GameTech: Farm game is a breath of fresh air

For most of us, the closest we’ll come to tending farm animals is our Twitter feed, writes Ronan Jennings

GameTech: Farm game is a breath of fresh air

For most of us, an acre is a Sunday morning headache. For most of us, a bad crop is when profile pictures go wrong. And that is why Stardew Valley has been a runaway success.

Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, but not the serious kind. You won’t be fretting over milk quotas or soil quality here. There are no diseases or overheads to worry about. Instead, you control a little man as he walks about a cartoon patch of land, helping him plant seeds, build coops, erect stables, go fishing, and watch the days roll by. And as the days roll by, they turn into months, and the months into seasons, and your little farm becomes a bigger farm, which you can diligently tend to — or which you can happily ignore, if the workload becomes tiresome.

Because your farm borders a town full of needy lovables, there’s more to life than just lonesome farming. In fact, much of the fun comes from building relationships with these people as the months saunter on … What’s that? Debbie needs a bream for her fish taco?

I’ll hit the river, Debbie, and maybe you’ll offer me some new tool or service to grow my farm later. You know, I’d love to see my tulips come up just right so the parsnips don’t get frettish. I’m sure the cows would love some apple trees to admire. Just another 20 days to go before the potatoes come up.

If Stardew Valley sounds kind of sappish, that’s undeniably true, but it’s also a damn sight more relaxing than shooting 15 zombies in the head before they chew your face off. And while we’ve seen ‘farming life’ simulators like this before, especially in Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, this is the first time such a game has been successful on the PC.

Brilliantly, it reached number one on the Steam charts, holding off Ubisoft’s blockbuster The Division in the process. If nothing else, this proves that gamers really do crave a change of pace sometimes.

The success of Stardew Valley comes down to far more than just opportunity, however. This is a really well constructed game, one that easily holds its own against its big budget forebearers.

While you can play at your own pace, that doesn’t mean it lacks a challenge. Getting the right balance between your character’s energy levels, income levels, town relationships, and farm aspirations does take commitment and planning. Thankfully, despite the many farm chores you’ll perform, the game itself never becomes one.

With Spring upon us, there’s no better time to give Stardew Valley a visit. At €13, it’s a valley good purchase.

Overwatch excitement

Blizzard is a company that knows all about farming in games — in World of Warcraft, ‘gold farming’ became a big problem at one stage. Players would play WoW solely to make in-game currency, so that they could then sell that currency for real cash to other players.

There’s a reason Blizzard games inspire such excessive attention, and it’s because they create very well balanced systems that draw large communities. For that reason, Overwatch should have fans of Team Fortress and Call of Duty very, very excited.

Overwatch will be released on May 24 and it’s essentially Team Fortress meets Pixar. If you prefer online shooters with room for different playstyles and strategies, then this looks like a winner. A new cinematic trailer has been released and while it doesn’t show gameplay (plenty of that on YouTube), it does highlight the light-hearted, Saturday-morning-superhero vibe of the Overwatch universe. Which, like Stardew Valley, is a welcome change of pace from soldiers and the apocalypse.

Hope for World of Warcraft movie

Not everything about World of Warcraft inspires excellence, however. The latest trailer for the movie of the same name looks boring and, frankly, ridiculous. Human and orc love triangles should only be seen in the darkest corners of the internet, not on 30ft screens. To make matters worse, the Warcraft style just looks silly on real people. The world of Azeroth, it seems, was cursed to perpetual Movember. Still, with David Jones at the helm, there’s always hope.

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