The recent Humble Freedom Bundle was an incredible deal of games.
For $30 you got more than 40 games…yes, that’s less than $1 per game. The last thing I needed to do was spend another $30 on video games but no gamer in their right mind could afford to NOT buy that bundle.
One of the top draw titles in that bundle was Stardew Valley. I’ve seen Stardew Valley talked about all over the place for months. On review site, on Twitter…if you paid attention to gaming news, you couldn’t avoid it. However, looking at the game, I didn’t see what the big deal was. So I decided to check it out for myself.
I’ve played Stardew Valley for a little more than 3 hours at this point and I fail to see what the big deal is. In fact, after 180 minutes, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything or really had much fun.
Stardew Valley starts off like every other RPG game you’ve played…as a character in a new place with limited knowledge and not much direction. You have to walk around and talk to people, figure out how to earn money and just survive from day to day.
After all the time I’ve put in so far, my character has planted a small garden, mowed down a lot of weeds, chopped some trees and fished. Hardly motivating, if you ask me.
After 3 hours you couldn’t give me more than a few menial tasks to accomplish? I get that you need some Tutorial Time but a game shouldn’t make you feel like a noob after 3 hours. I kept waiting for the “ah ha” moment but it never came.
So why was everyone gushing over Stardew Valley?
Nostalgia can be the only reason. Stardew Valley follows a retro SNES pixel art style that reminds you of Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, Chronos Trigger or any of the other RPGs of that era. Stardew Valley has the style nailed, congrats.
And while seeing Stardew Valley might bring back memories of the fun RPGs of yester-year, that doesn’t mean it’s any fun to play.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I’ve spent more money on retro crap than I care to admit. But for every 10 retro-inspired games I play, 8 of them are usually pretty crappy. Applying a layer of pixels to a thin game doesn’t make it fun. It makes it cute, but not fun.
I remember being a kid and playing Dragon Warrior for days…months…and I loved it. I loved the exploring and the maps and the items. It was a good gaming experience for 9-year-old me. The game itself was pretty solid and kept you moving, even with all the openness.
Seeing Stardew Valley, I can understand why people get excited. It reminds them of something they loved – that’s nostalgia, right?
But I can’t help but feel that nostalgia is blinding when it comes to Stardew Valley. There’s just not much fun here. Three hours and all I have to show are a few parsnips and a scarecrow? I played Legend of Zelda with my 5-year-old for 3 hours and managed to: find 2 swords, defeat a dragon, blow up a dinosaur, fight skeletons, collect fairies, uncover secret doorways and float on a raft. What sounds more interesting to you? Or better yet…what sounds more rewarding after investing 3 hours?
Nostalgia alone does not make a game fun. Of course, maybe I’m missing the point of Stardew Valley entirely. Maybe parsnip farming is the fun…? Maybe walking into a town where everything is closed is engaging…?
Or…maybe I’m really bad at these games? Although, if there’s any genre of gaming that is forgiving, it’s RPGs…so you shouldn’t really be able to be “bad” and them, should you? The game should do a good job of leading you around so that you get hooked. Stardew Valley failed to do this.
Thankfully, the Humble Freedom Bundle included so many games that the Stardew Valley stinkbomb is of little concern.