Stardew Valley is a true hidden gem of farm-simulating PC games that offers more than watering plants and getting hitched. I was challenged continuously to be efficient and productive in and outside my farm, whether it was greeting every passerby or fighting slimes for treasure.
You’re first greeted with a cut-scene showing your character working in an office cubicle for a wearisome company called Joja. A flashback appears of your dying grandfather telling you that one day you’ll grow tired of the tolls of modern society. He hands you an envelope and instructs you not to open it until that day comes and you’re ready to move on from your old mundane life.
A day in the life of a farmer
Your new Stardew Valley life begins with taking a bus out of the city, and into the rural valley of Pelican town. This is where you’re introduced to the plot of land that was the surprise gift your grandfather had promised you. However, the field is overrun with large boulders, trees, and an overgrowth of bushes. You need to use your skills as a novice farmer to restore your grandfather’s land to its former glory. These skills range from: farming, combat, fishing, foraging, and mining; it may be a bit overwhelming at first, but it just takes practice and dedication on upgrading your tools to make your skills efficient.
Farming and Fishing
You’ll definitely feel the weight of being a new farmer through the multiple tasks that you juggle throughout the day. However, you will develop a natural to-do list every morning once you get the ball rolling and things growing. Tending to the crops becomes a relaxing and rewarding experience as you water and watch your seeds grow everyday. It may take a while for seeds to mature, but you won’t be disappointed when you’re rewarded with a heavy pocket full of cash.
Things get really exciting once you’re able to afford some farm animals and new buildings. Not only do animals produce a wonderful source of money, but they give a new amount of life to the farm. They are truly pleasant to be around as they grow to love you and become a part of your family. You can also fish in the ponds scattered around your farm and in other bodies of water around the valley. Fishing will help bring extra revenue to your pockets whenever you’re on downtime from farming and exploring the mines. You can find interesting things from fishing such as treasures that give you random loot with a chance of a rare item. Never miss an opportunity to go fishing once in a while, you might get lucky! You may even find yourself fishing up garbage from time to time, but it can be processed to make random items, which means even trash can be valuable.
Mining and Combat
Mining is another element of success for your farm alongside combat. Combat accompanies this since there are monsters that get in the way of precious loot in the mines. One thing I noticed, however, was how time-consuming it was to walk to the mines everyday from the farm since there is a good distance between them. Walking will be dull at first since things start slow, but there will be shortcuts that you can unlock that makes life easier. Ores can be farmed in the mines and will provide bars that can be used to upgrade tools.
Tools will be your savior, so upgrading as soon as possible will save you from a world of hurt and frustration. Precious gems and artifacts can either be given to townsfolk, sold for money or donated to the local library for unique rewards. You can find rarer items the farther you travel down the mines, however, the monsters will be harder to kill. There are check points at certain levels of the mine to entice you to keep exploring and finding valuable treasure until you reach the very bottom. It can be dangerous, so be sure to always keep your trusty sword at hand and upgrade your weapons as needed.
Friendship and Foraging
It can be repetitive doing the same routine everyday, so venture down the beaten path and prepare to discover some interesting characters and items along the road. There are wild vegetables, fruits, and flowers that you can collect in town that make great gifts or ingredients. Donating these edible goods to the community center can offer a mountain of perks and prizes that will help you along the way. Collecting these items whilst walking around town can be convenient when encountering a friend that enjoys that item or making a quick buck. It’s a rewarding feeling being able to give gifts to the community and figuring out which things each character loves or hates.
One unique thing I noticed about the game is that many characters respond with hearts above their heads when you give them a gem that is similar in color to their hair or eyes. It made figuring out what everyone preferred easier and is a cute little addition to the game. There are also cutscenes for each character during various relationship levels if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. You get a chance to have a personal moment with that character and even get bonus friendship points if you say the right things to them. As friendships grew stronger, my ability to understand and relate to them did as well; I even developed empathy as each character revealed a personal struggle hidden within them.
There is strong character development with all the unique people of Pelican town, each with their own personal likes and dislikes that truly brings them to life.