We’ve spent a number of hours on Stardew Valley this weekend which is the latest surprise hit indie game created by one man development studio ConcernedApe (run by Eric Barone). We’re covering it partly due to the incredible reaction it’s received. For many gamers, it’s as if they’ve suddenly discovered not all games have to be insanely violent to be enjoyable, and it’s been a marvel to behold.
It’s already established as a cult hit with many people pouring hundreds of hours into perfecting their farm whilst connecting with the lovingly crafted digital neighbourhood, which is a great thing (especially since the latest banality-fest Call of Duty has just been released). So! Let’s take a closer look at why you should consider investing your time in harvesting make-believe vegetables.
It’s not a unique idea this one as it’s essentially a modern take on the Harvest Moon series (developed by Amccus and first released in 1996), which was popular on the SNES and Game Boy. As such, we must view Stardew Valley as a lovingly created tribute and advancement on those fabulous games with modern sensibilities to improve the experience.
Getting to grips with it is easy enough. You get to name and design your character (including choosing a pet for him/her), then you’re dumped on a decrepit farm overgrown with woodland type stuff (you know, trees and that). It’s your job to make everything shipshape and to ingratiate yourself with the local community. Marvellous!
On the first day we overdid it on the cleaning front and our farmer, quite literally, passed out due to exhaustion and was carted off to hospital (costing us $50 – man, it really made us miss the NHS).
We also went around handing gifts of tree sap over to locals, such as the town’s mayor (who we’re supposed to buddy up with). We’re still laughing about his brilliant reaction 24 hours later.
On the whole, the game plays like a farming simulator with RPG and action adventure elements. It’s rather charming and loveable we have to say, and the critical acclaim and success it has met with is fully deserved. It’s addictive and, as you shape your farm, you earn money and can progress by building more property and owning livestock and all that. Gosh… how chilled out!
It’s Time to Relax
Video games are usually associated with chest thumping extravagances and extreme violence, but there have been plenty of titles over the years which have reminded everyone how therapeutic they can be. Pilotwings on the SNES and N64 spring to mind, and many modern smartphone games such as Alto’s Adventure and Tengami are totally laid back.
It’s nice to see modern gamers embrace it – Stardew Valley has acted as some form of antidote, it seems. Somewhat arbitrarily, the situation reminds us of the scene in the Madness of King George where Dr. Willis (Sir Ian Holm) explains how he helps his mentally unstable patients find a better conceit of themselves – he places them on a farm where they can cultivate the land and toil the soil.
It’s as if a horde of adrenaline fuelled gamers are atoning for years of extraordinary digital violence by growing crops and socialising pleasantly with the local digital community. Quite the phenomenal achievement, as launching a title which isn’t an insanely violent first person shoot-em-up in today’s games industry is usually a recipe for commercial failure and derisory remarks from the gaming community.
I Want to Buy This!
Do you want to escape the madness of civilization too? You can, fool! Stardew Valley is on Steam and is £11 (about $15). It’ll be wending its way to consoles soon enough, apparently, but for now why not through off the shackles of modern life, barricade yourself in your property, and indulge in some salubrious digital farming? It’s totally worth it.