Stardew Valley is more than a farming simulator

Stardew Valley is easy to play but has plenty of depth for those who want to discover all the secrets the game has to offer.
Stardew Valley is easy to play but has plenty of depth for those who want to discover all the secrets the game has to offer.PHOTO: NINTENDO/CHUCKLEFISH

It is hard to call Stardew Valley merely an open-world farming simulator even though that is what it is.

This is because the game's quiet appeal lies not just in planting and harvesting crops, but also in engaging with a world of unique characters, building relationships and fighting an occasional monster battle.

Stardew Valley takes the addictive gathering-crafting mechanic of Minecraft and combines it with the simple charm of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, all wrapped up in nostalgic 16-bit graphics.

As the player-character, you are tasked with taking over your grandfather's old farm plot, located in the titular Stardew Valley, which he bequeathed to you when he died.

Armed initially with nothing more than a few hand-me-down tools like axes and hoes, it is up to you to carve your own future there in whatever way you want.

The indie fan favourite took the gaming world by storm when it was first released for the PC last February, sucking in gamers who wanted to do it all.

While the PC and subsequent console versions on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are great, I maintain that the Switch is absolutely the best platform for a game of Stardew Valley's open-ended, free-roaming nature.

The portability of the Switch complements everything about Stardew Valley's gameplay.

The game is suited for short bouts of play as it is structured in days, where you have limited energy to plant seeds, clear weeds and trees, harvest crops and gather materials.

So it is now easier to sink even more time into the game, as you can pop into it whenever you have a pocket of free time to knock off things on the to-do list.

Stardew Valley looks like simple fun at first glance and it is - it is easy for anyone to have a go at running a farm. But there is tons of depth for players who want to invest the time into discovering all the secrets the game has to offer, as well as searching for the best way to run a farm.

The only beef I have with what is otherwise a great port is the slightly long save and load times. Booting up the game from the main screen and saving your progress take a fair bit of time, which disrupts what could be a quick way to pop in-game when you have several minutes to spare.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Stardew Valley is more than a farming simulator'. Print Edition | Subscribe