We’ve already posted an exhaustive preview of Stardew Valley ($7.99), but I’ve been basically playing it non-stop since I first got TestFlight access last friday. This game is the real deal, and if you’ve ever found yourself annoyed that the vast majority of farming games on the App Store are all timer-laden free to play garbage, just stop reading right now and download Stardew Valley. It’s a game I’ve now bought on three different platforms, and am closing in on around 600 hours total played between all of them. That’s almost one whole calendar month of combined time, and I still feel like I’ve got things left to do.
Stardew Valley was first released in early 2016 on the PC, and with the advent of the mobile ports, is now available on basically every platform you’d ever want to play the game on. The game begins with your grandfather leaving you his farm, which has since fallen into ruin. At its most basic, Stardew Valley is a Harvest Moon-like game of planting crops then watering and eventually harvesting them, turning a profit, then re-investing that profit in expanding your farm in a variety of interesting ways. The depth of that variety is pretty incredible, particularly as crafting, multiple sub-skills, and livestock all get thrown into the mix.
Of course farming isn’t all you do, there’s an entire village of people waiting for you to get to know (and eventually even marry), an extensive fishing system (with crab pots as well), and loads of combat should you choose to get involved in delving into the mines to rank up in the Adventurer’s Guild (and much more). Each of these things have their own goals to work towards, and it doesn’t take long before you’re absolutely drowning in choices for what to focus on next.
The wild thing about Stardew Valley is there’s always another proverbial carrot on a stick to be reaching for. The game is really, really good about never really providing you a stopping point because unlike Animal Crossing and a lot (all?) of the farming games on mobile that operate on a real-world clock, you advance to the next day in Stardew Valley by going to bed… At which point the game saves and you’re up again working on whatever goal interests you.
If this sounds like something you’d even remotely enjoy, I’d just go download the game without doing too much more research. Stardew Valley is a title that the internet has been powergamed to an extent that’s sort of unbelievable, with literally every question you’d ever have answered on the wiki. I’d argue that discovering all these things organically is way more fun, as Stardew Valley is packed with things that will have you wondering what might happen if X, Y, and/or Z conditions are met.
However, if you’re like me and already have a bazillion hours clocked in what you’re probably most curious of is what’s the mobile port like- Well, it’s about as good as it could possibly be. Stardew Valley is a fairly complicated game, so much so that I remember being a little annoyed by the Switch controls as I had played so much on the PC. When playing on the Switch, I constantly found myself thinking how great Stardew would be on mobile, but eventually figured it would just either be impossible to play or be a heavily toned down version.
Instead, what we’ve got the real deal, full-fledged game with a control system that isn’t super ideal but still more than gets the job done. You move around by tapping on screen to send your character to that tile, otherwise tapping and holding causes your character to just continue moving in that direction. A toolbar on the side of the screen allows you to cycle through what you have equipped with a single tap, although a lot of tool switching is handled automatically. (i.e. if you tap on a rock, your character will hit it with their pick axe.) This largely works well enough, with the primary fly in the proverbial ointment being combat controls.
By default, the game has auto-combat turned on and you more or less only handle character movement and whenever there’s an enemy in range your sword will swing automatically. This works fine for the upper levels of the mines, but combat quickly gets pretty wonky once you actually start running into enemies that are threatening. The manual combat mode gives you a button to swing your sword, but I feel like this is even weirder with the tap-based movement.
The other thing that isn’t super ideal is that playing on a normal sized iPhone (not the Max or an iPad) results in some touch areas that are very small. Fat-fingering once in a while is more or less inevitable, but this is largely negated by playing on the bigger screen of the iPad- As each tile is close to the size of your finger tip then. I’m not super concerned about this right now, as the developers have shown great interest in improving the controls, and even adding a Wayward Souls-style virtual joystick as a possibility. (And hopefully MFi support eventually makes it in.) The performance of the game on modern devices is amazing, as it doesn’t even make my iPhone X warm while playing it and barely puts a dent in the battery.
The two things that I’m mildly annoyed by is the complete lack of any kind of iCloud or online save game syncing support and the recent multiplayer addition is nowhere to be found. It wouldn’t surprise me if these things are eventually rolled out, given how energized the developers of the mobile port are to make it as awesome as it can be, but I do wish this wasn’t the case at launch. That being said, if you plug your iOS device into iTunes you can manage your save files that way, and transfer them around between your different devices and the same save games are even compatible with the PC version (and vice versa).
(The above trailer is for the multiplayer mode which as of this writing is not in the mobile version of the game but we’ve got all our fingers and toes crossed that it eventually gets added.)
Neither of these things will stop me from giving Stardew Valley my absolute highest recommendations. This game is so good it’s stupid, and is my most played game on my Switch. As I mentioned in the preview, the best version of Stardew Valley is the one you have with you, so even with some minor control issues at launch, I wouldn’t be surprised if I also clock in hundreds of hours of play in this version of the game. Again, if you’re the kind of person who often complains about free to play games and the lack of depth in mobile games, do not hesitate to put your money where your mouth is and buy Stardew Valley.
This game is absolutely incredible, and will not disappoint.