Stardew Valley (Switch) Review
Stardew Valley just very suddenly happened for the Switch. We knew it was coming… then suddenly it was just a few days away. And the relaxing, farming and gathering gameplay works amazingly well for the Switch in both TV and handheld modes. There are so many different ways to explore and play the game, so this review will unpack my experiences with Stardew Valley, bit by bit.
The two earliest elements introduced to you are gathering, and growing crops. You start with all the tools you need, and if you’re even only vaguely familiar with farming, you’ll quickly understand what to do. Grab your hoe, till the soil, plant your seeds, and water them every day. The farm you start with is a giant mess, however, so initially you’ll be clearing rocks and trees to make space. Don’t make the mistake I did, and name your farm “something Farm”, because it adds “Farm” to the end itself… whoops.
This leads to an interesting mechanic I honestly didn’t expect – you only have a certain amount of energy to work with each day, so even if you have the time to clear a bunch of your farm out, you’ll quickly run out of steam and you’ll barely be able to walk back home to sleep it off. It works quite nicely, in a game that’s fundamentally about resource management.
The next part of the game is where the character and charm really come in – the social aspects. Stardew Valley is home to a wide variety of people, young and old. It’s hard not to walk by people in the village without saying hello, even though I know they aren’t real. Beyond that, most of them have jobs and roles that can help you with a variety of different objectives, like building new things for your farm, buying new seeds to plant, and upgrading your tools.
And to get better tools, you need better materials that you get by moving through the mines. This part of the game feels like a dungeon crawler, with combat being introduced along with mining. It’s a huge investment of time and energy, with a trip to the mines usually being a full day’s worth of activity. The combat is simple enough to work, adding another layer of gameplay to an already expansive checklist of things to do.
It’s interesting to have a game based on one gameplay cycle, across different settings and activities. Farming leads to crops, which you sell to get more money, which you then use to buy more crops. Mining leads to materials, which gets you money and ore, which allows you to purchase better tools to mine further and faster with. It means that you can focus more on one area of gameplay than another, and it always gives you a goal to reach.
Stardew Valley also has seasons that rotate, keeping you invested in the farming side of the game. Each season is just 28 days long, with different crops only being able to be grown during certain seasons. It adds a bit of strategy and forethought of which crops to plant and when, as well as keeping you cautious about potentially wasting all your money on seeds that will be out-of-season sooner than their usual rate of growth.
This in-game calendar also has social applications, with each of the residents in town having birthdays on certain dates, and even celebrations of their equivalents of holidays. It’s all optional stuff that adds a heck of a lot of personality to the game, making it feel like a living and breathing town.
You have even more things to dabble in beyond the basic mechanics, giving you, even more goals to meet in different criteria. Most of these quests are logged in your journal, meaning you can pick up where you left off really easily.
So gameplay-wise, it’s a solid game that keeps you busy. On that front, it’s amazing, but being a PC game ported to a console, there are a few things that stood out to me as needing improvement.
The first one that irked me, was the long, bland saving screens between days. Saving can take up to 15 seconds each time – which isn’t the end of the world, but it definitely ends up being a stopping point in my gameplay sessions. The second issue is the UI, which is clearly designed to be more of a PC, mouse navigated experience. In particular, selecting crafting options can take quite a few tries before you get the one you want. This only gets more frustrating when you realise that you can’t use the touchscreen in handheld mode to get around it.
Overall, Stardew Valley is a must-own indie title for the Switch. The game has such a wide variety of activities to take part in, so you’re never left wondering what to do next. Beyond a few minor, easily fixable gripes, I found myself losing hours of the day each time I picked the game up. The Switch is an indie machine right now, and this is the current, shining example.
-Never a dull moment
-The perfect game for on-the-go
-Relaxing, thoughtful gameplay
-Saving takes way too long sometimes
-UI isn’t quite right for console
-No touchscreen in handheld