I like to consider myself a lifelong gamer, though more of a casual one lately. Between my full time job in news media and being a full time father and husband, there just isn’t much time left for gaming; I’m lucky now if I get in an hour a day. So I tend to go back to classic games, old friends that I know well and still enjoy playing today.
I’m not totally out of sync with current times, thanks to my 15-year-old son. In fact, my trio of children introduce me to all sorts of games that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Some of them are pretty great, others are awful. Rarely do I see more than two of the three kids playing the same thing, so when a game comes along that has five of the six people living in the house all playing at the same time, I have to sit up and take notice.
Stardew Valley: A Game Everyone Can Enjoy
I’m not sure if started with my brother-in-law or my youngest son, but Stardew Valley spread to my daughter and suddenly there were three of them with their own copies, playing for hours at a time. It didn’t take long after that for them to get my wife, a long-time Harvest Moon fan, to get in on it. (She created her own Steam account just to be able to buy and play this game.) The final ring in the chain was my teenage son. He’d never played simulators or farming games in the past. He does now.
The phenomenon that is Stardew Valley had taken hold of my household and was digging in deep. They’d compete to see who can finish a season first. They’d talk about what they want to do when the game goes multiplayer. The kids were even gathering in the living room just to watch my wife play it on the TV. Not since Minecraft has my family been so captivated and united around a single title.
I had to find out what the fuss was all about, so I logged into my Steam account and bought my own copy of Stardew Valley.
The game was designed, built, and marketed by one man, Eric Barone, who goes by ConcernedApe* on the Stardew Valley website. Barone worked on SV for the last four years all on his own. Every character, every bit of dialogue, every pixel. After so much time invested in making the game that he wanted to play, he was happy to take a break once it released back on February 26.
“Toward the end of April the launch buzz had cooled off enough that I could afford to take a short break. It’s been nice…” Barone said on his blog on May 1st, “I’ve actually played some other games for the first time in a long while, which was fun… I feel refreshed, and I’m ready to get back to work!”
In the same blog post, Barone goes on to give us his wish list for upcoming additions to the game. His first priority is a content update, but then his focus shifts to introducing multiplayer to Stardew Valley.
“Now, there’s obviously a huge amount of work involved to achieve all this…” said Barone, “and I am just one person. I know in the past I’ve been very adamant about doing everything myself… and I still am, when it comes to game design and content.” But for multiplayer, Barone made a deal with current publisher Chucklefish to have them work on the porting, localization, and technical side of multiplayer. This frees him up to continue working on new content for version 1.1.
Not that there isn’t already a load of content in the base game. From your first steps out onto your grandfather’s farm, you can feel how big the world is, that this isn’t going to be some walk in the park. (But you can totally take a walk through the park if you want.)
From your farm, you can visit the bus station, the park, the beach, the woods, and a large city filled with plenty of other people for you to interact with. You can even get yourself a spouse. Then there’s the caves. You can dive down into a cave and find a dungeon-like experience complete with monsters to fight. The diversity in this game was astonishing.
Harvest Moon alums will love the farming simulation elements. It’s easy to spend hours just tweaking and planting your farm. But soon you’ll have to visit town to get yourself more seeds or supplies, which can result in flirtations with your chosen spouse or one of a dozen other characters. It’s easy to get lost in this world.
The game is beautifully rendered with bright, vibrant Super Nintendo-esque graphics. The sound design is perfect for this type of game and really helps the experience. So much so that I ended up getting the soundtrack and listening to it when I write or play other games.
My experience with Stardew Valley was filled a bit of awe and lots of fun. I gave it a try and it pulled me into a 16-bit world that I’ve yet to come back from. But like the best shooters, this one is best played with another player. While you can’t actually play in the same game yet, you can each have your own game and compare each others stuff. My wife and I are constantly comparing our progress with each other, always trying to get farther than the other.
Bottom line here: if farm simulators, 16-bit graphics, great music, and RPG elements all get you excited, then Stardew Valley is a game that you must check out. You’d also be supporting a fantastic game designer building the ultimate do-it-yourself project.
Get it for yourself on the official Stardew Valley website!
* No relation.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!