Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stardew Valley

Pop quiz - get out your #2 pencil! What indie game has topped Steam's sales charts since its release back in February, ranking up with blockbuster titles like Fallout 4 and Far Cry? If you answered Stardew Valley, then you are correct.

After years of beta releases and updates, this game was finally released by its sole developer Eric Barone, and has gone on to sell well over a million copies. Since its release, Barone has continued to periodically update the game with new content, and as of this post is diligently working on even more great content for version 1.1. So what is Stardew Valley?

Stardew Valley, at its heart, is a farming simulation game in the vein of the long-running Harvest Moon series of video games. As the game opens, your character has just resigned from his soul-sucking job at the Joja Corporation and accepted ownership of a small farm inherited from his or her grandfather in the backwater village of Stardew Valley. The farm is rundown and barren, and the best days of the village seem long lost, but if all goes well, you have the opportunity to not only create a thriving agricultural business but also revitalize this community and restore hope to its inhabitants.

Opportunities abound right from the start. From the proceeds of the handful of parsnip seeds you start the game with, you can invest in more lucrative crops, raise livestock, become an avid fisherman, mine deep beneath the ground for ores and minerals, defeat monsters that dwell in the depths, nurture orchards, and even dabble in weaving, smelting, brewing, canning, and cooking. And in your spare time, you can also develop relationships with the many varied citizens of Stardew Valley as well as pursue romantic relationships, marriage, and even start a family.

Want to learn more? Check out the game's official wiki, or just search YouTube for dozens of Let's Play series on the game. Honestly, right now it seems like just about everyone is playing this game. So why is it so popular?
  • Independent, retro games are big right now. A big part of this game's charm is its old-school pixel graphics and sounds. 
  • It's open-ended, with tons of different paths to success. You can play the game how you want, focusing on what you enjoy and ignoring what you don't. Your character is likewise fully customizable, letting you choose gender, hair style, physical features, and clothing.
  • The characters bring the world to life. There are 42 distinct characters in the game, each with their own personality, their own likes and dislikes and their own families and relationships, and each of them has something to share with you. Of these, ten of them are available to marry (5 for each gender, although the game doesn't restrict your romance choices by sex). 
  • There are a ton of Easter Eggs and secrets in the game. In fact, Barone has stated that despite the extensive wiki, there are still several things that no one has discovered yet.
  • The developer is responsive to the community and continues to add free content. When players feel like they can interact directly with the game developer and continue to receive free updates as time goes on, it's only natural to feel more invested in the game.
Since purchasing the game back in late March, my family and I have already logged over 200 hours on this game, making it the second most played game for me on Steam (second only to Terraria). If that's not a big endorsement, I don't know what is!

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