Over the years we've seen our fair share of casual/farming titles. There are a couple of series that really symbolize the genre: Harvest Moon and the lesser known but still great Rune Factory. They're simple enough: buy crops, tend your farm, sell crops, manage farm animals, and with Rune Factory add fighting monsters, managing equipment, and crafting. Stardew Valley takes a lot of inspiration from the aforementioned games, combining a lot of the mechanics from them into one amazing game. Some mechanics are even inspired from Animal Crossing! Let's take a closer look at these features and mechanics, shall we?
Right off the bat, you may feel overwhelmed at the sheer amount of things available to do in Stardew Valley. Nearly everything is available at the very beginning of the game. You'll start off with your farm and land, and are pretty much left to tend it or do whatever you want. You can start planting crops, chopping down trees for wood, clearing stone, or even go across town to the mine and start searching for ores and minerals. After a little while you'll be able to build a barn and even a chicken coop and start tending animals. You even get a dog or a cat, depending on which you choose during character creation.
One of the biggest things about Stardew Valley is getting to know the other people who live in town. Remember the feature I mentioned inspired by Animal Crossing? This is it! Each towns person has their own likes and dislikes, certain types of gifts they like receiving, and each day they have their own schedule that they go about doing. When you get to know someone enough, and give them enough gifts, you can marry them (gender does not matter!) and even have children.
At some point, you have the choice to back an intrusive/destructive corporation (not recommended) or help restore the town community center. In the community center, a group of spirits will task you with collecting bundles of items for them. In return, they will unlock a different feature around town that will help you in various ways, such as the rail system for fast travel. There are so many more things to do, it would literally take me an hour or so to detail them all out. I've pointed out the more important ones though, and these should keep you busy for awhile!
This game just OOZES charm. The graphics are amazing for this type of game. Sprites look great, the animations are great, and you can easily tell what everything is. It's sometimes hard to believe one guy made the entirety of this game all by himself. He did a fantastic job, especially on the endearing art style. As a casual game, it has some amazing relaxing music. Every area has it's own theme too, and sometimes it's different depending on the time of day. It makes the game more interesting and a perfect choice to play to unwind after a hard day at work or school. I experienced no major issues (or even minor issues) while playing Stardew Valley. 30+ FPS at all times (30 is my minimum), no lag or stuttering, no obscene loading times, and the controls are very easy. Just point and click along with WASD to move. You CAN play with a controller, but it feels a lot different and a little clunky to do so. Mouse/keyboard method is recommended.
My only gripe, although minor, is that you can only save the game when you sleep in your bed at night. Again, this is minor, and not really a big deal, but nowadays most gamers expect the freedom of saving anywhere. You've just got to try this game. You will easily lose dozens, if not hundreds of hours simply managing your farm, earning money, and getting to know the townsfolk. Not to mention designing your farmland, placing buildings, tending animals, and crafting. This game will find you saying "just more more day" at least a dozen times before you finally close the game.
Stardew Valley (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Don't start this game if you value relationships, your job, your social life, and having free time. Stardew Valley will take all of that away from you, but it's okay because it's a great game!