Stardew Valley Review

Game Title: Stardew Valley
Developer: Eric Barone, Chucklefish
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4.5 – 6.5 hours
Download: 
909 MB

In the indie world, we are used to seeing small teams make games, and sometimes, those teams are as small as can be. One-Person projects don’t typically gain the admiration of the gaming world as they are normally low budget and low quality titles that seem like little more than projects that lack the crisp quality of full-blown games, even for indies.

However, there are exceptions. When one man developed a game that crossed elements from Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and more, it took the PC crowd by storm, took the console crowd by storm, and now takes the Nintendo Switch by storm.

One of the most highly-praised indie games in recent years, here is my review of Stardew Valley for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

In Stardew Valley, you play as someone bogged down by the life of an office worker, yearning to find a better and healthier life for themselves. Following your grandpa’s advice, you seek out a worn-down farm in a small town known as Stardew Valley. From there, you seek to live as a farmer to learn a new way of life and make something new for yourself.

The plot of Stardew Valley is pretty light, savor the social elements to be explained later on. It gets the job done and has a certain, calm feel that goes with the casual flow of the game.

Gameplay

Stardew Valley is a lot of things. It is a farming simulator, but it is also a dungeon crawler, a dating simulator, a twin-stick shooter, a 2D platformer, and so much more. Imagine taking the farming and relationship elements from Harvest Moon, the dungeon elements from Rune Factory, the crafting system from Minecraft, and throwing them all together in this nice, little 2D game, and that’s what Stardew Valley is.

When you start the game, you’re given a basic set of tools and this worn down farm littered with brush, fallen trees, and rocks covering up what once was a beautiful farm. Your task is to make a life for yourself for the next 2 years (of game time), farming, finding your place in the town community, and making a living.

Your main task throughout each day in Stardew Valley is to make money and work towards your own personal goals. There is no “goal” to reach by 2 years, so you can do whatever you want. You can farm throughout the 4 seasons of the year. You can fight monsters for the Adventure’s Guild. You can play video games at the Saloon. You can restore the old community building by working with forest spirits. You can shower people with gifts until they agree to marry you. There are near-endless options with side quests popping up all over the place for you to work on.

What I love the most about this game is that it is so casual and you can choose your own objectives to work towards. Spending my days getting up, watering plants, and then gathering more plants, making more farm, planting, watering, repeat was rather dull for me. So, I decided I was going to fight off monsters in the mines for money, and steadily work on finding those nice Amethyst gems down there to work towards getting Abigail to marry me.

This is all fun and well once you get a flow in on your time during the day, how much energy you have to work, and what all you want to do each day.

However, when you accomplish your main goal, which isn’t hard to do, it feels like you’re done and you think “Okay, what next?”. So my main goal in the game was to marry Abigail, and I did that in the final season of Year 1. So we’re married. Now what do I do? Keep building up money for house upgrades to have kids? I don’t really want kids, so what else is there? Community Building, but I have to wait for next season to get the next forage set.

That is the point where the game’s best trait comes out. Stardew Valley is not a game meant to be power-played for hours on end. It is meant to be taken in small bursts. Do a day or two in the game and then put the game down. Even though you may not have any new main tasks, you can still not wear the game out by doing a whole season of “Let’s just keep building up money for next season and hope I can think of something new to work on”.

Now, speaking of time, how long can you expect to play Stardew Valley? If you want to finish the first 2 years to make sure you see all the events and see the “main quest” to its completion, you’re going to be spending at least 30-40 hours. I finished Year 1 of my first run at over 20 hours on my save file. This is not a short game, in the slightest. Even if you just want to get to marriage and that’s it, you’ll still be spending at least 18-20 hours from Day 1 to when you can build up enough Friendship Points to marry your favorite bachelor/bachelorette.

Controls

The controls are pretty simple and are shown to you every time you start loading your save file. While there is no real “tutorial”, the game shows you what to press pretty well.

You can move with the Arrow Buttons or the Left Analog Stick. The Right Analog Stick can move the cursor over objects (for those familiar with the PC version of SDV). The four triggers are used for item management. The L and R buttons are used for cycling the equipped item and, once you upgrade your backpack size, you can use ZL and ZR to switch item rows to access all inventory without having to pull up the menu.

A and B are used to interacting and canceling menu options. X is used to bring up the Crafting menu so you can build with your materials and Y lets you use a tool or weapon you currently have equipped, like a hoe, pickaxe, or sword.

All in all, it’s pretty simple and, despite the lack of a tutorial, the fact that it is shown every time you load your save file, there’s no reason for you to not know what buttons to press for what.

Presentation

Visually, the game looks very similar to Harvest Moon on the Game Boy Color, but much more refined and enhanced. It is a 2D game by nature, but the pixels are smoothed out for that retro look, but without the blurriness that comes with some 2D games.

There’s only one thing to note here for performance and presentation. Upon being released on the eShop, there were rumors spreading about an “Audio Glitch”, and that is very much a part of the game. I notice this the most while exploring the Mines, but the sound “scratches”, kind of like an old record that has scratches when it is trying to play. It’s difficult to pick this up most of the time, but whenever things get quiet, you can definitely hear it pop in and out.

There are also rumors about a glitch where the game would crash upon sleeping for the night and saving the game. But, after 30+ hours of gameplay, I have not yet encountered this.

Battery Life

Stardew Valley is one of those games where you can play A LOT of bite-sized sessions without worrying about your Switch dying on you. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 22 minutes
Max Brightness + No W-Fi – 4 hours, 56 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 19 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 34 minutes

4 ½ to 6 ½ hours is pretty amazing for a Nintendo Switch title. They did a really nice job with the optimization here.

Summary

In conclusion, Stardew Valley is a really nice game and an astounding piece of work for having been made by a single person. While the game isn't perfect, with encouragement to keep playing waning more and more after your own personal tasks have been fulfilled, but fans of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory really can't go wrong with this addictive lookalike.

8.5/10

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  • Lester Paredes

    I hope that it finds its ways over to Vita. There was a tweet that the developer was seeing if he could optimize it for the system, so here’s hoping. Otherwise, the Switch version will be my go-to. I have it on PS4, but just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and play.