Monday, November 13, 2017

Stardew Valley (Nintendo Switch) - Obscure Video Game Review

Well folks, Counterfett here, back with something a little more in the spirit of which the series was started, a bona fide obscure indie game called Stardew Valley. This review pertains to the Nintendo Switch iteration of the game. Mrs Fett picked this one up because she wanted a bargain, relaxation type game to fill time on her streams until Skyrim comes out for the Switch on the 17th


Now Stardew Valley is a Harvest Moon/Terraria/Animal Crossing style game where you can create a character, inherit Gramps' farm, and try to carve your own way in life. You can woo and marry eligible townsfolk, craft mundane to wondrous objects, raise crops, raise livestock, and plumb the depths of dangerous dungeons. All the while trying to fix up the town, perfect your fishing cast, and gain Grampa's approval.

So how does this title pull it off? Let's have a look.

PROS:

  • Ambitious - Now, Stardew Valley tries to do a lot of things. You can fish, mine, farm, craft, ranch, romance, shop, befriend, chop trees, plant trees, irrigate, quest, fight monsters. There's simply just a whole lot of ways you can interact with the world of Stardew Valley.
  • Characters - You'll love 'em. You'll hate 'em. You'll spend entire days screaming at your monitor trying to find them when they wander around or lock themselves in their rooms when you're trying to give them gifts. The characters, on whole, are one of the most fun aspects of SDV, and can be unexpectedly adorable and heartwarming.
  • Addicting - This can be one of those games that you want to play when you're not playing. You'll find yourself thinking about what you want to do next, or which villager might want the gold star goat cheese which just came out of the press. I know, that's gross, but it's a thing.
CONS:
  • Wonky controls - Many games have controller setups you don't like, or have to get used to. Stardew makes you nostalgic for those games. Even with the tool placement indicator turned on, you simply have to make several attempts to get the right spot with any of your tools. Maybe you'll plant something in the wrong spot and waste a seed. Or you'll hoe in the wrong spot and destroy a costly immature fruit tree instead of debris. Or burn a significant portion of your energy recasting a fishing line because your character turned and tried to cast into grass instead of the river you were facing when you started. I know this is a port, guys, I do, but it should be at least COMPATIBLE with the controllers of the system you are porting it to.
  • No Information - A game like this will usually have a tutorial. Or dialogue in which a friendly neighbor tells you a little bit about how to do things. Or a manual. Or tooltips. Or any information whatsoever about how any of the games mechanics work at all. There's simply nothing in this game to indicate how any of it works. And some of the things are misleading or contradictory. For instance, many seeds say "Plant in Spring." This indicates that you will grow this plant as long as it is planted in Spring. Wrong. On day 1 of Summer, any Spring plants you have planted will die. This can be a very frustrating and costly thing to learn. 
  • Fishing - This ties in with both of the above. No one tells you how the fishing minigame works. I mean, it's complicated, not self explanatory, and nothing even tells you which buttons to push. I've heard it's less frustrating on the PC, because the control set up for it is better, but seriously. Since catching different types of fish is practically mandatory for game advancement, this is aggravating.
  • Likes and Dislikes - Again, this ties in with point 2 above, I just didn't want one big bullet point. When trying to befriend the other villagers, you have to give gifts. A lot of gifts. And there are 5 levels for each type of gift. Love, like, neutral, dislike, hate. Better gifts increase friendship, worse gifts decrease it. On board so far? Well, here's where it gets funky, because they don't tell you what things they like! You just have to trial and error and get upset because you lose progress whenever you try and figure out what anyone likes. I don't need a cheat guide, but someone saying "I sure like flowers" or something would be a help.

UPDATE 11/16/2017

Okay, so the game's developers are putting out a  patch for the game save issues, which is currently waiting for Nintendo's clearance. This is a good thing. I have removed the "Broken" bullet point, as they worked with my wife to help her get a workaround until the patch went through. This is the kind of thing I like to see, and it improves my overall disposition towards the game as a whole. It still has its quirks, to be sure, but at least it's a playable mess, instead of a broken one.