So hey, why have I played over 100 hours of a farming simulator since December?
I mean, I never liked Harvest Moon. I got bored with Animal Crossing after a while. Minecraft and Terraria held my attention for, quite literally, a single evening each. So why have I spent weeks of my actual life trying to convince a goth girl and her hamster to move into my farmhouse with me and my cat? Twice!
As one of the breakout indie games of the decade, chances are that you know the basic premise of Stardew Valley. Your character is a cog in the corporate machine, an employee of the soulless Joja Corporation. Then you remember a letter your dead Grandpa gave you, saying that when you feel yourself dying inside, you should totally move to Stardew Valley and farm yourself back to sanity.
Which makes sense, actually.
Once there, the valley is your oyster. There are a ton of different ways to play, depending on your preferences and priorities. Sure, you could just farm, or you could mine for rocks and minerals, or go logging for wood. You could even spend the whole game fishing if you want, or pump time into making friends with the local populace, all of whom have their own story arc, and several singletons just waiting for the attentions of the new farmer in town. It’s actually a bit overwhelming at first, but routine will find you eventually; as in life, balance is the key.
Stardew’s retro pixel style may feel overdone in current year, but it’s still cute, and suits the game’s back-to-basics design well. It also matches the… let’s call it a minimalistic tutorial system. Seriously, good luck figuring stuff out without the wiki. Despite appearances, Stardew has surprising depth, with an intricate crafting system to turn your basic pasture of weeds into a veritable field of dreams.
I hear that people find Stardew relaxing, and to those people I say you are not playing the same game I am. I’ve tried to switch off that part of my personality that makes me min-max everything and forces me to play the best game I can, with charts and graphs and all sorts of shenanigans. But I can’t, not really, and my only respite comes when it rains or when I can embrace the sweet oblivion of sleep.
But as with all Switch ports, the question isn’t whether or not this is a phenomenal game (it is), but whether or not it’s right for the hybrid platform. And the answer is yes. This is a game that is truly at home on a handheld, and literally everyone with a Switch should buy it. My daily commute is gets me through three or four in-game days, and it’s perfect for travel due to its excellent ‘pick up and play’ style. I love it as a gamer, I love it as a commuter, and I love it as a man, standing in front of a purple-haired, rock-eating woman, asking her to love me.
It works great docked too, which is handy as you’ll play it so much that even the Switch’s decent battery life won’t satisfy your lust for more cauliflower. My two-person household has spent over 200 hours in the valley over our 4 save files, and we can see no signs of stopping. I’ve played more Stardew than all my other Switch games COMBINED, and if that’s not an endorsement then I don’t know what is.
I adore this game, and the bizarre thing is that I don’t think I should. I don’t like its base components; many villagers are unlikable, random variables play a huge part, and it’s a genuine grind to turn a real profit. In many ways, actually, it imitates real life. So, huh… I guess that’s why I like it.
If I haven’t convinced you, let me remind you that it’s like $18, which is an absolute steal. There’s no excuse not to buy this thing right now.
Stardew Valley is a hugely enjoyable, deeply engrossing little game, perfectly at home on the Switch, that’s maybe too addictive for its own good. But when my main complaint about a game is that I want to play it too much, you know it’s gotta be doing something right.