Stardew Valley: Should You Buy It?

stardew valley review
Build the farm of your dreams!

Trying to decide if the hype is worth the price?

Stardew Valley has been breaking records since its release in February of this year, selling over a million copies to date and topping the Steam sales chart in the weeks after its debut. But as a farm simulator, the indie smash hit might not be a game for everyone. If you are on the fence over whether or not your $15 will be well spent, read on to find out what exactly there is to do in the tranquil land of Stardew Valley.

1) What It’s About

If you are a fan of the Harvest Moon series, you will find the beginning of Stardew Valley to be quite familiar. You start off as an unhappy city worker who is given the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to leave your monotonous life behind and start completely over in the quaint Pelican Town. The way you choose to make money and spend your time in game are up to you, with the changing seasons and the day/night cycle providing different events for you to experience. Stardew Valley has four 28-day months that represent each season, with an endless number of years that can be played through in game.

2) Who You Are

Customize your avatar.

You arrive in Pelican Town as the recipient of your grandfather’s old farm and house, which needs to be cleared out and rebuilt to its former glory. Your avatar can be customized from a wide variety of choices including gender, the clothes they wear, and their basic, pixelated look. As the newcomer to town, you are a source of doubt and mistrust for the longtime inhabitants, and you must make a concentrated effort to get on friendlier terms with your neighbors.

3) What You Do

Unlock the mysteries of the abandoned Community Center.

Stardew Valley offers a variety of ways to earn money and build up your house and farm. Early on in the game you will discover the mysterious Community Center, housed in an abandoned building on the north side of town. Here you can complete collections of specific items and earn rewards, with each successfully filled bundle unlocking a new category of items to collect. In addition to the initial places in town that are available, there are more areas that can be unlocked by fulfilling certain criteria. You can also go on delivery quests for the townspeople, farm crops, go fishing, fight your way through the endless levels of mines, and craft new items and stronger tools to make your daily chores easier. However, everything you do eats up precious stamina, and if your bar is completely depleted you will pass out and find yourself back at home, minus several items and losing a few hours of the next day.

4) Farming & Raising Livestock

Plant crops to your heart's content.

Being a farm simulator, a large portion of the game is dedicated to just that: farming. Crops will only grow in their specified season, and will die if they do not finish growing by the time the season changes. They also must be watered every day, with the exception of the days that it rains. Each crop can be sold for a different amount of money, with some being more profitable than others. Crops can also be used with crafted machines to make more lucrative items like jellies, pickles, and preserves.

Raise animals to collect resources that can be used for cooking and to earn a profit.

Once enough time passes you will have enough money to start constructing additional buildings on your farm such as a coop and a barn, which can be used to raise livestock. These animals cannot be slaughtered for meat but are able to produce goods like milk and eggs, which can then be turned into items like cheese and mayonnaise and sold for a profit. You can also save up money to buy a stable and unlock the horse, which enables you to get around town much faster than walking.

5) Fishing

Fish the day away…once you get the hang of the mini game.

A significant source of income early on is fishing. The type of fish that can be caught, and how much they are worth, depends on the type of water they are found in: the ocean, lake, or river. Different kinds of fish are also available at different times of the day and night, and depending on the season. While the fishing mini game takes a little bit of time to get used to, once you get the hang of it you will find yourself spending hours of your day reeling in your next catch.

6) Mining

Journey deep into the mines to collect valuable ores and rare materials.

After you spend a few days in Pelican Town, you will gain access to the mines. In the mines you can battle monsters with your sword and mine for ores and other minerals with your pickaxe. The ores you find are used to upgrade your tools and craft higher level items. For every 5 levels you descend you gain access to the elevator, which will let you return to your previous position once you exit the mines. The first several levels of the mine hold copper ore while the levels much further down hold iron.

While in the mines you will have a health bar in addition to the usual stamina bar. If either of these is depleted, you will pass out and reawake in your house, losing some items, money and hours in the following day. Your progress made in the mines will also be reset, so it is important to bring along food and other restorative items before making a trek down into the mines.

7) Crafting & Collecting

Additional items become available to craft as you level up and find new materials.

Crafting is a large part of Stardew Valley, as it is needed to acquire tools and equipment that make your life significantly easier on the farm. Once you gather the appropriate materials you can craft a multitude of items such as a sprinkler, which automatically waters a specific area of crops each day, or a recycling machine, which turns trash into resources. You can also create equipment that turns crops and animal products into artisan resources, like alcohol, honey, and cloth.

Foraging bundles are one of the few collections that can be completed at the Community Center.

During each season, different wild food resources can also be collected from various spots around town. Early in the game these can provide a good source of money and can also be used as gifts given to other villagers and in completion of bundles at the Community Center. Certain objects can also be dug up from spots around town and donated to the museum, which gives a reward based upon how many items they receive.

8) Marriage

Fill up a villager’s heart meter by giving them gifts and they will become eligible for marriage.

One of the ways Stardew Valley differs from its Harvest Moon inspiration is its marriage system. Socializing is another aspect of gameplay that you can choose whether or not to participate in, and requires a dedication to doing chores and figuring out what presents your neighbors like best. Do this enough times and that townsperson will be eligible for marriage. You are also able to marry either gender, a small, progressive touch that will hopefully become the norm for all games.

Once you are married the villager will move into your house and help out with the daily chores on the farm, but they will still require regular gifts to keep them happy enough to do so.

9) What’s Fun About It

A dog and a farm. What more do you need?

If you enjoy casual games and the comfortable feeling of routine, Stardew Valley is an excellent way to unwind and decompress from the stress of everyday life. You create your own goals and make tangible progress in completing them every in game day you play, and with it comes a reassuring feeling of accomplishment. There are no time limits or pressure to finish something within a certain time- even if you don’t complete what you want to in a particular season, there are a limitless number of years that will follow for you to try again next time. The amount of ways to play the game and things you can do offer enough variety to be entertaining for hours.

10) What’s Not Fun About It

The fishing mini game will become the bane of your existence when first starting life in Stardew Valley.

The lack of direction and instruction Stardew Valley gives can at times be frustrating. You have to figure out how the game and systems work on your own, and for those that prefer not to spend time going through trial and error, it can be irritating having to do the research yourself. The fishing mini game is also difficult to succeed at in the beginning, at times seeming downright impossible if you are unlucky enough to have to try and reel in insanely fast fish multiple times in a row. The socializing aspect, although a nice touch, requires great amounts of effort for a long period of time, especially given that you are not allowed to give gifts to the same person more than twice a week.

Even given its few shortcomings, Stardew Valley is well worth the price tag. Its relaxing gameplay and setting offer hours of fun that will keep you coming back day after day. If you are a fan of games like Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing, you will no doubt find another favorite with this one.

If you like games like Stardew Valley, be sure to check out these other articles:

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Aspiring game writer
Gamer Since: 1997
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Stardew Valley
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Stanley Parable, Broken Age - Act 2, Gone Home
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