Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a little behind the times on Stardew Valley. It soared to popularity in 2016 and I missed the boat.
Since that time I’ve watched a couple people’s short playthrough sessions with the game and thought it was entertaining, but slice-of-life games have never really been my cup of tea. I watched my cousin play Harvest Moon once and the only way I made it through the doldrums was by trying to find ways to slaughter everyone in the town — none of which worked even a little. I think I’ve found over time that I’m generally someone who needs short- and long-term goals and a well-written story in most of his games.
So when we had the chance to play Stardew Valley over the weekend thanks to its multiplayer beta, I was on board. There are dozens of posts on this site professing my love for co-op games; saying that good co-op is a selling point would be a massive understatement. We had seven people around the house with some people visiting in town this weekend, including some friends of the show that have popped up in various media over the years. What game could all of us play together? Turns out Stardew Valley was the answer.
See, the SV multiplayer beta takes the core experience and expands it out to four players. That means additional farm hands to help raise crops, fish, clear out the mines and take over the town. But it turns out that with a bit of text editing in the game’s save files, you can push that even further beyond — we had all seven of us, each with his or her own cabin, running around a farm with a Dream Daddy theme. (It’s a long story.)
Now I have no background in the single-player version of Stardew Valley, but it seems like this takes that gameplay and turns it up to 11, or 11 million. We could water our crops for the day with a team effort and be done in the first two hours, leaving the rest of the day for whatever other opportunities tickled our fancy. Gathering resources was a piece of cake when a couple people could work on foraging, a couple people headed to the mines to make their way to the deeper floors, while others headed to the fishing pond to increase their skills. We reached the bottom floor of the starting mine before the first season change, and I’m pretty confident that’s not possible in the normal solo mode (or at the very least, certainly not without neglecting other aspects).
All of it made for an extremely pleasant experience. Being able to work together on certain tasks helped keep them from feeling boring — for example, Lincoln and Becky decided that they were going to be the best fishermen on the planet and a light competition broke out between them. After I cleared all the debris out of our farm, I joined the team that was crushing its way through the mines to get to the bottom floor.
The beta isn’t without its issues — the starting maps aren’t equipped to handle that many cabins without them clipping into existing trees and rocks (or other people’s cabins). That can be fixed by taking the multiplayer file into solo mode and moving the buildings, but other issues can’t, like a quest where I was supposed to get the starting fishing rod that glitched out and didn’t give me any items at all. Occasionally players would drop the connection and have to rejoin. Sometimes certain items like furnaces were visible to a few players and not others. But it’s a beta, after all, and these bugs were pretty limited compared to the overall benefits.
It’s safe to say that I had a great time going through Stardew Valley’s multiplayer mode, both because of the company and because of the game itself. We spent about 10 hours playing through the first season, and maybe we’ll revisit that file if we can get everyone together again down the road. I also enjoyed the game enough to consider playing it on my own, though having all those tasks covered at once might have spoiled me a bit on the game’s growth curve. The beta is definitely worth checking out if you get the chance.