Have you ever wanted to live life as a farmer growing crops and taking care of animals? Well, in Stardew Valley, you can — this is the main concept of this sandbox game. Created by a talented developer named Eric Barone (@ConcernedApe), Stardew Valley is a mixture of Animal Crossing, a social simulation game; Harvest Moon, a farm simulation role-playing game; and Terraria, an action-adventure sandbox game. That is, Stardew Valley offers farming, mining and interactions with NPCs blended into refreshing and soothing gameplay.
The story is compelling: At a young age, your grandpa hands you a letter that you are meant to open when you are an adult working at a dead-end job as an office drone. After reading the letter, which tells you that your grandpa has given you his old farm, you drop everything, board a bus and move to Stardew Valley. From that point, you are on your own, and you can choose what you wish to do.
Additional storylines then appear, though they are not the main point of the game, and you can play them if you desire. For example, the next stage after the initial story involves restoring the farm’s abandoned community center by completing item bundles for the Junimos, which are cute, tiny forest spirits that will help you fix the center. The bundles themselves include items that are either seasonal or in the mines.
Stardew Valley is perfect for wasting time because, while there is an end goal and end game content, you can play forever and at your own pace. You can try to go after events and achievements, but you can also choose to just farm and not bother focusing on other aspects like talking to the townsfolk or heading to the mines. Your enjoyment is all up to you.
The town itself is vibrant with townsfolk of many different backgrounds and personalities. There is a housewife and her kids missing their husband and father who went off to war and a son who smokes and wishes he was away from his family due to how distant he is with them. You may encounter an artist who ran from the city to live a new life, like you, or even a man who’s suffering from depression and alcoholism.
By interacting with these people, you can discover whether you hate them after your first meeting, or if you want to woo one of them and marry before your first year ends. Like in Harvest Moon, you can enter heart events with a bachelor or bachelorette in the town, and if you gain all their hearts by giving them gifts or talking to them, you can marry them and even have children. You can also choose to close yourself from the world, and it will not negatively affect your gameplay. Talking to the citizens may eventually become more enjoyable in that case, because you can discover all sorts of new features.
A whole other attribute of Stardew Valley is mining. After a certain number of days, the mine is opened to you, and you can explore it to your heart’s content. But beware, there are monsters, so you can’t just mine away peacefully. Equip some weapons and make sure to have some food ready before you get to mining. There are over 30 levels to explore, and as you level up, places similar to the mine open up with more challenging enemies but more goodies to claim. The mine holds secrets and rewards waiting for you to collect, but just like with the villagers, you can choose to ignore the mine entirely.
Another optional game feature is fishing; whenever you cast your line, you enter into a small minigame. You need to meet the green square indicated on your screen, and once the bar fills up, you will catch the fish. Depending on the console you play on, this could either be very easy or difficult. The better you get at fishing, the more difficult fish you can catch.
If you do complete all of the events and reach the end of the story, the game will keep going. There is end-game content, such as new areas to explore and new characters to meet. But the experience never stops; you can keep playing forever, and it is never affected by real time. You can leave the game for a few years, and when you come back, everything will still be the same.
Stardew Valley is so great because of how accessible it is. You can play it on almost anything: a PC, game console and even on your phone. You can even play it with your friends and farm together. Many mobile games and sandbox games are popular with casual gamers and non-gamers because you don’t play it for the top score or to show off your gaming skills, but to enjoy yourself.
With Stardew Valley, you never have to worry about the gameplay getting too complicated. You never have to worry about getting lost or if your choices will completely change the game. The basic premise will always be the same, even as you complete events that happen through the years in-game. Some may see this as a bad thing; however, repetition does not make Stardew Valley a bad game. Its setup allows you to do what you please with no worries. That’s why Stardew Valley is widely praised as one of the greatest sandbox games ever.
Ready to pick up your farmer’s hat and raise some chickens? Welcome to Stardew Valley, a land where all your troubles go away.