Usually, I miss playing a game because of the perpetual backlog of games I have. Other times, though, I actively attempt to avoid playing a game. In the case of a game like Homefront: The Revolution, the reason is obvious: it sucks! With a game like Stardew Valley, it’s equally obvious to me. I know that the moment I start the game, I will become consumed by it.
So I started up the game. I will resurface, but only because World of Warcraft: Legion goes live in a couple of weeks.
All the best parts of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon are present in this game. Whether I plant seeds or cultivate relationships, I am engaged. There are a half a billion things to do in the game, but a finite amount of time and energy to do them all. Time plays a factor, because certain NPCs only appear at certain times of the day. If you need something from them, you’re gonna have to plan your day around them. If not, you may catch yourself clearing land around your farm or exploring a mine for gems for too long.
That element is what engrosses me about Stardew Valley. I want to do so much, but I’m given so little to do everything. The urge to keep going, to tend to my farm AND to talk to the NPCs, AND explore the valley, pushes me to go another day. And another. And “just one more!”
The best part about this game is that it does not hold your hand. All the information you need is available to you; you have to learn to pay attention. Everything is available for you to do from the start. Do you want to plant the seeds you were given at your arrival? Would you rather meet the townsfolk and get to know how the town runs? Maybe you want to just run out & see what you can find while exploring. Whatever you want to do, you can go do it. If you find any obstacles, it’s up to you to pay attention and figure out how to overcome it.
The setting and ambience is absolutely calming and chill. Even though I had hard deadlines in time and energy, I felt relaxed during my gameplay. The combination of relaxing music and non-threatening surroundings put me in an almost Zen-like trance. I would commit hours to the game and feel like minutes went by.
The greatest testament to my enjoyment was that this article took three days to write, and I STILL published it late! Every time I exited the game and worked on this article, something I wrote would make me recall a specific instance in the game. Then I would save my article in-progress and fire up the game one more time. For journalistic exactitude, of course. I just wanted to see if I remembered everything correctly…for about seven hours.
Whether it was farming, conversing, exploring, fishing, or so many other things, I have loved my time in Stardew Valley. I may never reach my ultimate goal – and there is an ultimate goal – but I have thoroughly enjoyed every step along the way. I always rail against games that sacrifice the experience to get to the goal. It’s incredibly refreshing to play a game where the experience is more important than the goal.
I’ll give you one anecdote to explain just how much this game engrossed me. After a rough start to the game, I found myself at the Flower Dance with no one to dance with. I decided that would not happen next time. I made absolutely sure to butter up to everyone so my heart level would reach high enough to guarantee a dance next time. And I mean everyone – Stardew Valley doesn’t discriminate sexually. You are able to date men or women as you please. I’m not into men…but it helps to have options, I guess.
Soon, I decided that I wanted to gain the attention of Abigail, the emo-esque young lady that has a SNES in her room and loves to play video games. Win, right?
I went out of my way to woo her, even going so far as to gift her gems I snagged from a mine. She loved them. Her exact reaction, as I read it? “Hey, how’d you know I was hungry? This looks delicious!”
Then she proceeded to EAT the gems I gave her as a gift. That was the strangest thing I had EVER seen!
But she loved them.
Right, love, more gems to stuff in your gullet! Give me a few first, though. I need to get back to my home and rest. Oh, and my parsnips will be ready to farm. And Willy (no relation) closes at 5, so I gotta get my catch to him so I can make some money. Everything is so…busy…
When World of Warcraft: Legion pops on the 30th, I will have a very tough choice to make. Do I explore the Broken Isles of Azeroth in a launch-day extravaganza? Or do I plant some onions in Stardew Valley?
Believe it or not, I love these kinds of choices. That means I’m playing really good games. Not like Homefront: The Revolution, which sucks on toast!