Stardew Valley is a PC farming simulation game, similar in style to Harvest Moon. I came to the game late, and as a result had heard lots about it before playing it. In a way, this led to some disappointments, as I was expecting something miles ahead of Harvest Moon. In the end, I still enjoyed it. There are parts of it I like more than Harvest Moon, parts of Harvest moon I enjoy more, and parts of Rune of Factory I prefer. It’s a good game for anyone who enjoys the Harvest Moon games, though I doubt it would convince many people who dislike Harvest Moon.

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The game starts with the player inheriting a farm in Stardew Valley from their grandfather. The player can customize their character, and choose a gender. You then wind up in Stardew Valley, and with a minimum of explanation, begin your life as a farmer. The game starts off much quicker than some Harvest Moon games, in that there isn’t much in the way of a tutorial, and many options are available quite early in the game (i.e., you can create makers to make cheese and things like that quite quickly).

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As well as farming, you can also fish, mine (which includes fighting), cook, donate items to the museum, complete quests, talk to townspeople to make friends or get married, and work on improving the community center. The community center is inhabited by forest spirits, and completing bundles gets you prizes. When you complete all the bundles in a certain room (i.e., all fish tank bundles), the room is repaired and something is unlocked, such as access to a new area.

Like in Harvest Moon, you can upgrade your farm or tools by talking to the appropriate people in town. However you also have a crafting bar, and can make many things yourself, such as bee houses, kegs, fish bait etc. This unlocks a lot more options a lot quicker than in Harvest Moon. You can get new recipes for your crafting bar by leveling up your skills (farming, fishing, foraging etc), or making friends with townspeople. When you level up your skills to a certain point, you can choose a ‘profession’, which will enhance an ability, such as increasing the price you get for selling fish.

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The farming will be familiar to any fans of Harvest Moon. You till the ground, plant seeds, water and fertilize your plants, and then harvest them. Eventually, you’ll also get the ability to create sprinklers, to make farming easier.

There are quite a few animals to unlock. The animals you can buy depends on the upgrades to your barn and chicken shed. As you upgrade from basic to deluxe, you’ll unlock more animals. The animal care is a bit simpler than in harvest moon, in that you don’t brush your barn animals, and taking them outside to eat grass is quite easy, as the animals leave and re-enter the barn/chicken shed of their own accord.

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Generally speaking, I’d say the game is quite easy. Harvest Moon has never been hard, but I found I progressed in Stardew Valley very quickly. Before winter started, I’d upgraded my house, and had an upgraded barn and chicken shed, and more than enough grain stored for winter. In some ways, I found this disappointing, particularly as there aren’t really any farming related festivals. The cow/chicken and crop festivals in Harvest Moon gave me a reason to unlock those animals/crops quickly, and get the quality up. They gave me something to aim for each season. There are plenty of interesting festivals in Stardew Valley, but only one related to farming (the grange festival), and as earning money quickly became no issue, I lost some incentive to progress and unlock more animals and expand my farm.

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One thing I did enjoy more about Stardew Valley was the villagers and the feel of the town. I feel like there are more events related to the non-marriageable candidates in Stardew Valley. The characters and their concerns generally feel more lifelike. Linus, the wild man who is mostly ignored by the other villagers, was a real stand out to me. I also enjoyed the tension between Joja Mart and the local corner store, and the concerns most of the young people had about their future and finding work. They felt more like real people than most of the characters in Harvest Moon or Rune Factory.

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In terms of art style, I didn’t initially enjoy it as the pixellated style doesn’t really appeal to me. Once I started the game (and saw what it looked like in full screen), I found I didn’t mind it. It’s still not my favourite style, but I came to like it. I also enjoyed the music, particularly the creaks and groans of the abandoned Community Center.

In conclusion, I’ve enjoyed my time with Stardew Valley. It moves fast and the player quickly has a lot of options, without being bogged down with long, drawn out tutorials. The characters and town are enjoyable. There are still things I enjoy more about Harvest Moon and Rune Factory however, particularly the festivals, and the crafting and fighting from Rune Factory. I’d recommend Stardew Valley to anyone who enjoys the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games.

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