Stardew Valley in your pocket anyone?
ConcernedApe’s Farming simulator and RPG hybrid Stardew Valley was released this month on Apple’s mobile devices by London based developers at The Secret Police. Reviewing such a successful game two years after its original release for PC and one after its ports for Playstation 4 and Xbox One were published is not an easy feat. The focus of this particular evaluation rests on the game’s capability to adapt its mechanisms, gameplay aspects and overall experience to the mobile realm.
Having that out of the way, this specific review was crafted from playing the game on an iPhone 6s and, truth be told, it runs like a charm. Furthermore, Stardew Valley’s day and night cycles as self-contained short stories happen to shape a perfect experience for mobile players, as playing on the go while riding a bus, train, metro or just drinking a cup of coffee doesn’t require too much time and one can just finish a day, wait until autosave is done and put it down until the next session.
For anyone that hasn’t played Stardew Valley before and isn’t a regular PC or console gamer, this version is truly a great way of getting to know one of indie gaming’s best and most highly regarded products on a device most people are comfortable with. Taking care of your farm, watering your crops, harvesting, expanding your land, mining, fishing and venturing forth into the caves feels natural and easygoing in this pocket-sized edition.
While playing with headphones obviously grants a deeper immersive experience, I have to say that most of my time playing this mobile port was on the go and muted. This didn’t ruin anything for me, as mobile games tend to be experienced this way and you don’t necessarily need the sound on to understand the game. Stardew Valley mobile thankfully doesn’t feel like a ported PC or console game, it feels at home on mobile and that is where this version really shines.
Granted, controls can feel clunky and awkward at some points. Moving around and interacting with objects and people is done by just tapping on it or them. Walking can also be done by dragging your finger over the screen, making your character follow without having to reach a previously set destination before responding to a change of plans. But more advanced aspects of the game like combat suffer from the limitations of mobile devices.
Dungeon crawling through Stardew Valley’s caves and mines relies heavily on an auto-combat feature that basically asks you to equip your sword and just let your character wait until an enemy is at arm’s reach and slash it. This works for a single enemy, but when a whole mob of bugs surround you, this system just doesn’t cut it. Our character won’t automatically change the direction its facing and it will suffer damage from enemies that attack from behind or from some adjacent blind spots. This auto-attack option can be disabled, but it’s fully manual version is too clunky and even the game encourages you to have it on.
Inventory management is also something that is hopefully updated, as moving stuff from slot to slot is genuinely a pain. Most of your possessions end up out of reach, as only a small part of it is easily available, located on a bar at the left-hand side of the screen. The rest of it must be accessed on the game’s menu, making tools, seeds or other items reachable, but at a cumbersome distance for mobile purposes.
Some tools are automatically accessed when tapping on an object that requires them, like axes when tapping on trees and pickaxes when tapping on rocks. Strangely enough, this doesn’t apply to our scythe, something I couldn’t find an explanation for and made clearing out patches of high grass something I continuously tried to avoid.
Fishing, harvesting crops, interacting with people and basically every other aspect of Stardew Valley’s game systems work just fine, but these said issues ask, at least, raise some concerns on the control systems and more advanced gameplay aspects of this port. The result of that is feeling you might be better off playing this on PC or console if you really want to get the full, unhindered experience.
There’s not much more to add about the game itself, as we all know what kind of masterpiece farming simulator and RPG hybrid Stardew Valley is. Rest assured that it still offers truly endless amounts of entertainment for those looking to chill out and relax with its soothing music, easygoing story and various options of progression.
Overall, Stardew Valley for iOS feels authentic and works great on not strictly top of the line devices, providing an enjoyable experience suited for long or short periods of time with a couple of gameplay issues that can be easily resolved and do not, by any means, ruin a formidable game that managed to translate itself to on-the-go platforms almost seamlessly.
Our boy from Buenos Aires, Juan has been a gamer for as long as he can remember (and possibly even longer than that). He loves a good story, and believes every indie game has a compelling one to tell.