It’s been a long time since I’ve committed to playing a video game. But somehow I’ve dedicated dozens of hours to building up a farm, interacting with neighbors, and exploring caves in Stardew Valley. The first time I saw footage of Stardew Valley, I immediately thought of Harvest Moon, a fun farm simulator I played as a kid. Stardew Valley feeds off of that nostalgia while building its own world.
The game doesn’t waste time with a long setup. Fed up with corporate drone life, the protagonist moves to the quaint little town of Stardew Valley and inherits his (or her – you can customize your own avatar) grandfather’s farm. After some quick introductions, the game allows the player to pursue his own ambitions. On any given day the player can harvest crops, chop wood, go fishing, give gifts, feed barn animals, forage wild berries, pursue romantic interests, battle giant blobs, mine ore, and on and on. What’s more, the game doesn’t push the player to engage in any one activity. Rewards await those who explore everything Stardew Valley has to offer – keep a look out for Zelda-esque puzzles – but the game world is what you make of it.
Stardew Valley is a labor of love, and it shows. The music is enjoyable and varies depending on seasons and settings. The history of the land slowly unravels as books and artifacts are discovered. One of my neighbors, an aspiring writer, once asked me about my favorite type of book. I told him I liked science fiction. Weeks later he invited me to a book reading for his sci-fi novel. As I said, the game world is what you make of it. And it’s a wonderful world.