Video Game Review: Stardew Valley

I shouldn’t be as captivated with Stardew Valley as I am.

When it comes to gaming, I generally tend to go for strategy games.  I like 4x games like Civilization and I also worship at the altar of Paradox Interactive.  I have a couple of other gaming interests – I am perennially addicted to Football Manager, I occasionally can be swayed by a good shooter like Destiny, and I love a huge epic RPG like Mass Effect or Skyrim.  Why does a simple farming simulator with graphics which comes from the Nintendo era have to offer?

Quite a bit it turns out.

Stardew Valley is a life simulator which owes a lot to games like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon.  You can farm and raise animals just like those games.  There are also a ton of side activities to include mining, fishing, exploring, running dungeons and interacting with an entire cast of colorful characters inhabiting the nearby town.  It is a tried and true formula which has worked for almost as long as we have had video games.

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What elevates Stardew Valley to truly inspired is the story.  Your character is a young adult working for a soulless company who one day loses it on the job in a very charming scene and decides to rehabilitate his grandfather’s farm.  The standard life/farming simulator activities have context – you are not just rehabilitating the farm, you’re rehabilitating yourself as the richness absent in your character’s previous life is fulfilled through hard work and companionship.  The cast of town characters are memorable and rather than be cloying, they have backstories and motivations independent of the character.  There is even a big conflict as the soulless company makes an appearance trying to buy up the town.

Stardew Valley has character and I’m not afraid to admit that it has completely charmed and won me over.  I realize this is game which is better suited for my daughters but honestly, it has touched a chord with me and judging off its popularity on Steam, I’m not the only one.  It is a game, an independent product of exactly one committed designer, which rarely gets made anymore and deserves your support.

It may not be the game you thought I wanted but ultimately, it is the game which I never knew I needed.

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