I don’t often play single-player games. I enjoy the social aspect of MMOs, so for me most single-player games just don’t cut it. There is one notable exception however – Animal Crossing. I’ve played every game in the franchise since the original came out for the Game Cube years ago, but even that you could say is a quasi-social experience, since a very large part of the game is socializing with the NPCs and basically creating a village experience with them. Otherwise, I largely ignore most single-player games.
That is, until Stardew Valley came out. I hadn’t even heard of the game until after it had released and a friend mentioned it to me. It looked like Harvest Moon, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve not really been a fan of Harvest Moon games either. The Day/Night cycle always seemed to move too fast, like there were way too many things to do within each day, and it felt more like a time management game – I have enough time management issues in real life, thank you very much, and really don’t need to deal with it in my game time. So I was skeptical – but as I looked at it, it seemed to also have blended in aspects of Minecraft, Terraria, and – joy of JOYS – Animal Crossing. And the price was right at $14.99. So I gave it a whirl.
AND OH MY WORD THIS GAME IS CRACK. I love it. As long as my plants get watered, I can do whatever else each day, so the day/night cycle doesn’t bother me too much. Mostly it only bothers me when I’m mining and trying to dig down through the levels to hit another elevator. The game itself is charming, with the SNES-era sprites that make me feel like a kid again, vibrant color palettes, and a wonderful soundtrack. The NPCs all have character and it does feel like a social experience even as a single-player game. My favorite character is currently Linus, the homeless NPC that hangs out at his tent by the river, dishes out philosophical wisdom and is more than happy to be given food. Most of the NPCs are rote social stereotypes – the athletic guy, the emo guy, the Fabio guy, the alternative girl, the good girl, the nerdy girl, etc – but they are done fairly well and they all have a backstory with some twists and turns.
So far I’m just trying to build up cash by farming, mining, and selling everything that isn’t nailed down. I haven’t even really started on trying to woo any villagers or build up friendships via gifting, I figure that will happen in year 2. It’s the little things in game that give the game heart – such as the train that rolls by dropping items off that you can grab, or the little fairy that stops by some nights to make your crops mature faster.
It blows my mind that one guy developed the entire game, including composing the soundtrack, and that he is committed to continuing to push out updates. That is a major accomplishment, and I’m happy to support indie designers that have taken something like this on. It’s a great complimentary game to play alongside World of Warcraft, and in this case, I actually like that time stops when I’m not playing, because there’s no pressure to play and I can fit it into my schedule any time.