjoy throughout. After picking up the steam version of Stardew Valley shortly after release and following it’s further development and updates I can safely say Stardew Valley is one of my favourite games of 2016. The game is available on Steam, Mac, Linux, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Soon to be Nintendo Switch once it has released.