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Review: Stardew Valley (XB1)

by on April 25, 2017
Details
 
Release Date

PC - February 26th, 2016
Consoles - April 11th, 2017

Developer

Developer: ConcernedApe (Eric Barone)
Publisher: Chucklefish

 

When was the last time you got lost in a video game?  I mean, when was the last time you turned on a game, started playing, and lost track of time?  At times, it is very easy to lose time in massive open world games (hello Breath of the Wild).  Losing time in games like Breath of the Wild, Skyrim, and World of Warcraft is easy to do because of the mass amount of things to do.  There are countless sidequests and objectives to conquer.  There are also massive amounts of land to traverse.  Yet Stardew Valley, a pretty simplistic game in premise, took away hours upon hours of my time.  I kept thinking about why that was happening.  Even with a simple premise, Stardew Valley envelopes you in something that many adults have always dreamed of – what would life be like if we gave up our 9-5 job in search of a simpler life?

Stardew Valley starts off with your character at a desk.  You find out that you have inherited your grandfather’s old land in Stardew Valley.  The farm is in need of serious repair.  It is overrun and in ruins.  At this point, you are free to clean and work your farm as you see fit.  With some basic tools, you can clear off as much or little of the land as you want.  You can start planting, building, and raising animals as fast or slow as you want.  The premise is so simple, yet ridiculously fun and addicting.  I couldn’t stop clearing and exploring and moving things to make my farm look as perfect as I can.  In a weird way, the game is pretty realistic.  You won’t spend all day and night clearing and planting.  Your energy will eventually run out and you will find the need to sleep.  Luckily, there are ways to improve tools to help you conserve energy.

There are plenty of things to keep you occupied in Stardew Valley.  Fishing can bring you valuable resources for your farm.  Taking the time to clear every weed, tree, and rock will give you more room to grow the food you need to make money for your farm.  You can even mine for gems.  There are so many possibilities in Stardew Valley that I wanted to just try everything.  You can even cook and craft recipes.  Keep in mind that this doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time to become a master farmer.  You must carefully upgrade skills that will help you make the farm of your dreams and bring your Grandpa’s land to it’s former glory.

There some lessons that can be learned in Stardew Valley, not only on the farm, but in Pelican Town.  There is a dynamic at work in the town and you have the capability to push the town into different directions.  Perhaps you want to bring the town back to it’s former glory.  That can be done through side quests and fixing the old, rundown community center.  Perhaps you will side with the Joja Corporation, which appears to be a spot on allegory of corporations like Walmart, and help them build and takeover the town.  I loved how unique each of the characters are in the town.  Sure, you get a few bubbly, happy people.  But there are others who are angry, sad, and suffering.  Even in quick cutscenes and dialogue, you still get a sense of the things that drive them and the wishes of their hearts.  You are almost compelled to help them instead of Joja Corporation.  It’s nice to have the option, but I would venture to say that the majority of players work hard to restore the town instead of helping the Walmart wannabe.

The town is full of different places to visit.  The general store is a must visit because of the seeds and items to buy.  You can purchase bigger backpacks, which is crucial to your farming life.  The tavern is a fun place to hang out with locals and eat.  There are plenty of townsfolk who can help you with your farm, like crafting wells or melting ore into bricks.  Eventually, you will be able to do it yourself.  Then again, I really liked paying them to help me.  I felt like a crucial part in the livelyhood of the town.  Even donating items to the museum felt like it was a crucial element to helping the town survive.

If anything, Stardew Valley isn’t exactly a farming simulation, but a life simulation.  Take, for example, your social status and relationships with the townsfolk.  Doing favors for them will improve your social standing and get you access to various places in the town.  Of course, life wouldn’t be complete without the chance to woo and marry the love of your life!  Dating has never been more critical than in Stardew Valley.  You meet potential partners at various events throughout the year.  Gift giving is very important and surprisingly challenging.  But then again, have you ever given the correct gift 100% of the time?  So much of Stardew Valley can be seen in real life, and I think that is one of the biggest keys to the success and enjoyment that is found in Stardew Valley.  After a lot of work, marriage is possible and your partner will live with you and help on the farm.  If you are inclined, you could always divorce your partner.  But again, you put so much time an effort into the courtship…why would you want the divorce?  It’s fascinating how much you care when you play Stardew Valley.

Is there combat in Stardew Valley?  Sure there is!  It really isn’t anything special, but you get access to a sword and can swipe with it (think Link to the Past style animation).  As mentioned earlier, you can mine in Stardew Valley.  These ores can be sold for money or donated to the museum.  The combat is effective.  You just need to be careful and not get surrounded.  Mining is a very rewarding experience, so I suggest you spend some time in the mines and make some money.

Originally, Stardew Valley came out on the PC.  I played the Xbox One console version and it played very well.  I had no issues with framerate, movement, or finding everything in my inventory.  The buttons are fairly easy to remember.  Whether you play on console or PC, you will no doubt have a wonderful experience.  The graphics are a retro gamer’s dream.  The pixelation adds character to the game and it looks wonderful.  The music is original and adds to the character of the game.

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Stardew Valley is an incredible example of how characterization and choices can create an engrossing gaming experience.  Each choice you make has lasting consequences and repercussions.  If anything, Stardew Valley gives you not only a farming experience, but a look at how life can change with hard work and caring about your fellow man.  If you have not played Stardew Valley before, I strongly encourage you to pick it up.  You will not regret it.

Stardew Valley is available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 for $14.99 (digitally).  The Collector’s Edition, with the game, soundtrack, full printed map, and guidebook, is available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One for $29.99.
Note: GameOctane Editor Ryan Welch received a code for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.

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Positives

Create and rebuild your own farm
Help the lives of the citizens of Pelican Town (or help a corporation instead)
Tons of activities
Build relationships

Negatives

Gamers looking for fast paced action may not find it in Stardew Valley

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
A+

 
Graphics
A-

 
Story
A+

 
Replay Value
A+

Total Score
A+

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Bottom Line
 

Stardew Valley is an incredible example of how characterization and choices can create an engrossing gaming experience. Each choice you make has lasting consequences and repercussions. If anything, Stardew Valley gives you not only a farming experience, but a look at how life can change with hard work and caring about your fellow man.

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