Arts & CultureVideo Games

Review: Stardew Valley a spiritual successor to Harvest Moon, just waaaay better

The modern world can be a stressful place. Sometimes you just need to step back, take a break from it all, move to the country and start farming pumpkins on your grandfather’s old farm.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of a secluded family estate to retire to when things get rough, but Stardew Valley might give you the next best thing to living out that fantasy.

Stardew Valley – a spiritual successor to the classic Harvest Moon series – was created entirely by a single developer, Eric Barone, and published by Chucklefish Games. Since its release for PC on Feb. 26, the game has sold more than half a million copies and has been one of the first games since Minecraft to gain such a tremendous following in such a short amount of time. The game’s sudden success has prompted Barone to rethink his plans for how he will continue developing the game after release. It has already prompted him to make major changes to the pacing and story elements within the game. The biggest addition that has been announced so far is an upcoming four-player co-op mode.

The game’s base mechanics borrow directly from the Harvest Moon series. You’ll spend much of your time growing seasonal crops, raising a variety of animals, fishing, foraging and fostering relationships with the various townsfolk. There is also a combat system where you can fight monsters in the local mine and a large amount of customization for both the player character and the farm itself. The game also has a much better user interface than Harvest Moon and isn’t bogged down by many of the other small things that turned people away from the series.

There are two main goals to work towards while playing. The first is to make your farm a success by earning large amounts of money and cleaning up the farm from its unruly state. The second is to restore the town’s ramshackle community center by collecting sets of items, like one of each crop from a specific season or each species of fish you can catch from a particular body of water. Alternatively, you can sell the building to the game’s main antagonist JojaMart, who will turn it into a warehouse instead.

The overall aesthetic is fairly cheerful with upbeat music and colorful artwork. The story also has a profoundly modern feel to it. For example, you can marry any of the ten potential marriage candidates, regardless of your gender or theirs, and many of the game’s subplots deal with surprisingly real-world issues, like the father of a family leaving to fight in a war.

One of the best parts of this game is the amazing amount of community support it has received. A huge variety of modifications are available already, including additional music, better character portraits and even a mod that turns all the animals in the game into Pokemon.

While the base game is very strong on its own, the best part of Stardew Valley might be what comes next.

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Mathew Brock

Mathew Brock