This could almost be titled “Ode to a lost farm” because, well, accidents happen sometimes, and the farm I’d spent hours on has vanished into the digital ether, never to return. But the memories remain nonetheless, and the promise of a new plot of land is almost as exciting as the farm that had disappeared. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For the uninitiated, Stardew Valley is a farming-sim RPG developed by Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, a labor of love that took him over five years to develop, starting on PC and now available for current-gen consoles and moving onto mobile, inspired by the Harvest Moon series of games. Players take over a small plot of land in Pelican Town, an idyllic community currently under the thumb of the Joja Corporation in the form of JojaMart, the most popular store in town. Will you help the community thrive, selling your goods to the local merchants, or will you help Joja earn some new warehouse space by bulldozing the local Community Center? These are the types of things you’ll have to think about as you start out your life as a farmer/miner/chef/adventurer.
And what a life it can be! The simple gameplay beats of clearing out overgrown weeds and rocks on sunny days in the Spring and Summer to exploring the depths of the mines on rainy days and in winter blend together in perfect alchemy to the point where several hours have gone by in real life, countless days have passed in-game, and you aren’t exactly sure where all the time went, but you think that crop of pumpkins is going to turn out alright. The game is broken down into seasons, with differing varieties of crops to grow and festivals that give you a chance to talk to everyone at once. Getting to know the townsfolk is almost as rewarding as working on the farm, with every villager having different likes and dislikes (Giving gifts is a big part of this game, if you want it to be) and there’s quite a few villagers you can romance and start a family with, if you’d like. And if you feel like you did the wrong thing, it can be undone – with a price. Trying to date multiple people at once isn’t advised, it’s a small village and people talk. It’s worth trying to get to know everyone in town, as your new friends start sending you gifts in the mail and revealing their complex personal lives.
In terms of hours, Stardew Valley is potentially endless. The first few hours are spent clearing the farm from debris (Overgrown grass, rocks, logs), and after that it becomes a cycle of planting and taking care of crops, while upgrading your equipment and home along the way. I’d have to say I put well over a 100 hours into my last farm, and was somewhere in the middle of Year 3 when the incident occured, but as far as I know it doesn’t really have an end, as it doesn’t end when you start a family. It feels like there’s always more to explore, more to grow, more to craft, more to fish. It’s a game that can be played for hours in one sitting, or in bite-sized chunks over the years, a digital day at a time. It was a great breather in between big releases, or after a stressful day in real life.
As fun as this game is solo, the PC and Switch versions have recently patched in multiplayer, so you can farm with a friend/family member. I haven’t been able to indulge in the MP yet, but I’ve heard good things and hope I can check it out in the future. I have to start a new farm, anyways. You can help me clear some rocks.
Ah, the lost farm. Let’s talk about that. Stardew Valley is a game that has become well beloved in my household, to the point we have a print of Pelican Town hanging near our television. My son has become obsessed with it, to the point where he was no longer content with flipping through the beautifully illustrated guidebook and watching my wife and I play. We recently set him up with his own farm so he could learn the mechanics, and…well, he’s having fun. That’s the important part! Children, especially autistic children, aren’t always as focused on playing games the “Right” way like you or I, and that’s fine. He loves wandering around Pelican Town just as much as I do. But his file was right above mine, and…things happen. And Night Vale farm was gone. All of those friendships, my brewery barn (Yes, you can brew alcohol), my tiny plot of crops, all lost, like tears in the rain. And that’s okay. I mean, it wasn’t at the time. The sting of “Accidental file deletion” never is, and I literally have no idea how many hours were gone. But gamers persevere, and there’s another path for me to take in the game that I didn’t do originally.
If you’re tired of AAA releases, and looking for a simple but complex game that is infinitely rewarding, Stardew Valley is easily worth the hard drive space. If there was a videogame that could be described as “Comfort food”, it’s Stardew Valley.