Sunday, July 3, 2016

I Played: Stardew Valley

A serene, snowy forest.

Harvest Moon is a game that first appeared on the SNES in 1996. Unlike many of its contemporaries, instead of shooting aliens or questing through medieval lands to save the world, this game gave you a run down farm, tools to manage it, and a small, sleepy village nearby. Future games in the series expanded on this concept, giving you more hobbies to pursue, more animals to raise, more crops to plant, and more villages to get emotionally attached to.

Somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, Harvest Moon began to stagnate. The core of the game was still there, but many of the same rough edges refused to be smoothed down: watering large numbers of crops was a time intensive process that never got easier, feeding animals was the same, the villages you lived near began to all blend together except for when there were stand-out examples of NPCs being total jerks to you, and even the open-ended nature of the game lost its ability to hold my interest.

Enter Stardew Valley: a Harvest Moon-like game made mostly by one person which addresses every complaint I've heard and made about the series over the years - and more. Sprinklers and building upgrades allow for automated feeding of animals and plants, NPCs are dynamic and grounded in a more modern (but still sufficiently rural) life, and you're presented early on with a focus of improving the town either through collection quests or the power of capitalism. There's also a large number of small mysteries that really add to the character of the setting as well, ranging from subtle context clues in NPC dialog about the shape of the political landscape outside your sleepy valley, to a man who appears in the rain and waits for you to be ready for the pendant he holds close, to the exotic Void Chicken.

I've sunk over 70 hours into this fine game over the last three months and there's still more for me to do and discover. There's even a much anticipated patch coming in the near future with even more content. I can't wait to play more, and with the promise of multiplayer farming in the future, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this game to anyone who wants to kick back and live the farming life for a while.

You can purchase Stardew Valley on Steam for $14.99

Words to live by.