Stardew Valley is a “farming simulator” that released in 2016. In the past months, it had another massive update that included online multiplayer mode which drove people back to the game. After so many years I recently started streaming it again, and I find myself still in love with this game that seems so simple on the surface but is a delightful and surprisingly complex game.
Stardew Valley starts with you visiting your grandfather on his deathbed. He tells your character that you were always a favorite and that he wants to give you a special gift, handing you an envelope. He insists that you don’t open it now, but wait until the weight of modern life gets to be too much. Flash forward to your character working for a giant company and finally being driven to open the letter. In it, you find that your grandfather has left you his farm, and you leave your life to go to Pelican Town to take the farm over. When you arrive, you are greeted by an old friend of your grandfather’s and shown the farm which has fallen into disrepair. Thus begins your adventure as a farmer.
I put “farming simulator” in quotes because while that is what the game is at its core, that’s a somewhat limited explanation of it. You will spend a great deal of your time on your farm, growing crops, raising animals, and generally helping the area to recover from its neglect, but there is a lot more happening beyond that. There is also mining to be done, a museum that needs filled, various stories to unlock, and people to get to know. Pelican Town is reflective of the farm, it’s a town that is filled with people that also need your help and restorative touch. As you live in the town and start to rebuild the farm, you will be given a chance to get to know and help those around. Slowly you unlock more of their stories (many of them quite sad actually) and develop closeness with them, this in turns allows you to have a positive effect on them often. From helping one character with his alcoholism and depression to helping another come out of her shell.
There is also the choice between fixing the town’s community center thus keeping the small nature of Pelican Town alive and well, or choosing to help Joja Mart (the company you work for at the start) move in more and have a greater hold on the town.
The game develops with you and the more effort you put into Stardew Valley, the more rewards you get from it. You can play the game never really talking to anyone or completing quests and have a fine time. But if you spend your time really getting to know the characters and helping the town develop you will see many interesting returns for your efforts.
So after so many years why am I still playing? Because it’s still one of the best games, I have ever played. The fact that the game is still being updated and having new features added is nice. Starting a new farm after months of playing gave me the chance to explore completely new features to the game. Even aside from the updates though there is a lot to discover in Stardew Valley. Developing relationships and completing the various things in the game takes time, but it’s oh so worth the effort put in. As I said, this game develops as much (or as little) as you want it to. For me, it is worth playing the game for years (in game) to unlock as much as I can and see the full development.
I am also a sucker for the gameplay in this game. I like micromanaging heavy simulator games. There are a lot of different things to do in the game, and growing and developing your farm (and the outside world) is enjoyable to play as well as “experience.” There are different crops for each season and different things you can do with those crops (cooking, turning them into goods, or just selling them as raw materials). There are also many animals you can adopt, trees to grow, and things to experience off the farm as well. The mine is a huge aspect of the game and brings in action to the gameplay. There is also fishing, which is actually a bit tough, but worth it. All in all the game is just a lot of fun if you like this simulator type game.
I have very few complaints, and over the years a lot of them have actually been fixed with updates. As of now, the biggest one I have is that the soundtrack is, but music plays far too rarely. I also wish you could change your character’s hair and clothing after you start the game, but I enjoy vanity in games, so it’s not really a big thing just personal preference.
The truth is there are a lot of games in the same vein as Stardew Valley, some released before, and others after, and a lot of them are also great fun. However, as time goes by I keep coming back to Stardew, and I just keep enjoying it. I love the character development, I enjoy watching the town develop, I like the gameplay, and it’s just fun. That is, in the end, the most important thing, can I keep having fun with a game even after playing it multiple times.
At this point, I don’t know if there will be more updates to Stardew Valley, but I honestly don’t care. I would love to have more added of course, but as the game stands right this moment, it’s still one of my favorite games and one of my go-to gaming experiences. So this year and for years to come I will keep playing Stardew Valley, and I will keep recommending it to other gamers.