As we get closer to the launch of the PS5 and Xbox X series, TechRadar looks back at the games that have made this generation great. This week's entry? Stardew Valley.
Have you always wanted to leave your busy city life behind and move to a small country town? No more Starbucks queues. No Sardinia on the subway. Only you, the clean country air and the locals, who won't wither if you accidentally make eye contact.
It is a dream that is usually reserved for Hallmark films, sinks into clichés and is usually confronted by a city slicker who learns to love the roots of his hometown. But somehow Eric Barones Stardew Valley makes it.
Stardew Valley is an indie gem with which you can not only live out this fantasy, but also with humor and emotional depth – which makes it one of the greatest games of this generation.
A special escape
The Stardew Valley premise is fairly simple: you move from the busy city to the outskirts of sleepy Pelican Town after inheriting a dilapidated old farm from your late grandfather. In honor of your grandfather, your goal is to clean up the farm and make it a thriving agricultural company.
On the surface, Stardew Valley appears to be a typical farming sim, just like Harvest Moon, but it's so much more. Stardew Valley acts as an agricultural sim, dating sim, dungeon crawler and adventure in one. The beauty of the Stardew Valley is its diversity. Not only are they limited to agriculture, they can get to know the locals and achieve destinations for them, explore caves for resources, or just go fishing.
You also never run against the clock. Although Stardew Valley has a seasonal system where you can only grow certain plants at certain times of the year, you never feel hurried. Once you find that you can just do what you want in your free time, the game becomes much more relaxed. There is no ultimate goal that you absolutely have to head for (even though you have small goals along the way) – instead she Decide what and when you want to do it.
With people like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it feels like you're lagging behind if you can't keep up with everyone else. There is always debt to pay and minimal ways to earn bells to pay it. But in the Stardew Valley you can just enjoy your surroundings if you want. Would you like to spend a day cleaning up only stones and trees? Go straight ahead. You can go through a season year as quickly or slowly as you like. It is really an escape from the chaos of the world.
A complex cast of characters
To see Stardew Valley as easy as a game of escape and relaxation would be reducing. Especially when one of the most interesting aspects of the game is the cast of characters.
When you first arrive in Pelican Town, it appears that every inhabitant of the city reflects a stereotype. Jodi: the single mother. Sebastian: the hermit. Elliot: the writer. However, as you get to know the characters better – mostly by giving them gifts – you begin to peel off their layers and delve into their true nature.
Shane, for example, appears to be a rude pig. However, if you try to get to know him, you will find that he has an alcohol problem and is suffering from severe depression. Abigail has disagreements with her mother about her "alternative" lifestyle. Then there is the grumpy old George, who is in a wheelchair after a mining accident and is often felt to be angry when he is actually often frustrated that he cannot do certain things for himself.
Pelican Town is full of assignable residents (you can even marry a few) and the more you play Stardew Valley, the more you invest in its characters. If you make friends with them, you will get keyholes in their lives that could otherwise go completely unnoticed. Again, you are in no hurry to speak to everyone.
Simply seeing Stardew Valley as a pixelated farming simulator would be a mistake – it's so much more. Stardew Valley offers the escape fantasy that so many of us dream of, but not in the clichéd way that it could have presented, and without the remaining pressure that so many of these games can often involve.
Stardew Valley will not punish you for not playing and there are none correct Way of playing. Instead, all you have to do is sink into its charming aesthetics and lose yourself.