Stardew Valley set the standard for farming sim mechanics included in other games like it, but there are many still missing from others in the genre.
In 2016, Stardew Valley, took old mechanics from Harvest Moon and Rune Factory and reimagined them, adding new ideas and refreshing a genre that had become comfortable with a repetitive storyline. Stardew Valley has pushed older farming sim franchises to incorporate these new concepts, but there are several mechanics still missing from newer farming games, and many would improve their overall experience.
Farming simulation games have been popular for decades. The first Harvest Moon game released in 1996 for the Super Nintendo, and for many it was the gateway into the slice-of-life genre. Harvest Moon helped shape the popular template for these relaxing games. Farming, animal care, town restoration, and marriage were the primary focus points. But while graphics improved steadily with each new game and console, the basic plot stayed the same, causing Harvest Moon and many of the titles inspired by it to become stagnant.
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Stardew Valley was able to break the mold, however, by making several important innovations for the genre. The first was the inclusion of a modern, relatable storyline. The main character of Stardew Valley leaves a horrible job working for a large corporation that doesn’t care about its employees. NPCs have realistic problems and personalities, leaving behind the stereotyped marriage candidates and townsfolk of other farming sims. Stardew Valley also incorporates exploration elements unique to the game, including late-game areas, mines with a much greater depth, and special secrets about the town and its inhabitants that take time and dedication to unravel. All of these aspects would benefit other farming sims.
Stardew Valley Mechanics For Other Farming Sims: Better Mining
While other farming sims like Story of Seasons have morning nodes players can hit for ore, or even proper caves to descend into, they don’t usually go very deep. These caves offer a limited source of ore, gemstones, and building resources. Stardew Valley has multiple mining locations that unlock as players progress. These mines and caves also require basic combat skills, with enemies that drop rare loot. Most importantly, they are deep and hold plenty of rewards to incentivize the effort it takes to explore their many different levels.
Ore and gems spawn differently depending on the floor being mined, and enemy difficulty increases the further down a player goes, requiring better gear and combat skills to survive. Mining also becomes more difficult, so upgrading the pickaxe is important to make good time on harder levels. While many of these additions are small, they expand Stardew Valley‘s mining mechanics into a proper adventure, instead of a tedious grind for minerals needed to upgrade buildings and tools.
Stardew Valley Mechanics For Other Farming Sims: Complex NPCs
One of the biggest struggles players may encounter in slice-of-life farming games is bland NPC writing. Many of these games rely on simple stereotypes to shape their characters. A “jock” or “cute” character will often behave the same from game to game, and many of Havest Moon’s characters could be interchanged with little difference. This lack of depth isn’t a problem in Stardew Valley. Every character has a rich backstory, and many are dealing with relatable personal struggles. If more farming simulation games included deeper backstories and character flaws in their NPCs, players would have more incentive to engage with townsfolk and would gain greater satisfaction from building relationships with them.
Stardew Valley Mechanics For Other Farming Sims: Bigger Item Selections
While Story of Seasons includes many different options when it comes to crop variety, other games are lacking compared to Stardew Valley. There are countless crops to grow, foods to cook, and artisan goods to create. To add to this list, there are numerous ores, gemstones, and fish to collect. The variety of items allows many different types of gameplay to exist within one game. Players can focus on creating a vineyard by raising different fruits and ageing them into wine in their basement casks, or they can be explorers and earn the majority of their money by mining. They can also raise a slew of Stardew Valley livestock, like pigs to for a truffle farm or cows for a dairy farm. Players have a genuine choice in determining how their game will go, rather than being limited to a generic, pre-determined farming experience.
Stardew Valley Mechanics For Other Farming Sims: Monster Options
Monsters battles aren’t for everyone. Combat is often absent from farming simulation games, with the exception of Rune Factory, which is partially an action RPG. However, Stardew Valley took a risk by including a simple combat system in certain areas of its maps. When the game first released, these areas were limited to the mines, Skull Cavern, and the Secret Woods in standard gameplay. However, there was also an option at the start of the game for a farm layout including monster spawns after dark. This allows fans of combat and battle elements a way to make their game a little more challenging. In the recent Stardew Valley 1.5 update, more options for monster spawning outside of specific areas were added. By including more optional combat mechanics, farming games can reach a wider audience.
Stardew Valley has expanded or improved upon many existing farming sim mechanics through its updates and original base game, creating a slice-of-life experience that has remained popular for the past six years. Other farming games like Story of Seasons have seen Stardew Valley’s success and implemented similar mechanics for their Maker Machines and animal care. However, there are plenty of other ways Stardew Valley has improved the slice-of-life genre, and hopefully more of these changes will make their way into new farming games in the future.
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