Over the last few weeks I have flown around the Solar System grinding gear, fought off 99 other people to be crowned King of an empty island and even defused bombs/rescued hostages…and sometimes you need a break from the flying bullets and other people. Enter Stardew Valley, a game I was first sceptical about, then intrigued about followed by resistant to before finally submitting to its simple but addictive fun.
For those of you who don’t know, its a mix between Farmville, Minecraft and Terraria where you move to a little village and inherit a large but messy plot of land. From there, its largely your experience as to how you play. You can be a seasonal farmer, a miner and explorer or even an industry magnate where you grow and produce your own goods. You create, forage and mine the resources and then sell them on and reinvest your profit to further your development. You can see the trailer below:
Interestingly, I began writing this last week however work took hold. That is actual real life work and the work of up keeping my virtual farm which honestly has distracted me until the early hours of the morning…
When I started all those 40 hours of playtime ago, there is no way I would have expected or understood the scale of content and just how addictive it was. Hacking away at the trees and boulders, I remember think, ‘Cool, Minecraft…’ and then I was welcomed to the village by the Mayor to meet it’s denizens. I have to give the creators credit, they have created some genuine personalities that you grow to like or hate depending on how they are. I spoke to one fella called Shane who basically told me to f*** off… while others were more welcoming. There is one guy who I thought was a girl because of his sprite called Elliot who is overly friendly which winds me up and a lovesick Blacksmith called Clint who is lusting after, and has been friend-zoned by a woman called Emily (spoilers- she’s my farm wife now, NO MERCY!). There is a calendar which shows their birthdays and they have likes and dislikes depending on the gifts you give them. I was genuinely impressed by the depth that was built into it… but despite that I have been playing largely a mercenary hermit, only helping if the price was right.
Moving back to the farm, you go through what I imagine is a simplified version of farming, you till the ground, plant the seeds, water them then watch them grow. You have an energy bar and I found myself get exhausted the first night, pass out and get robbed. So it started well but I quickly learnt that lesson- watch you energy level and sleep/eat to recover it. Across the first few in game days I prepared a nice little farm with profitable goods, ie potatoes and it was going well. And although it sounds boring, the routine was hypnotic; wake up, water the crops, pick and sell any that were ready to pick, replant, rinse and repeat. The irony of playing a game to escape the routine of a real life is not lost on me.
I then ventured into the mines to get my hands on some sweet, sweet ores and to explore… and quickly got battered by some slimes and bats. The mines to begin with are surprisingly daunting and as you progress further and further it gets harder and harder. I learnt some harsh lessons in here:
- When it gets to midnight to 1 am you just fall asleep in the mines. Don’t.
- If you die in the mines, you lose precious progress and have to do it allllll again…
- You pick up a lot of shit and run out of space very quickly
- Don’t eat red mushrooms to try and get health and energy back.
As I went on though I got my tactics down, looted some decent swords and boots (only armour you can wear strangely) and eventually made it to the bottom. I still venture in while playing now, but this is more just for material grinding rather than loot now plus the next level mine in the desert proves I need to do this journey through the levels again.
Getting back to the farm, I was doing well and Spring was nearly up. My friend asked me if I was ready for Summer and my arrogance was going to yet again be my downfall. The last day of Spring passed and the Summer sun rolled in… and burnt all my crops! I came out devastated and saw my farm was full of wilted crops that had once been a well oiled machine…. It was then I learnt about season specific crops, and that indeed I was not ready.
That was my story of the opening few hours of this great game. Since then I have got:
- a Rabbit,
- Goats and
- a Pig,
- a jam factory,
- brewery of pale lager and mead
- a Mayo manufacturing plant
- And much more….
As I mentioned earlier, the depth of this game took me by surprise and I did not expect the game to get its claws in me so much and so quickly. Compared to what I have played recently, this is honestly the welcome breath I needed. It is therapeutic and thrilling, thought-provoking and mindless, easy and challenging. For the £11 on the store I couldn’t recommend it more, and it deserves its 10/10 that critics have given it. If you want something to relax to or something to get your mind round, I recommend it!