I'm going to review one of my favorite games: Stardew Valley. This is a farming simulator game that was inspired by Harvest Moon, and built solely by one man: ConcernedApe (Eric Barone). I am incredibly impressed at how much content went into this game considering it was one person who built it. You can definitely tell it was inspired by Harvest Moon from the style and mechanics, and yet it is still its own game. I'd even go as far as to say it rivals Harvest Moon in many ways, especially since content can be added/updated over time to keep it fresh.
My first impressions of the game was curiosity, and then complete fan girling. I've been a fan of the Harvest Moon series a long time, so when I discovered Stardew Valley... well, I definitely had to try it. It didn't disappoint me for a minute and I was blown away right from the beginning. This game has inspired nicknames such as "Stardew Flu" because of how addicting it is and how quickly it spread among players. It was a huge success, and that also meant it would have more production opportunity in the future. We've been promised multi-player capabilities this year, as well as ports to console platforms. I can't wait to be able to play this with my friends and see what co-op type activities we can do.
When you first start playing the game, you get an intro screen (by the way, click around on the intro screen a little for some surprises *wink*) and then character creation. That's right... you get to customize your character! From hair, to clothes, to making your skin blue like an Avatar... you get to be unique. Then, you add some details such as character name, farm name, and what pet you want. Don't be confused by 'favorite thing' (like I was at first), just type in whatever you like here... it wont make too much difference in the game, however, it might give you a laugh later on depending on what you put.
Finally, you get to pick your farm type. This is actually something that was implemented later in the game with a new patch. Originally, there was only one farm type. So now, you get to pick what type you want. If it is your first playthrough of the game, most recommend going with the starter/original farm (first option) because it is the easiest to manage and learn. Once you've gotten the hang of the game, on your next play through you'll have a better understanding on which farm type is best suited to your play style. For example, if you love fishing, you'd want to pick the river farm because you can catch a variety of fish right there on your farm. If you like mining, the Hilltop farm would be to your liking, because a patch of the farm provides you with stone and minerals to collect each day.
Not only do you pick a farm type though... you also get a different starter house depending on what you choose! Each starter house is the same size and has the same important items (such as the bed and tv) but they're decor will be different. E.g.: Anchors on the wall, potted tree plants, an amethyst on the table.
Now onto the game play. As with other similar game types, you start with basic tools and have to clean up your farm a bit and then explore the map to get to know people. You'll have quests to do, but most are optional. You can then choose how you'd like to make money. At first, you pretty much can only forage and farm. After a few days though, you'll get a fishing rod and have access to the mines. So then its up to you to decide what you enjoy doing most and use that to build up your money. You aren't forced to do anything in particular to progress in the game, but you'll need to complete certain objectives and quests to trigger main event story lines. The side quests often have fun little story additions too. The more you get to know villagers, the more you learn about them and the town.
You will struggle at first to manage your stamina, as your tools are basic and heavy to use. The more you use your tools though, the more you'll improve your skill with them and then the less energy will be consumed with their use. The more you advance particular skills, the more craftable items you'll unlock too, making your daily maintenance easier and more profitable. You also get the chance to upgrade the tools themselves, not only making them easier to use with your stamina, but also giving them stronger ability, maybe even unlock some new areas on the map.
Here is some advice that I recommend to new players. Start the game... play it through Spring, maybe a little into Summer too. Then... start over. That's right, I want you to start a whole new game at that point. Why? Because now you'll know the basics of the controls, how to manage your stamina, and the pacing of time. Its very likely that when you first started, you missed a lot of things or messed things up because you didn't know what to do. Now that you're familiar with how the game works, starting over lets you have a better chance at being more successful in the game.
Is the game worth playing long term? Any replay value? Absolutely. Especially after the patch that added new content... there is a whole bunch of things to do over years in the game. Marriage, kids, adventures, achievements, maxing your skills, finding all the secrets, unlocking all the villager's stories. You can also build up your farm and decorate it as much as you like. There is so much furniture and decor in the game, almost no players will ever have the same farm design. There is some end-game type story too, but it doesn't mean your game has to end. Play as long as you like. Three years is the minimum for main story content, and after that, its up to you how far you want to go.
I can't tell you how many times I've started over in this game... but that's just me. I enjoyed trying out each farm type, marrying different people, doing different farm builds. While some things perhaps started to feel repetitive at times, there was still enough 'new' stuff to do that I never minded.
If I had to give the game any sort of criticism... and I honestly had to think long and hard on this, heh. All I can say is that I'd want to see some new content added, such as new areas to explore or new characters visiting/moving into town. Maybe some new pet options (like a bird, or fish aquarium for example) and customization for the starter pets. There are mods that can change your animal's appearance, which is great. However... I personally am not into modding my games. I'd love to have had the option to have a black cat, or perhaps a different breed of dog. It'd also be nice if the pets over time could be of use to you in some way. Maybe they occasionally bring you an item they grabbed on the farm.
So there you have it. My review of one of my favorite games: Stardew Valley. If you'd like to know more about the game, I recommend the wiki, and youtube videos. Be careful though if you don't want spoilers. There are a LOT of secrets in the game, and if you prefer to discover them for yourself... you don't want to get spoiled. In fact, players are STILL after all this time finding new secrets in the game, which is very fun to know. I love the game, and I encourage and recommend everyone else to give it a try too.