Stardew Valley is a game in the same vein as major titles such as Harvest Moon, and Rune Factory. A few key differences exist behind Stardew Valley and it’s predecessors, and a large amount of similarities. This review will attempt to reconcile the good and the bad that ultimately comes from a western interpretation of what has in the past primarily been a sub-genre of Japanese origin. Similar western interpretations range from titles as diverse to Terraria all the way to the Sims. What these games are at their heart is essentially a life simulation. In this case a life in a mysterious valley with an interesting cast of characters. So, is it worth a venture into Stardew Valley?
In Stardew Valley you take on the role of a new citizen of Stardew Valley who inherits a farm from a family member. From here you go on your merry way carving through chopping mindlessly at farm plots, and cutting down trees. Eventually you even have a working farm! Gameplay wise the game is very similar if not identical to Rune Factory 4, and less so Harvest Moon.
So, what does this exactly entail? First and foremost there are dungeons that your character is able to go into, and you have a general exhaustion meter that makes you eventually have to return to go to sleep or use items to restore your energy. The game uses a calendar similar to the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games, and events occur according to this calendar. In addition several of the events in the game occur like mini-games. One of the more interesting aspects of Stardew Valley is that it has these instanced mini-games inside of it, and they add a bit of a compelling reason to make it different from Harvest Moon or Runefactory 4.
Farming in the game works rather similarly to Runefactory 4 or Harvest Moon. You till the soil, plant crops, water them, and potentially use fertilizer to help them grow. Depending on how well you do all of this the plants end up growing. If you have higher level crops they give greater yields.
Finally, we come to the dungeon portion of the game. This portion of the game is relatively weaker in comparison to it’s genre counterpart Rune Factory, and is easily one of the weakest parts of the game. While it’s appreciated to have something to do besides farming and doing tasks for villagers ultimately it feels like combat is more of an afterthought than an actively engaging aspect of the game.
Graphics and Sound:
In the realm of graphics and sound Stardew does a competent but not exactly impressive job. Largely the graphics fall in the vein of being similar to games of yore from the SNES era. The graphics although a modernized version of those you would have expected in an earlier time don’t exactly do much to add or take away from the immersion.
As far as the sound track is concerned I didn’t find any of the theme songs particularly memorable, although I can’t say that any particularly stood out as being grating or bad as such the game does largely what it sets out to do in this regard. Over-all the game is a fairly competent but generic title in this regard in a similar fashion to Terraria, and Starbound.
The story segments of the game come over time, and in the event of in-game event sequences. You are capable of romancing several characters within the game including same sex partners. While a welcome shift away from Harvest Moon, and Rune Factory in pushing forward this more forward thinking ideology that allows you to romance characters of either gender I didn’t really feel any of the narratives were particularly interesting. In addition although mods exist to make the other characters portraits improved none of them felt very visually appealing.
Ultimately I think Stardew Valley is a very competent game that takes cues from it’s predecessors and attempts to improve upon them in a few aspects. However, ultimately the game seems to fall just short of being an actually great title, and staying mixed in with the rest of the pack. Ideally if the game had a more robust story with variation in a sandbox, as opposed to a sandbox with a fairly mediocre story the game would have been a bit stronger. As such, although the game is enjoyable and without any major flaws it lacks the necessary strengths for true greatness.