Stardew Valley is actually a post-apocalyptic survival game. Let it sink.
Stardew Valley is many things. A great distraction from daily business, a farming-life-simulation, since lately also the absolute coop fun, and so on. Stardew Valley looks on first sight like all the stuff you don’t want to do in video games. Don’t we play to do stuff, we can’t do in the real world? Bullshit, Stardews minor tasks are great. Ploughing and cultivating fields, breaking stones, pulling up weed, maintaining relationships, feeding the animals, fighting against abominable beasts from the underworld? It’s not an heroic story about saving the world or a princess. Sometimes it’s enough to just let the players decide on how they want to shape their own little ingame cosmos. Animal farm? Mine adventurer? Prefer fishing all day long? You can be friends with everyone in Stardew, or you can take yourself back and live the life of a lonesome hermit, like good old Jiraiya. May god rest his soul. Apropos soul, you can sell your soul to the recently arrived and power-hungry supermarket chain to get your groceries for less, though this means helping them get the commercial upper hand in the valley. Or you keep supporting the “close to the people”-guy Pierre and help him establish his small corner store. So overall this game appears to be exactly the simple and unexciting village life it promised.
However, there must be something wrong here. Everything feels so cramped, the world we get to live in feels restricted. I feel the presence of an invisible wall. We are isolated from the outside world. What is really going on here? And what if all these minor tasks aren’t really as minor as they seem? What if there is a greater necessity to them than we think?
What is going on behind the suspicious facade of this little town? Incestuous accusations were dropped. Stardews villagers want to stay under themselves, no sign of desire for any outsiders. But what if the isolation of the town is founded on something else, like a protection from something? They chose to live in the valley under the shelter of mountains. Maybe they are survivors, survivors of what outside of Stardew Valley is going on. Suddenly the intimate solidarity and companionship between the villagers becomes more important than ever before. The once so minor tasks are more necessary than ever before. Food supplies must be ensured. Every survivor counts. We are the last of us.
There’s an apocalypse going on, there must be. That’s the reason the contact to the outside proves to be so difficult. That’s why we don’t get to see other beings. We live in a hidden village in a valley of mountains, undiscovered and protected from whatever’s out there being up to mischief. With the only dangers coming from inside the mountains, from the mines. We must continue to survive, to live.
What lies beyond these mountains? We will only know if we fight ourselves through the monster-loaded mines. Is there anything else than monsters? Even after hours, days, weeks of digging, we find nothing else than monsters and stones. Is there an end? An exit to the outside world? An exit to this ramble?