"Where has HiddenSpikeTrap been, guys?" numerous people at Fortis asked and wondered.
"I think she's been playing that farming game," The Utility Man responds.
"Oh yeah! That 'Shadow Dew Valley' game or something," says Euphoric Fever.
"IT'S STARDEW VALLEY!" I correct, finally emerging from the shadows of plotting and mining.
Thus began my gushing of the game that is Stardew Valley to the Fortis crew, defending the numerous hours displayed on Steam.
This article may contain spoilers on characters.
Needless to say, I have become quite addicted to this farming simulation game. One of the Fortis crew mentioned it around its time of release and I was in shock that I hadn't heard of it. I've been a big fan of the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games for a while now. It took me merely a day of pondering over purchasing this game before I had it installed and ready to play - a rarity for me.
The game begins by showing your bedridden grandfather passing on a sealed envelope to you. Before you open it, he says:
There will come a day when you feel crushed by the burden of modern life and your bright spirit will fade before a growing emptiness. When that happens, my dear, you'll be ready for this gift.
Years later, you're shown working for this bland, systematic, soulless company called Joja (kind of sounds familiar in a way, huh). Your grandfather's words dawn on you and you finally open his letter, which entails the deed to the farm in Stardew Valley he left to you. You're then shown taking off and riding in a bus on your way to Stardew Valley!
After being greeted upon arrival, shown your mess of a farm and your new home, you're tossed right into the game. I really love that Stardew Valley does not have an extensive tutorial. They mostly teach you basics through the initial quests and the rest is left to exploration and messing around. You have the option to check the TV in your home for tips as well as the local library to read the "lost books" you come across as you play the game. Sometimes even the villagers will give you some help on their likes and dislikes as you get closer to them! It's refreshing to see a wealth of direction and information without the tropes of on screen prompts and hand holding!
Soon after you find out that Joja wants to take over the valley and that you need to be successful to stop that from happening! I don't want this town to end up like that skeleton over there, I tell you what!
Overall the game has tons to do (farming, foraging, mingling, mining, fishing, getting lost, etc) and you can be sure that I dabbled in a little of everything - so much so I had a lackluster start, but no resets for me!
When I first started playing, there was only one thing that I felt a bit put off by: the villagers. I had heard and read quite a bit of praise over the dialogue and characters in Stardew, but to start off with I wasn't seeing it. After a few hours of playing, I suddenly realized why and the awe hit me like a slap to the face. I was a stranger in this town. Not everyone was outright rude, but many were only polite and didn't speak much. As I talked to each villager more, became closer friends with them, more and more of their dialogue appeared. I started to get to know them, and just as friends do, they open up more slowly.
My biggest surprise, and a reason I love Stardew Valley over other similar games such as the older Harvest Moons or even Rune Factory is that every single villager has events tied to their heart levels, not just the bachelors and bachelorettes. When I encountered my first little event scene, I was ecstatic. Might sound silly to some, but I am an extreme lover of character development in just about anything. This game has fed that love so heavily. So heavily and I adore it. Every advance in dialogue, every little character nuance that appears feels so joyful.
At this point in my game I am in my second year and I still cannot even decide who to marry. I've come to like so many of the single villagers that I'm torn. I'm definitely going to be playing through this game multiple times, I can promise you that (I think I just heard Fortis yelling at me from somewhere...).
Almost immediately after release, many had already started creating mod APIs and adding to this already amazing game. The Chucklefish Forums' mod section has already been working on organizing itself into subsections thanks to how many mods are already being worked on and even released. There are character, cheat, gameplay, interface and many more types of mods in development. I myself haven't wanted to research too many of the mods just yet, as I haven't wanted to spoil myself since I've wanted to play the game as blind as possible.
The one thing I have looked at a ton are the portrait mods. I'm someone who loves different art styles and couldn't help but find myself curious as to how people would draw and interpret each character.
While I do like the default style of the villagers, I found myself falling in love with different interpretations and I had to try a few! Currently, though, I have stuck with one specific portrait mod for all the characters for a while now: a mod by a user named Einari. Here's a preview of the bachelors and bachelorettes:
Einari certainly has a style of their own and their portraits are quite adorable, in my opinion. I'd also like to note that they finished all 41 villager portraits in only 10 days! Unless I have missed one, I'm certain Einari's is the first portrait mod to reach completion. Congratulations and thank you to them!
With a bit of my fangirl gushing aside on the game itself, I'd really like to express my respect and admiration for the one and only developer, ConcernedApe (Eric Barone). He worked entirely alone on Stardew Valley over four years, teaching himself everything he needed to know.
He mentions in an interview here when asked if he plans on hiring people to help with further development that he is still unsure, stating the following:
...I think part of what people like about Stardew Valley is that it’s kind of like a personal thing. And I think the fact that it's been a success with me just working on it by myself—I don’t really want to change that. However when it comes to things like porting the game or adding multiplayer or more technical aspects of the game, I'm open to possibly bringing more people into it. But I just have to assess that first and see if it's something I need help with or not. I like working alone, I like working by myself in many ways, so if I can get away with it I'll probably continue to just do it like that.
I respect that he wants to keep the closeness between himself and the community. It's true that most big name companies have lost that feeling and, as he mentioned earlier in his interview, many indie companies keep that connection:
It's not some faceless corporation that is giving you a focus tested message or focus tested experience.
He's still keeping that feeling going as he continues his development on the game. Just a few days ago he pushed out a new update (1.06) on improving marriage such as making each spouse have unique dialogue. As I've seen the community discuss the lackluster marriage prior to this update on the community forums, it shows that ConcernedApe certainly does pay very close attention to the desires of his audience. I very much look forward to all future updates.