Review: Stardew Valley (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Stardew Valley
Format: PSN (244.9 MB)
Release Date: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Chucklefish Games
Developer: ConcernedApe
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I’ve always struggled to enjoy games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. Despite being massively popular I never could get into them. The idea of tending a farm and dealing with the issues of the local town folk seemed dreadfully boring to say the least. So it was to my surprise that I found myself addicted to Stardew Valley, a new farm simulation game for the PlayStation 4.

The premise begins with some heartbreak. You are summoned to your dying grandfather’s bedside where he gives you a plot of land in Stardew Valley. Frustrated with your mind numbing corporate job, your character decides to quit and start anew as a farmer in Pelican Town.

Once at the farm, it’s quickly discovered that it’s in dire need of some TLC and a good chunk of time will be required to fix the place up. There are boulders that need removing and grass and trees that need to be cleared before the farming can begin.

You’re equipped with some essentials like a pickaxe, hoe, axe, and water pail. You also start with some seeds to get your farm going. Most of the boulders and trees drop resources that can be used to craft useful things like a fence or better equipment. They can also just be sold, but the real money is in farming.

Players are limited by their energy and the hours in a day. Everything will tire your character. Farming, walking, or just standing will tire them out over time. There are multiple ways to refresh yourself which include eating, taking a swim at the bathhouse, or going to sleep. Regardless, time to get work done is finite and players have to manage their time carefully to get the most out of their day.

… Everyone has a simple life …
Early on, eating is an expensive option and waiting for your crops to grow can take several days depending on what it is. Because of this I relied on sleep which meant my days were rather short.

A huge aspect of the game is in the relationships with the local villagers. Pelican Town is a small place with thirty or so people and you could have varying degrees of relationships. Talking with the villagers is not a deep system as it’s mostly centered around frequently saying hello to them and doing simple quests from time to time.

You can find yourself with the ability to romance some characters which can help if you want a husband or wife to help out on the farm. I wish the relationship system was deeper, but the way the game is set up it wouldn’t really benefit from a deeper system.

Everyone has a simple life and their stories reflect that. The interactions with them are more cute than deep. Building relationships breaks down to keeping up with a villager frequently and giving them gifts. From there their affection grows and despite the relationships feeling somewhat one sided the interactions feel meaningful from time to time.

… mines are procedurally generated with resources and monsters …
I’m a loner so I spent a lot of time focusing on my farm. The farm life is somewhat slow but very fulfilling. There’s something about watching the land go from nothing to full of life. I spent hours cultivating my farm and slowly turning a profit and adding animals to it.

The game features four Seasons which will dictate what can be grown so it’s something to keep an eye on. If you’re not careful all your crops could die when the Seasons switch and you need to be ready for the change over. I loved the farming system and the customization that can be done to your house and land over time. It’s a grind, but well worth the time.

There are even caves to explore that can be excavated for materials. The mines are procedurally generated with resources and monsters. The combat is simple and it becomes more about getting better equipment as you go deeper into the mines. I didn’t find the mining to be particularly worthwhile but it was a nice diversion when the weather outside was too rough to farm.

The only fault I found was with the fishing. It was much more difficult than it should have been. Even when I figured out the system I still found it overly difficult to pull off or make worthwhile.

I’m surprised I enjoyed the simple life of Stardew Valley. There’s nothing particularly difficult about the game, but I was pulled into its world. The farming is satisfying and the stories of the villagers are well written making for an entertaining grind.

Visuals:
Everything is cute and cheerful, outside of the dead grandfather, and I don’t really have anything negative to say about it. It’s a pixelated game and even though we might have had too many of those the last couple years, there’s a lot of charm here.

Characters are well designed and the character creator is surprisingly deep for such a simple game. Sure it’s mostly clothing and hair options, but there are a lot of choices. Plus the animals are adorable so that’s a win in my book.

… charming, simple, and rewarding …
Audio:
Like the visuals, the music is cute and cheerful. The music changes with the Seasons to aid in differentiating them from each other. It instills the happy-go-lucky nature of the game and accompanies working on the farm to great effect.

There is no voice acting which leaves everything on the shoulders of the music which, fortunately, is strong enough to carry the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Despite not being my type of a game I found myself flat out addicted to Stardew Valley. It’s charming, simple, and rewarding. I wish the game’s mining and relationship aspects went a little deeper, but what is present is enough to satisfy most.

I felt rewarded by the farming system, slowly building my farm and home into something beautiful. Starting from nothing and building my farm never became boring with the game throwing enough things on the side to keep me invested in the world. I had to pull myself away from it to write this review and I will be running back when I finish writing.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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