In the past five years or so, indie video games have slowly gained more ground and exposure in the mainstream gaming community. Indie games are no longer completely limited to niche audiences and the far corners of the internet. Platforms like Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight have made it a lot easier for these independent developers to get their ideas off the ground and get the exposure they need to get their games into the hands of gamers. And one of the latest indie games that has taken the community by storm is Stardew Valley, a role-playing game and farming simulator along the line of classic titles such as Harvest Moon.

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  • The story. In Stardew Valley, you take on the role of a neophyte farmer who has just inherited, from his or her grandfather, a farm plot located in a small and humble seaside town called Pelican Town. You now need to do your best to restore and revive your grandfather’s farm and find a place in your new home and community. Aside from your farm, Pelican Town plays host to a slew of other places such as the town proper, where most of Pelican Town’s residents live; a mine that you’ll be able to explore; a beach where you can go fishing; a museum where you can donate artifacts and minerals you’ve found; and more. Pelican Town is also home to a colorful cast of villagers each with their own story and place in the town’s society.
  • One-man band. One of the best things about Stardew Valley is that it’s all being done by just one man. There are by no means any big corporations or AAA developers and publishers here. Just one guy in front of his computer creating an experience that outclasses many of the industry’s goliaths. Not only does the lone developer of Stardew Valley, known by his moniker ConcernedApe, regularly release updates and patches for his game but he’s also one of the most socially active developers in the industry. From replying regularly to feedback and messages on Twitter to initiating his own Ask Me Anything (AMAs) on Reddit, ConcernedApe really shows his concern not only for his game but also his community and fans. This is probably the reason why the game has received so much fanfare. Video game developers, especially those from AAA companies, have a stigma of being lazy or uncaring so seeing ConcernedApe be so active both in development and communication with fans all by himself has inevitably attracted a significant amount of positivity and support not only for the game but for him as well.
  • The game’s time runs in 28-day seasons with four seasons per year. Each of them has their unique characteristics. The crops you can plant, the things you can forage, the fish you can catch, and the activities you can participate in all change as the seasons come and go. This makes planning things out very important especially when you’re hoping to complete some of the Community Center achievements. These sometimes require crops, fish, or forage that are only available during specific seasons. Luckily, the uniform passage of time makes it a lot easier to plan out each of the seasons. At first, you’ll start out planning your activities one day at a time, then one season at a time, and then not too long you’ll be writing down your yearly plans.
  • Farming and more. At its core, Stardew Valley is an unabashed farming simulator. You prepare your farmland, plant crops, water them daily, and collect their produce when they blossom and bear fruit or vegetables. Your harvest can then be either sold outright for gold or used for the many other aspects of the game such as cooking, Community Center achievements, gifts, and more. Farming is where the most of your resources for the game will come from and consequently be the aspect that will take up a regular chunk of your time in the game. But while farming stays firmly at the core of Stardew Valley, there are still a slew of other activities that will also easily take up a lot of your time. Within your farm, you’ll be able to purchase and raise a whole range of farm animals from chickens, to cows, to rabbits, and more. You’ll also be able to cook many of the crops and other food items you’ve collected at your farmhouse. Outside your farm, you’ll be able to forage for other plants and other resources, go fishing, or enter the mines and fight your way down to its deepest levels while you mine for ores and precious stones. And that’s just the tip of the Stardew Valley You’ll never run out of things to do in the game and you’ll actually more often face the situation where you don’t have enough time in a single game day to do everything you want.
  • As a new resident in Pelican Town, you’re going to need to meet and build relationships with the area’s other residents. Building relationships can unlock more of the game’s story as well as give you access to marriage and having children. To build relationships in Stardew Valley, you’ll need to give your friends or would-be romantic interests gifts to earn hearts for that relationship. Gifts can range from cakes, to flowers, to precious stones, with each villager in Pelican Town having their own set of items they either like or dislike that are actually quite in tune with each of their personalities. Once you’ve earned a specific number of hearts with a villager, a heart event is triggered unlocking a new cutscene with that person and reaching 10 hearts unlocks best friend status and opens up the option for marriage and eventually children. Stardew Valley’s relationship system gives players not only pretty clear objectives when it comes to building relationships in the game but also periodic rewards with the unlockable cutscenes and marriage. Completionists can also opt to reach 10 stars with every villager before they decide on a romantic interest to be able to unlock all the cutscenes.

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Stardew Valley is a game that takes you by surprise with its rich and immersive experience. The connections you make within the game with your farm and the community quickly surpasses the virtual and enters the emotional. The sheer amount of content means you’ll never run out of things to do and you’ll soon realize you never want to stop doing any of it as you become more and more invested in the game and its world and slowly begin to forget your own. The fact that this amazing experience was crafted by a single person is feat in itself and its growing success and popularity in spite being in the same room as giants speaks volumes of its quality. Stardew Valley is definitely a must-play game for anyone looking for a new, immersive gaming experience.

Platform Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
Genre Indie, simulator, RPG
Developer ConcernedApe
Publisher Chucklefish
Modes Single player
Rating Teen
Price P419.95 (Steam)
Test: Stardew Valley
Ease of Use9
Value for Money10
9.6Overall Score

About The Author

Martin Patiño
Executive Editor/Editor-in-Chief, Will Work For Games

Martin is a freelance writer and website developer. A former editor for publications like PC World and Computerworld, he now spends his time writing for his own blog, producing and hosting a YouTube show, playing video games, or watching anime.