Ryu’s Musings – Stardew Valley

Posted on March 4th, 2016 by Ryu Sheng |

SDV_twitch_boxartLanguage: English
Developer: ConcernedApe
Publisher: ChuckleFish
Format: PC
Type: Farming Sim

Synopsis:

You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home? It won’t be easy. Ever since Joja Corporation came to town, the old ways of life have all but disappeared. The community center, once the town’s most vibrant hub of activity, now lies in shambles. But the valley seems full of opportunity. With a little dedication, you might just be the one to restore Stardew Valley to greatness!

For a long time many PC gamers have wanted a Harvest Moon styled game on the PC, a dream that finally looked like it would be fulfilled in 2016; when Harvest Moon would be ported to PC. However before it even had a chance to be released another game arrived on PC that is being lauded as the best Harvest Moon game to date: Stardew Valley.

The question however is, is it really that great a game? The short answer is: Yes it is. The long answer is below the cut!

It wasn’t until a week or so before launch that I heard of this game and was very surprised by a few facts. Firstly, it was designed and developed by a single guy: ConcernedApe, secondly, it took him near 4 years to get it to release; and it’s still not complete.

While the game itself is feature complete at the minute and fully working (sorta), he plans to release a patch to the game at some point this year to enable 4 player CO-OP. Though whether it’s going to be just local CO-OP or full multiplayer isn’t quite known yet, with there being different views out there.

So what’s the game about, and what do you do in it?

Well, your gramps upped and died and left you a letter, saying not to read it until the day you hate your life and want to escape. That day arrives, and inside you find a deed to a farm, so off you trot to start your new life as a kale farmer!

What I found surprising was that the farm you inherit is bloody huge, so huge it doesn’t all fit on your screen! Having recently played Return to PopoloCrois and Story of Seasons I was expecting a  relatively smaller smaller farm with upgrades down the road. However what you have here is a huge chunk of land all from the start. The ‘story’ is simply you farming, getting a wife (or husband) and getting to the two year mark. At that point it’s the official end of the game. However it doesn’t end there and you can keep going on and on and on like the Duracell bunny!

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Graphically, on first blush not that impressive of a game, in the vein of Terraria, and Starbound, with it’s pixel art graphics. Yet as you spend time playing the game you realise that while the art style is simplistic the art direction is anything but. With a lot of effort put into giving the characters a lot expressions. At times it’s almost like watching 3D with the movement range of the characters.

Honestly I was very surprised by the art in the game and found I actually ended up liking it. Thematically it’s very fitting! Truth be told the only time I found the art ‘lacking’ was in the mine, the combat did grow stale very fast since it’s the same combat animation over and over again. Thankfully mining isn’t something you have to do a lot of.

The farming is where the meat of the game is, and frankly it’s rather addictive, and peaceful. I kept finding myself thinking ‘one more day’ and the next thing I knew it was 5am and time to get ready for work >.>

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One thing to consider with regards to this game is that it’s going to take you a while to finish it, you need to go through two years to finish the ‘story’, but that’s going to be an average of around 60hours.

Sadly that’s one of the flaws of this game, the time investment. The 60hours is understandable because there’s a hell of a lot of down time in the game. I found myself getting more and more frustrated as time went on with how much wasted time there was.

This is due to the game using an energy system, as most games of this genre do, to limit what you can do; almost every action costs energy. With only movement, crafting and talking to people not taking any.

This is crippling early game, since you’re farm is covered in debris and trees that needs removing, which of course takes energy. As does the farming actions, ploughing your field, planting seeds and watering them.

On my first day I’d used 3/4 of my energy just planting the 15 seeds I’d been given, and that was before 9am. What that meant was that the rest of the day was wasted as I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t go mining, couldn’t go fishing, all I could do was nip into town and talk to people, give gifts to the love interest, and then go home for 2pm and go to bed. A huge chunk of the day was wasted because of this.

And, while it’s true you do later unlock a sauna that recharges your energy, and can eat food to as well, in the early game you don’t really have access to these. So it means you’re wasting huge amounts of the day.

I’ve no idea how he could have implemented it so as to be more balanced, but as it stands right now I’m tempted to use a hack to give myself unlimited energy.

Another part of the game I hate as well is the fishing, what a horrible mini-game to implement. If you’re playing the game with keyboard and mouse it’s a nightmare, the game feels and handles as though it was designed with controllers in mind. There have been a number of games that had fishing in them but I cant remember any that were as bad as this one was!

fishing

One of, if not the worst part of the game however is also it’s most important part, saving. The games saving method is bizarre to say the least, and frustrating when you realise it doesn’t always work!

