Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

I fell out with life sims years ago for a number of reasons. Part of it is because they’re defined by routine, and part of it is because they’re generally quite aimless. Stardew Valley is very good at compensating for these inherent shortcomings; it’s full of small goals to achieve, and the fact that I’ve put 80 hours into it means there’s definitely some satisfaction to be found in its routine. But the biggest turn-off of life sims for me is that every IP in the genre seems unwilling or unable to add anything new between installments, and that’s just as true for Stardew Valley. I was especially shocked to learn that co-op multiplayer was only added two years after release, since that’s practically the only thing that differentiates it from the series that inspired it.

Make no mistake, this is certainly a good version of Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons gameplay. There are tons of activities available, and the characters, music, and 16-bit throwback visuals are endlessly charming. It’s just not good enough to justify being nothing more than a larger-scale copycat of a series that already has more games than it knows what to do with. The PC release makes poor use of the mouse and number of available buttons, and that larger scale means that the timeline on which events happen and content is introduced is unnecessarily stretched. The indelible sense of forward progress kept me coming back to my farm for weeks, but unlike similarly addictive games, I found myself constantly wondering if it was worth the time investment.

5/10
5/10

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