Some Time in Stardew Valley: Your New Staycation Destination

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Some Time in Stardew Valley: Your New Staycation Destination

I spent most of this weekend taking on the new Stardew Valley release for Xbox One--or at least comparatively new--and there's actually a lot to be said for this game. Not all of it is good, but for anyone who's been on the fence about picking up this particular title, I may well have what you need to topple one way or another: firsthand insight.

For those not familiar, Stardew Valley acquaints you with you--who you get to name yourself as you see fit--who is in this universe an employee of the Joja Corporation. It's part Dickensian workhouse, part Dilbert strip, and every bit as unpleasant as that combination suggests. One day, your grandpa dies, and before he does hands you a sealed envelope containing what amounts to your inheritance and a great deal of insight. The letter gives you a farm in Stardew Valley, a place your grandpa discovered as a place of great joy, a simple life of hard work and camaraderie that would be a great change from your current corporate world. You take your grandpa up on the offer, and go forth to discover that there's a lot more going on in Stardew Valley than you'd expect.

I admit, I blew off most of the naming conventions. I named my farm Cold Comfort Farm, after the 1995 film featuring an urbanite who went to the country and improved it...kind of. I even called my character George, because he kind of looked like one. Then I discovered there already was a George in the valley, an old grump of a character who's got a bit more going on than his outward appearance suggests.

That, in a nutshell, is exactly what I thought about Stardew Valley. It's so thoroughly mixed a bag. No, really; it almost seems that for every one thing to like about it there's some catastrophe waiting in the wings. It has the kind of graphics that would have been sneered at roundly in 1995. The controls are dodgy; I couldn't always tell where I was planting things, aiming my watering can, or even just how to load my slingshot. One part of my farm was unclearable; the game continually locked up when I tried to do anything therein. The game's energy meter ensures that I'll never advance too far too fast, and enforced unconsciousness at two in the morning NO MATTER WHAT helps ensure I can never get too engrossed in anything.

But at the same time, it wasn't hard to see why this was attractive, both to the character and to those who played him. The town has its own life; special occasions, birthdays, big gatherings where the town's one innkeeper--a gregarious man with a passion for cooking named Gus--tends to put on a free buffet, and occasionally, love interests. Stardew Valley is fending off the arrival of the Joja Corporation's JojaMart, a clear expy of Walmart, as the town's local shopkeep is trying frantically to stay afloat even as JojaMart cuts prices to below cost just to force said shopkeep out of business.

There's a lot going on in Stardew Valley. Not all of it is fun, or useful, or satisfying, or even works. Much of it, however, is great fun and surprisingly relaxing. For a taste of the simple life, beyond our workaday world, try this one out.

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