Stardew Valley: Not Just a Farming Sim (A Review)

A little while ago we were browsing the various game stores for something new to play. When Googling some games, we came across a little game called Stardew Valley. Now, I will admit that I wasn’t really sold on the idea of this game, but it was really up Alex’s street so after watching the trailer and reading some reviews, we decided to give it a go. Initially we were going to buy it on the Nintendo Switch but instead we decided to go for the PlayStation version.

You start the game by creating your character. There’s a wide range of hair and clothing options that allow you to make a retro pixelated version of yourself. You also have the option of which type of farm you like, from a standard one, to one where monsters attack you, to a multiplayer one that allows up to four of you to live and farm on the same map.

After you’ve created your character and selected your farm, you’re introduced to the story.

The basic premise of Stardew Valley is that your grandfather has passed away and has left his farm to you. Your character then moves into this farm aiming to restore it to it’s previous success.

My thinking at the time was that it would be repetitive and boring and it would end up on a list of games that I thought were a good idea but couldn’t get into; I was very wrong.

As soon as you arrive at your farm, you quickly get into the calming chores of running it. Planting crops, watering and clearing debris and weeds, soon puts your mind at ease and for some reason starts to make you relax.

But Stardew isn’t all planting crops and waiting for them to grow; far from it.

The game is spread out over the four seasons, which have 28 days in each. Each season allows you to grow different crops and also provides you with different events in the town such as a Christmas-like celebration, dances and even a luau.

When you leave the comfort of your own farm, you find the nearby Pelican Town and it’s residents.

When you first get to town, people are friendly but some are wary of you. Through your playthrough you nurture your friendships with these people, by talking to them, giving them gifts and helping them with different tasks. This all sounds quite easy, but if you give or say the wrong thing to a person then your friendship will suffer, so it’s all about finding what each person likes/dislikes. The higher up your friendship level you are with a character the higher the chance that they will give you gifts that will help you with your farm.

Along with helping the residents personally, there is also a community centre that you’re introduced to early on in the game that you’re asked to fix. You can do this by either spending money and helping the evil JoJo Co, or collecting bundles of various items. Collecting the bundles is probably harder as you need to collect crops, mining items, fish etc which involves working hard through each season and delivering them to the centre, put the rewards are worth it.

On your farm you can not only grow crops but also raise animals. At a certain point in the game you’re able to buy coops and barns which are constructed by a citizen of Pelican Town. These building allow you to buy cows, sheep, rabbits, chickens, goats and other animals that you can then raise. These animals will then provide you with milk, eggs, and rabbits feet – the in game rabbits appear to be able to grow these back an unlimited number of times. The items you receive can be processed into other items that will bring a larger profit, for example, milk can be churned into cheese, Eggs can be turned into mayonnaise and so on. You’re also able to fish in various different water sources, like the sea, rivers and lakes, each source allowing different types of fish to be caught.

But, that’s not all. As well as being a farming simulator Stardew Valley is also a dungeon crawler. Pelican Town has a mine to the north which you can enter and harvest for rock, gems and ore. Each level of the mine has different items that you can mine, but be careful, while your mining you also have to watch out for bad guys. The enemies you face included slimes (which you can also raise on your farm with the slime hutch), bugs, and skeletons, to name just a few. The items that you find in the mine, can help you with building things on your farm, upgrading items and also bring in that all important money if you sell them. But, you should watch what you’re selling, some items are rare and can be put into the Pelican Town museum for rewards – everything is worth something to someone.

Stardew is more than all this. It also has heart. As you meet the characters and learn of their backstories you find out that this game isn’t as cute and smiley as you might think. Some of the residents have dark pasts, and real problems. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but there are some characters that you really start to empathise with and end up really wanting to help them out.

I can’t do a blog about Stardew Valley without mentioning Journey of the Prairie King. Journey is a game within Stardew that can be found at the pub by interacting with an arcade machine. This game is possibly one of the hardest game with a game games I’ve ever played. Basically, it’s a top down shooter where you have to shoot enemies until the timer runs out and your transported to another level. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, well…it’s not. It’s frustratingly enjoyable though as you play and want to beat it despite dying hundreds of times. It’s a nice little addition to the game and if you’re Stardew to get trophies it’s something you need to master for the elusive platinum as you’re required to not only finish this little game but to also finish it without dying!

All in all Stardew Valley is an excellent game. It’s several simple premises put together but as a whole they work brilliantly. I’ve played this game on some of my worst days, and the simple tasks of running my farm helped me through them and calmed my mind. This game is well deserving of its ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating. It’s a game that is always being updated to bring more into the world and the fact that the game was pretty much built by a single person – with some help occasionally – is no small thing. It just adds to how impressive the game is. I look forward to the next console update so I can create a new farm and see exactly what is has to offer.

I would say that even if you don’t like games like this or think it looks too cutesy, you should give it a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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