Let's Turn this Field into a Future
Stardew Valley: Building a Co-Op Farm
It's been a while since we last talked about Stardew Valley, and in that time a lot of cool features have been added to the game. New territories have been added for the characters to explore, a quarry cave, a volcanic island, and a tropical retreat, helping to flesh out the end game content. New farm types were added to the game to give you new spaces to build on than the standard plot of land. Best of all, co-op was added to the game, and that's the part I want to focus on today.
For those unfamiliar (and who don't want to go back and read my last review of the game), Stardew Valley is, in essence, Harvest Moon by a different maker. It tucks nicely into the "build your farm, improve the world" genre that encompasses the Harvest Moon series along with Rune Factory, Story of Seasons, the My Time At... games, even even (to a lesser extent) Animal Crossing. Stardew takes all those influences and, to a greater or lesser extent, synthesizes it all into a cohesive, and very fun, whole.
Your little farmer gets plunked onto a farm on the outskirts of nearby Pelican Town (a farm that, admittedly, is about the same size as the whole town next door, so you're quite the land baron) and your job is to build yourself, your farm, and your relationships with the town, to make you the best you that you can be. At the end of two years (a traditional end-point for these kinds of games), the spirit of your grandfather then comes to you and judges your progress. So well enough and he rewards you; fail and you get to keep playing until you finally realize your destiny. And then you can keep playing in the endgame anyway to explore all the new content added over time.
At its core the co-op variant of Stardew Valley doesn't really change anything about this. You're still plunked down on your farm (and you get to choose from any of the farm types open in the main game, from basic to forest, hilltop, monster, and the like), but his time you also get to have up to three other "cabins" on the farm, each of which can have a farmhand that lives there. The farmhands are your friends that have joined the game and, together, you collectively work to fulfill all the goals of the game so that each of you can please Grandfather.
In some ways this would seem like utter chaos and, at times, it is. Having four people (in an unmodded game) playing together means that sometimes everyone could be working at cross-purposes. I've seen games where we've all worked together to get the princely sum of $100,000 in our wallet, only to see someone wander off to the desert and spend it all on trees and seeds for the farm. Yes, long-term they're going to make us money with what they grow (vastly more than they spent), but at the same time if they didn't ask before they did it they could be screwing up other people's plans in the games.
And yet there's also something glorious about the chaos as well. I took the time, during the first Spring season of the game, to buy all the strawberry seeds I could at the spring festival (when they became available). I think we planted a huge crop of strawberries that night and seeing everything come together to hoe, fertilize, and water that massive crop of 100 seeds was truly awesome. Someone said, "did we just invent socialism?" and we all had a good laugh as we communally farmed.
Having multiple people in the farm also means that it's much easier to get a steady stream of profits so long as each person has their own interests. It's pretty easy to get one person that falls into mining, another that focuses on fishing, and one or two on farming, all just going about their business. This suddenly speeds up the early grind and ensures that money just comes in, along with resources, so that the farm quickly starts building up. It's fast, efficient, and a lot of fun.
Some things, of course, don't really change between the single player experience and co-op. The Community Center, for one, still relies on a lot of luck and there's some items that just can't be sped up no matter how many people you have working on it. Other tasks, though, becomes infinitely simpler; the big request board (a feature added more recently that allows for bigger quests with better payouts) can be handled by everyone in the group at once and it pays out to each person individually making for a lot of cash in short order. It's great.
I've played a couple of different co-op games at this point. One was a two player with my wife, and we quickly fell into a back and forth groove, easily finding ways to help each other as we went off in different directions, using the communication we've already had for years to speed-run the game. Meanwhile I'm also involved in a massive, 12-person farm on a friend's server; he installed a patch that expanded how many people could be in the farm, and the utter chaos of co-op is only magnified, and made more hilarious and awesome when you have ten-plus people rampaging through the game.
All of this goes a long way towards extended and expanding the life of Stardew Valley. I will admit after the last time I played the game, on my Xbox One edition, I set it down and didn't revisit my farm. Now, though, with co-op farms and so many new features in the game, I've felt my Stardew addiction grow. It's the kind of game, now, where you can set it down for a few months, come back, and see all kinds of new patches and features officially added in that only make the game better and better.
If you haven't yet played the game, or you're still resisting, this really is a great time to pick up Stardew Valley. And if you can find three (or even ten) friend to join in with you then it'll only make the game more fun, and more stupidly chaotic. I highly recommend it.