Over the past month, I’ve been enamoured by Stardew Valley, an indie farming simulator released initially on PC and other ports in 2016, and later on the Nintendo Switch (my console of choice) last year. Why it’s taken me so long to pick it up, I don’t know – its delightful pixel-art style and easy-going gameplay have made it one of my favourites in recent years.
The premise is simple: you inherit an old farm from your grandfather, giving you the perfect opportunity to break free from the monotony of a corporate job and move to the country. At first, the monolithic task of owning a farm can be intimidating; the land is a mess, the townsfolk are distrusting and money is tight. However, with patience and commitment, your farm has the potential to thrive, and that’ll bring you more joy than you might think.
Needless to say, farming isn’t for everyone – which is exactly what the developers and sole designer, ConcernedApe and Eric Barone, have kept in mind. And it shows! Mechanics such as mining, combat and relationships make for a holistic gaming experience.
You may choose to spend your days in the Mines, spelunking, collecting ores and fighting enemies, or you may play with the sole intent of winning the heart of one of the town’s bachelors or bachelorettes, which is equally acceptable. Even sticking to the core mission of expanding and upgrading your farm is more than satisfying.
Stardew Valley is not fast-paced, nor is it inherently ‘easy’ to play. It is true that it requires time, it requires patience, and it requires engagement from the player.
I find it a welcome change from the fast paced action of raiding tombs or assassinating adversaries. If there’s a game which brings you more satisfaction from growing a parsnip, I’m yet to see it.