Stardew Valley changed the world. Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon have been around for decades, but ConcernedApe’s indie farming sim has defined the magic of rural life away from the bustle of the city like nothing else before. It has sold millions of copies and embraced a community of modders that continue to expand its horizons, while influencing a new generation of studios eager to build on its healthy vibes.
Farming sims where you farm, fall in love, and claim new properties are ubiquitous in the modern era, with the genre long saturated with familiar game systems and the occasional uneasiness where we’re meant to let our worries go. But when dozens of these experiences are developed with exactly the same vanity, this attraction ceases to be. Fae Farm, My Time At Sandrock, Harvestella, and Dreamlight Valley all seem like competent games in their own right, but are all too familiar.
Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was filled with titles that exuded the same atmosphere, while sporting gameplay mechanics that, after so many iterations, have become derivative. The daily routine of tending to our farm before coming to town to build relationships has been established for years, and all of these games try to emulate it but never do enough to stand out. I rolled my eyes as firm after firm hit me in the face, though some of those games might turn me on on their own. But there is too much.
Harvestella has a striking aesthetic and fits into the usual Stardew Valley routine with a weird apocalyptic twist. It seems that the relationships we build and all the resources we develop will fold into the coming catastrophe, and the narrative will change depending on what we have managed to prepare in a strict space of time. It’s a neat idea, but on the face of it, it’s little more than the farming sim we’ve seen so many times before. Games like Fae Farm and Hokko Life are much less successful and less exciting because it’s impossible not to compare it to everything that came before. It’s just not very appealing to me anymore.
The once wholesome appeal of Stardew Valley has morphed into something cynical, as if the industry at large is now acutely aware of how we want to escape reality and bask in lovable characters and fantasy. rural away from the bullshit of life. We know how these games play, we know the atmosphere they’re trying to create, and there’s only so many of them we can put up with before it all feels the same. Safety has become a tool to be leveraged instead of a real sign of passion and creativity, which really sucks.
Not to mention that they all require a pretty decent time investment, more so if you want to build relationships and see all they have to offer. We’ve reached a farming simulation singularity and we need to give it a rest. Haunted Chocolatier I’m ready for, but largely because it’s moving away from what Stardew Valley has achieved and actively wanting to pursue a new direction. When this takes over the world, will we see a bunch of games based on spooky candy stores? I sure hope not, but at least it will give the farms some rest.
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