Game of the Year, 2016
As my dear brother has mentioned, he bought me a game for my birthday back in the fall. A little game called Stardew Valley. There might have been some doubt on my part, just a wee bit of hesitation. That was until I actually started. I was pretty much hooked by the end of the first week (in game time). From then on it was always “Just 5 More Minutes – I swear” (until another hour or two had passed).
So, what is it about this game that I like so much? Well, I am not sure. I have never tried to analyze my taste (or lack thereof) in games. I will say it is not the graphics – the 8 byte design is not the prettiest thing out there. That said, I do like the sort of 3D movement that is lacking in things like Terraria (which I have not actually played, only watched).
I think I like the fact that there is a bit of a story in an otherwise open world. I love the farming, planning my crops for each season. I love the fact you can make things from the produce you grow. I am totally into the artisan goods. I also enjoy the cooking – though I am currently frustrated at the 7 or 8 recipes I am still missing.
I love that the game is very forgiving. As someone rather new to the gaming world (I have watched a lot but played very few), I am not always sure on how the mechanics work. Stardew Valley was definitely easy to figure out. There are very few punishments for collapsing (being knocked out) by monsters in the dungeon or staying out past your bedtime (which I still do on occasion – 2am just comes around so quickly!). However, you can either take the loss of a few items or accept the fee charged for finding your sleeping body and returned to bed. Or, if the price is too hefty, you can just start the day over by quitting before the auto-save (which only happens at night).
I like the little life stories of the other dozen villagers. They all have some problem to deal with and while it would have been nice to have more character lines on rotation I didn’t find their presence too overwhelming or demanding. If you forget to greet or gift a fellow villager it is not the end of the world. There is always another day. And if you forget to attend Leah’s art show after being specifically invited because it is the start of spring and you farm has too many demands for you to go gallivanting around town – well, no big deal. The art show will trigger when you get to town some afternoon between 3 and 5pm. I like that. I like that I want miss out on the few major scenes with the characters because I became busy harvesting grapes in my greenhouse and then transferring them to kegs to make wine.
I have also grown to love the varied aspects within the game. I was not surprised when I discovered I liked growing crops and raising animals. I was a little more surprised to discover that I actually like crawling through the mines, slaying monsters and mining ores. I was worried the combat would be too complicated. But it wasn’t. Certainly I don’t like being knocked out in the mines. But since you only lose some money and a few items it is not quite the end of the world. That said, I still try my very best never to get that low on health.
Foraging was a natural fit for me. I like the way there are different things to collect in the different seasons. And who doesn’t love free money? Besides, when you are just starting out and cannot afford to have a very large farm foraging is an easy way to spend the day.
Fishing has proven a challenge for me. For a long time I ignored, much like I ignored the social aspect of the game. Until I realized that to complete various tasks (mostly achievements) I would need to break down and learn to use my bait and tackle. Still, I am four years into my farm and I am still 1 fish away from completing the community centre. One, one day I will catch that elusive tilapia. Also, I have yet to fill up my heart bars with all the villagers. Though I am getting closer and I did manage to snag me a husband from the pool of eligible bachelors.
The arcade games are yet another aspect I am going to have to investigate if I want to grind out another achievement, but it is low on my list of things to do. Interestingly, I found a small side quest in my third year on the farm that had me completely various tasks around town with a mysterious key as my reward. So, while it is mostly an open farming simulator game, there is a nice balance of other activities to keep me engaged. And the thought of Grandfather coming to judge my progress certainly worked to provide a time pressure at the start of game. One that I still haven’t entirely shaken.
While there is always room to improve things (like more and varied dialogue in the second year), I think Stardew Valley is a fantastic game. It certainly has me addicted and always saying “Yup, I will do that after I finish just one more day.”
Stardew Valley is my pick for Game of the Year, 2016!