'Stardew Valley': The Epitome of Chill
Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone has created one of the most relaxing games to play in your downtime.
Have you ever had the sudden feeling to just break away from where you are in life and just disappear off the grid in order to find yourself? That question may seem extremely specific, but you'd be surprised how often of a thought it is, especially in the minds of young adults and teens around this time. The fact that so many people are displeased with where they are—be it because of their job or lack thereof or some other reason—just goes to show that Eric Barone knows what he's talking about.
Stardew Valley is a pixel-art game that starts with the aforementioned happening before your eyes. Your character is a regular office worker who, after doing it for however long, grows tired of the monotony in their life. One day, they find a letter that they'd gotten from their grandfather years ago. Inside it reveals that your grandfather has left you a farm in a small, faraway valley, specifically for this moment. For when you get tired of living life in the big city and you need to discover who you are and what your roots are. With a pocket full of dreams and nothing better to do, you find yourself on the bus toward that quaint little town that you'd never heard of before: Stardew Valley.
The farmland that your grandfather has left you is in complete disarray since it hasn't been tended to in years. Wild grass threatens to grow over everything, trees sprout up here and there, and all you have to start off with are some hand-me-down tools and kind words from Mayor Lewis, who's the mayor of the town over and was great friends with your grandfather. You're determined to make something out of this wild patch of land though.
Once the game starts, you're free to take whatever path you want in order to grow. You can focus on farming, which will involve you becoming friends with either Pierre, who owns the local shop, or the Joja Mart Manager, who only really cares for advancing Joja Mart's coverage. You can focus on fishing, which will see you interacting with Willy, an old fisherman who just wants someone to pass down his knowledge and love of fishing to. Regardless of which path, it's guaranteed that Stardew Valley will instill a sense of strange calmness and chill inside of you.
In this game, where your main objective is just to thrive in whichever way you want, there's nothing to hold you back, nothing demanded of you, and nothing that'll stop you from enjoying the game the way you want to. The community is full of colorful characters, all with their own personalities and lives, that you can befriend; some of them you can even date, marry, and have kids with.
Paired with a plethora of collectibles that help you unlock items that'll aid you, events that bring a little bit of life into the community, and backstory given through these items and events that really help flesh out the mystical world of Stardew Valley.
Every character is unique in their own ways and when it comes to the ones that you can romance, each of them has their own quirks that'll peak almost anyone's interest. Take Penny, for example, the daughter of Pam, the bus driver, who teaches the kids at the local library. She's soft-spoken and nervous at first, but she shows that she's kind-hearted and a bit of a bookworm. Or Sebastian, a gloomy guy who spends a lot of his time alone. At first, he's standoffish and seems rude, but once you get to know him you find out that he's extremely passionate about his work as a programmer and simply wants to be treated like the adult that he is.
I could sit here and talk about all of the characters for hours: Shane and his depressive outlook on life, Abigail and her love for the mystical and mysterious, Leah and her artistic ways and natural life, or Elliot and his gentlemanly swag and way with the piano. They're interesting enough to play the game solely for them, but chances are you'll get distracted and find something else you enjoy about the game along the way.
Stardew Valley is a game that I like to play after I've had a hard day. It's extremely relaxing, just spending my time farming and trying to make sure my crops come out as best as possible, and it puts no kind of stress on me at all. Even if you aren't trying to get the most money possible with cash crops like blueberries or strawberries, farming on its on own is just unadulterated fun. It's so simple and pure that you can't help but not enjoy it.
All fluff aside, I truly believe that Stardew Valley is one of the best games I've played in a really long time. It helps me personally calm down and I simply want to share that joy with anyone else who's willing to listen. If you haven't played it, give it a try. It's a pretty cheap game and I definitely think it's worth it. If you like it, then I told you so. If you don't, then maybe it just isn't for you. Regardless, I think it's an amazing game and I firmly believe that Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone deserves all of the recognition that he gets.