Even though my favorite video games are the ones offering rich stories and immersive worlds, I also like to play managerial games from time to time as they provide unique challenges, encourage planning and problem-solving. So every once a while a managerial game sucks me in for long hours, and this time it was Stardew Valley’s turn.
I have to confess, I didn’t play a farm-developing game since Maxis released Simfarm in 1993, and even though I thought of that game with certain nostalgia, I never thought I’d like to play another farming game… But then, my friends mentioned Stardew Valley and it was supposed to be very good. I took note of the game and during one of the sales I finally caved in.
Once I launched the game, I was greeted with an old Japanese-RPG graphics: cute, colorful, and quite simple, and a pleasant though also simple music background. Then, after a short character creation (that consists of choosing a name, gender, looks, and a pet: a cat or a dog) I was introduced to the story: after years of slaving away for a big corporation, poor Melfka had enough and decided to move to Stardew Valley where her grandfather used to have a farm.
Then, a short tutorial followed and I could start all the farm work: clean the debris, prepare the soil (fertilizing and watering is important!) and plant my seeds. As they grew watered daily, I went about clearing more space, foraging the nearby woods, fishing, and getting to know my neighbors. I collected items for sale, seeds, and resources for crafting. Later, I discovered mines, where I could not only mine for stone, ore, and gems, but also fight some monsters.
The farm expansion wasn’t the only goal. Along that, trying to rebuild the community center provided a lot of resource collection-based tasks, and befriending people by completing tasks for them and giving them items opened up a new recipes and led to romance (the game boasts 12 marriage-available characters).
With four different seasons, each lasting 28 days, offering different seeds and resources, there was plenty to do. Even fishing is quite complex: certain fish can only be caught during specific season or time of the day, not to mention the division between the sea, lake, and river ones.
Even though getting the hang of gameplay was quick and easy, the variety I mention and the multitude of small tasks kept me going and I spent in game a lot of time (probably more than I should admit publicly). Sadly, there’s very little story to provide inspiration for writing, though Stardew Valley’s characters, each having a specific personality, got me thinking about character archetypes and cliches. The brooding loner, the handsome nature-lover, the ambitious sportsman, the most popular girl in school… erm, I mean in the valley – they’re all there, providing some study opportunities. But truth to be told, the game is just fun to play.
- Story: Very Low
- Immersion: Low
- Inspiration: Low
- Relaxation factor: Very high
- Procrastination risk: Very high
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.