I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately with creating this post…and what I mean by that is that I can hardly put down Stardew Valley long enough to make myself write about it! I am hopelessly lost inside of this charming world!
I first played Stardew Valley in 2017 after it came to the Nintendo Switch. It was a wonderfully relaxing experience and I only stopped playing it because Super Mario Odyssey came out! One of the game’s biggest inspirations was the Harvest Moon series and even having only played HM: A Wonderful Life on the Gamecube, I could immediately see the similarities in farming, relationship building, foraging for wild materials, and growing your homestead from a meager plot to a formidable farm. But I didn’t grasp many of the nuances at the time. Fertilizers for crops. Finding materials for crafting. Building up Town Hall. I just couldn’t see the larger picture and how everything related to each other in one large system.
Thankfully, that has now changed. I started up a new file on a whim after watching it streamed on Twitch by Silaria (who heads up a very fun, friendly community! Be sure to check her out!). Exposure to Stardew’s relaxing activities in a community environment stoked something in me that I had to pursue, especially since I didn’t even get through half a year on my first attempt! I have been seeking a game to dump hours into. One that is exciting, yet not overtly stressful. Stardew Valley attempt number 2 was the clear choice for that, so I played a few in-game days on my old file to re-familiarize myself with the controls. Once I felt competent enough to not pickax a tree or lose every fish on my line, I began a new journey!
My character Brink inherited the verdant Forest Edge Farm from his passing grandfather and decided to abandon his city life to pursue a simpler existence. He has since worked it up from a humble chunk of woods (the Forest farm layout) to a venerable homestead capable of outputting several hundred units of product, most notably specializing in small fruits like blueberries and cranberries, but also making space for vast fields of flowers! As soon as he is able to repair his greenhouse, the purchasing of proper fruit trees will begin. I imagine that kegs for winemaking and brewing will be a further priority to expound upon his crops of choice. He has made many fast friends in Pelican Town, not to mention his quick and spicy romance with Leah! The two are now happily married. Brink has also completed a few rooms in the Community Center thus unlocking the bus to the desert, fixing the mine cart rail system, and opening up the bridge to the quarry. He still has a long journey ahead, but many exciting moments are waiting just around the corner!
Even after starting another game, Stardew Valley sticks out to me so much because of the vast amount of ways you can play it. You can focus on planting whatever crops you so choose, from vegetables, fruits, grains, or forsake farming entirely to focus on fishing, mining, spelunking, wood cutting, etc. There is no one path you are forced to take (although it does help to be well-versed in all areas, it’s not mandatory for enjoying the game!). And all the while, the experience is one focused on relaxation.
One of my issues on my first playthrough was feeling like I had to do everything quickly and immediately. Oh, I need to do these bulletin board quests for people? I would forsake many other duties that would have been much more productive just to find that one item to get a small pile of change. Oh, I can only catch these fish during the summer? I would put off any farming to make sure I got that specific catch as quickly as possible. The concept of multi-tasking on my duties didn’t occur to me at the time, nor the fact that the game runs in season FOR A REASON. All of those unique crops and critters come right back around the next year. The daily quests for people only serve to get chump change (usually) and quick relationship boosts. I’ve found it much more rewarding to focus on my own farming tasks first and foremost, then doing what I could for people if I knew where their requested item was located.
My biggest ally on this second venture has been planning ahead. Paying attention to the schedule of birthdays, special events, and season endings on the calendar helped me be more productive with my farm than I had ever dreamed in my first excursion! Not only am I farming more efficiently, but I have also focused more time into the aesthetic of my farm: replete with stone walls around my gardens, stepping stone paths to get from patch to patch, and towering knight statues to ward off any would-be intruders (okay, they’re just for looks, but they still look awesome!).
It was also a blast working my way to the very bottom of the mine in town: something I didn’t even come close to reaching in the past. The differing styles of the levels was exciting and kept me interested, seeing the transition between cave, dark caves, ice caves, then, uh… red, creepy caves! And imagine my surprise when I found out *SPOILERS* that there is an EVEN HARDER mine, the Skull Dungeon, located in the desert and only accessible once the bus near your farm is repaired. I thought my special sword would see me through with no problems, but I was quite mistaken! I can’t wait to keep delving downward and see what lies within the lower reaches of this new catacomb!
If you’re going to take away anything from this post, it’s this: you should absolutely give Stardew Valley a try. Or a second try, like me 😉 The game is truly what you make of it, lending a freedom of opportunity and choice as to whether you want to tend the fields, perfect the art of fishing, lumberjack it up in the forest, or be a bum with Linus. Stardew Valley is one of the most calming games I’ve ever had the pleasure of dropping into, and I can’t imagine how many more hours I’ll see pass by in perpetual relaxation.
Have you played Stardew Valley? What is your experience with the game? Be sure to let me know with a comment below! And thanks for reading!