Most games either have check point, timed auto or manual saving, this game has none of those. Rather it prefers to tie saving to sleeping, so the only way to save your game is to go to bed. However, it doesn’t always save, sure it tells you it’s saving, but the next time you login you’ve lost the previous save. It’s, apparently, tied to levelling up and selling. If you level up or sell something, it doesn’t save.

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While this isn’t effecting everyone, it’s effected enough that it’s a confirmed bug and being explored.

There’s also a bug where for some random reason, when you go to bed you can loose all your gold. Had this happen twice now, go to bed, get up the next morning and all my gold was gone. These are pretty severe issues, and damn annoying, but the worst one I experienced was the tutorial breaking, which meant you couldn’t progress with the story.

One of the tutorial missions is to introduce yourself to everyone, which is confusing, since it’s not everyone it’s just people the game thinks are important. Now it gives you a social tab listing all the people, all 29 of them…..but the quest says 28…..and there’s 32 people in the village….talk about frustrating!

What’s more on two separate occasions I’d talked to everyone in the town only to have the quest suck on 27/28 people and not progress. At this point the only option you’ve got is to restart, or carry on and ignore the story, which you can do. Now while these issues are pretty annoying, they do tend to crop up within the first hour of gameplay, so it’s easily spottable and avoidable.

Another odd aspect, to me at least, was the selling. You end up with several catagories of stuff to sell, Farm Produce, Fishing, Mining and Foraging, but you can’t sell any of this stuff in town. You deposit them in a big bin on your farm, and the respective vendors come and pick it up over night. Personally I just found this odd, after some of them (such as Willy the fisherman) tells you he’ll buy any fish, but you can’t go into his shop and sell them to him.

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I understand the reasoning behind it, I just found it an odd issue and wondered if it could have been implemented differently, and more thermatically.

Overall though the game has a lot of content and a lot of things for you to do, which is great. If you get bored of farming go fishing, or go mining and dungeoneering. Or, if you’re after something different go foraging or chatting up the local beau’s.

Lets take a brief look at the various activities within the game:

Farming

Farming really covers two areas, the first is what you’d expect: Ploughing your fields, planting crops, tending them etc etc. You also need to consider what crops you want, factoring in cost, time to grow, and how long is left in the season. The last is especially true, since if you’ve crops on the field as the season changes they just up and die. Personally I’d like to have seen a bit of lee way, a day or two into the next season.

Farming also includes clearing your farm as well. When you first arrive your farm is overgrown and needs a lot of work to tidy up. You won’t be completing that any time soon. Of course the rewards of clearing it all means more ground for farming, so there is a reward for your effort.

Fishing

The bane of my existence! Fishing is really a casual pass time and truly optional. It’s used for several things however, so if you want to do those, you’re going to do fishing as well. First is missions, in the town on the shop wall are two points of interest, the first a calendar telling you what festivals and birthdays are coming up in that season. The second is a job request board, which occasionally gets a fishing request.

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It’s also used in cooking, so if you decide to go down the cooking path, be prepared to do some fishing!

Mining & Dungeoneering & Archaeology

These two are essentially the same thing to a degree. As you want to upgrade your farming equipment you need to find ores, copper, iron, gold etc etc. These are all in the mine, which has conveniently been over taken by every type of monster under the sun, including zombies!

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Every 5 levels you’ll get an elevator point, and every 10 you get a reward chest. Inside the rocks and lodes are not just ores though, you’ll also find other things, precious gems, scrolls, and other bits and bobs of archaeological significance. These can be handed into the library/museum to rebuild the collection that the previous curator ran off with

Choose your bride/groom

Wouldn’t be a Harvest Moon like game without romance, so long as you like forced romance. Honestly I wish this wasn’t in the game. You can only talk to them twice a day and give 2 gifts a week. And thus far nothing has been really ‘romantic’ about the interactions I’ve had with my characters.

Pick a side!

Surprisingly there are sides in this game, you’ve got the spirits of the valley on one side and JoJo Mart on the other. If you pick to side with the spirits (as I have) you’ll be rebuilding the community centre by completing gathering quests for them.

I’ve not sided with JoJo Mart so I’ve no idea what their chain is like sorry

So, is the game worth buying? Given it’s price, absolutely $15/£10 for the game is a bargain, and while I do have concerns over it’s replayability this can be fixed if ConcernedApe releases farm packs, which would essentially change the farm layout. Since your farm is static and unchanging through different gameplays there’s no sense of enjoyment after the first few attempts. This is an understandable omission though, he’s not a AAA developer, he’s a single guy.

Given what I’ve seen thus far, he quite deservedly deserves to be one of the top sellers on steam, it was in fact the top seller until the Division knocked it off.

All told this game has been an absolute blast, and while I doubt I’ll get to the full 2 years it’s definitely a game I’m going to keep playing!

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