A few weeks ago I posted about Stardew Valley and how excited I was for it, and now the game has been out for a little over 36 hours as of writing. In that time I’ve put 13 hours into the game, which is an early indication for how much I’m enjoying it. Here’s my review of the early parts of the game.
Stardew Valley sees a welcome return to the farming simulator/RPG hybrid gameplay dominated by Harvest Moon over the past twenty years or more, and shares a lot of similarities with that franchise as well as forging its own path in the genre. The core story will be a familiar one to fans – your Grandfather leaves you a farm in his will, and years later you decide to take it over and transform it from a dilapidated pile of overgrowth and rubble into a thriving money making venture. Along the way you’ll meet the local Pelican Town community and attend various events and play through various randomly generated scenarios, and follow various sub-plots crucial to the over-arching story. There is absolutely loads to do in this game taking all that into account, as forming and maintaining relationships, progressing through the story and maintaining the day-to-day running of your farm allows for a varied and enjoyable experience each time you play.
For anyone over a certain age Doom is almost certainly a franchise most gamers have played at some point during their childhood – despite having a well earned 18/R rating for being some of the most violent games of their generation. I played the SNES port of the original Doom in the mid 90s and despite never growing fond of the first person shooter genre that game is still one of my favourites of all time.
Doom 2 was more of the same, but a drop in quality followed with the third game and very little has been said about the franchise since. Thankfully after years of development Doom 4, or just Doom as it’s now known is set for a release in May and the new campaign trailer looks incredible. A word of warning though, it is ridiculously violent.
Developers Bethesda have said that the campaign takes about 13 hours to complete factoring in difficulty, which is longer than average when compared to other games in the genre. It’ll also come with multiplayer which will no doubt be where the meat of the game will be, but we don’t have too long to wait and find out. Doom is released on May 13th.
The climax of the mission is now. Two battered and wounded soldiers are still fighting, a third carries an unconscious fourth. The instructions are simple – plant an X4 explosive in an alien facility and get the hell out, but the place is still swarming with ADVENT aliens. My grenadier fires wildly and misses despite having a 72% chance of a successful kill, so now the time has come to cut my losses and go straight for the objective. The second of my two remaining active soldiers, a Specialist with little experience of war, makes a desperate sprint for the foreign equipment where the explosive is to be planted and somehow dodges the heavy fire of a camped alien sitting in overwatch in an adjacent room before planting the fateful bomb. The rookie has successfully ridden his luck. This time.
Now it’s the turn of the aliens and all I can do is watch and hope. My Specialist is currently completely open after planting the explosive and the enemy are poised to take full advantage of that fact – a venomous snake-like creature whips out his elongated tongue and quick as a flash drags my soldier half way across the building before promptly wrapping its scaly body around its hapless and helpless prey. I now have a choice – backtrack to save my ensnared soldier who is slowly having the life literally squeezed out of him, my most decorated Sergeant (with some cutting edge tech on his weaponry I might add, which I would lose should he die) and risk the lives of my other men and women… or continue to the extraction zone mere feet away and sacrifice the life of one man to save several?
One of the features I love most about the XCOM games is the permanent death of your soldiers if such a scenario takes place. It adds a whole new dimension to the strategy genre as every individual soldier truly matters, particularly as you can customise them and name them after friends and family – which sounds very tempting as it adds a personal touch to your campaign but ultimately detrimental to your plight as you’ll find yourself overprotecting your mother or your spouse instead of perhaps taking a necessary risk when the need arises. In the above situation I left my Sergeant behind, but in all honesty that had more to do with protecting my little soldier version of me (embarrassingly the unconscious one) than rescuing one of my doomed comrades, a decision that would have probably gone the other way had I not personally been a part of the mission in the first place.
Los Santos’ two favourite super heroes return (albeit with a slight name change while Knob Boy finds his identity), this time to thwart the plans of the evil Baron von Knobgobbler as he attempts to “take over ze vorld!”
To do that Suoercock and Knob Boy must relieve the Baron of two of his most prized assets of destruction, which meant infiltrating his base and stealing fighter jets. All while under heavy fire from his troops, helicopters, jets in the air and a damn tank or two for good measure.
In my defence I didn’t mean a direct cut and paste of most 90’s RPGs with prettier graphics; more like turn based with a few added features thrown in – a little like Final Fantasy XIII’s battle mode, which was about the only thing that game did right. After watching gameplay footage of Final Fantasy VII recently I was starting to think maybe a more action-oriented approach was the right decision (especially armed with the knowledge that the game is a ‘re-imagining’ rather than a straight up remake), but after seeing the following footage from Final Fantasy XV I now appreciate that this way of fighting is the only way forward.
This just looks incredible, and we’re hopefully approaching a release date too – rumours are rampant for a Summer 2016 release, with the announcement hopefully being made at the end of March.
*UPDATE* You can read our Stardew Valley Review here.
I’ve been a fan of Harvest Moon since it first came to the Super Nintendo console in 1998. Since then I’ve owned and played several of the sequels spanning across almost every console Nintendo has made, and put hundreds of hours into the series overall.
One of my favourites and one I probably put the most time into was Animal Parade on the Wii. Unfortunately that was the last of the Harvest Moon titles to see a release on home consoles in 2008, with everything else since being made exclusively for handhelds – and handheld gaming is something I’ve never quite been invested in, not for want of trying.
So, eight years later and with a Wii U release of a new Harvest Moon game (or Story of Seasons as it’s now known) looking increasingly unlikely, ‘ConcernedApe,’ a one man developer, has created Stardew Valley and it looks impressive.
Scheduled for release on February 26th 2016, it boasts a handful of familiar features essential to the farming simulation / RPG genre. There are a ton of customisation options for both your house and character, and an interesting leveling mechanic that pulls the game more towards an RPG style than a straight up farming simulator by way of improving five different key skills – farming, mining, combat, fishing, and foraging. Add to that a thriving local community, places to explore and creating the ultimate farm, this game is looking like the game PC and Harvest Moon fans have been waiting for.