Games that attempt to mimic daily life don’t only focus on offering events for the player character to make your avatar more interesting, but also allow you insights into the citizens in town. It’s a way of making everyone seem more realistic and build bonds with backgrounds. Stardew Valley is no exception, but it handles thing a little more differently than the Harvest Moon games.
While characters do have troubles they face in other farming simulations, these tend to lighter and fluffier. People might not get along with one another, due to some relatively minor disagreement. Parents and their grown children might not get along. Someone may have a job issue. The cast of Stardew Valley, on the other hand, are dealing with more realistic problems that reflect issues we see in our daily lives.
(Caution! There are a few minor spoilers for Pelican Town residents past this point. If you want to learn some details and secrets about Linus, George, Sebastian, the Wizard, and Pierre’s backgrounds on your own, it’s best to stop here.)
It can hit you pretty early on that things are different in Stardew Valley. For me, it was when Linus made me feel guilty for questioning his life choices. He’s the man who lives in a tent by the carpenter. I didn’t spend too much time talking to him, but that didn’t keep me from triggering an event. It was late at night, and Linus had crept into the town to raid people’s garbage cans for food. This made George leave his house, thinking it was a raccoon. Linus hid, while I walked up. George asked me to scare the raccoons away.
Stardew Valley sent me over to Linus. We talked, and there were multiple dialogue options to choose from. I selected one that suggested Linus should consider getting a job. In my defense, I thought this meant he would start helping at the carpenter shop or the general store. Instead, he lectured me, saying that some people weren’t cut out for that kind of lifestyle. He said to tell George the raccoons wouldn’t come back again. He headed to the bar, where Gus gave him food. In a touching moment, Gus said he didn’t want anyone in Pelican Town to go hungry.
But let’s go back to George. He’s in a wheelchair and seems like a stereotypical, grumpy old man. He’s rather mean to everyone, attempting to push people away. If you stick around, you find out exactly why he’s in that wheelchair. Yes, it’s a rather unfortunate story. And of course, it helps explain some of his behavior. Stardew Valley giving characters motivation for their actions makes them more believable as characters.
Sebastian hit home for me, which is why my heroine is romancing him. At first glance, he seems like a bad boy, gamer character. He lives in his parents’ basement. He’s sarcastic and dark. He can ignore people and makes a show of going to the lake to smoke. But, once you start talking to him, you realize there’s a reason for it. His sister, Maru, tends to get more attention than him. His family don’t seem to recognize his job as a job, since it involves him sitting at a computer all day at home. It resonates with someone who sits at home on a computer all day at home and has occasionally had people who don’t seem to understand that it’s a real job.
(Warning! In the event you ignored the earlier spoiler warning, here’s a reminder that a serious secret is about to be revealed.)
Stardew Valley even has scandals! Pelican Town may be a little place in the middle of nowhere, but there’s some serious dirt to be found. Go make friends with the Wizard. He’ll clue you in on a potential secret. He thinks one of girls in town could be his daughter. Is it true? Maybe. I haven’t gotten far enough in this potential storyline to find out, as the key seems to lie in befriending adults related to some younger, female residents. I do have a suspicion as to who his child could be.
There’s also a serious feud between Joja Mart’s Morris and the general store’s Pierre. Morris goes out of his way to sabotage Pierre. He’ll come in and offer 50% off discounts. Also, supporting Morris and Joja Mart can end up shutting down Pelican Town’s community center, should someone decide to buy a membership to the superstore. What makes Stardew Valley special is that you can decide to side with Joja Mart, if you want. It means the community center is replaced with a warehouse and there’s an alternate means of getting town upgrades. If you don’t, then you’ll be supporting Pierre and small town values. It’s an interesting dynamic that makes you feel as though you’re getting caught up in the drama yourself.
Keep in mind, these examples I’ve provided are only a few of the stories Stardew Valley has to tell. Other characters also have secrets to share, which will only be revealed if you take the time to make friends with them. While there is still the issue of people only having a number of lines to say, these more detailed, sometimes sordid, backgrounds make things more engaging than other farming games.
Stardew Valley is immediately available for Windows PCs.