What’s It Like To Start Anew In Stardew Valley?

I have spent over seventy hours in Stardew Valley. In that time I’ve cultivated my land, raised animals, got married and had a child of my own. I’ve plundered the deepest depths of the mine and ridden the bus to the desert. There’s no crop I haven’t grown, no animal product I haven’t churned or spun. Of course in a game like Stardew Valley there’s always something more you could do. I could pop out another baby, make my farm more efficient, or build another barn. But I found myself growing listless of my streamlined faming life. Money was piling up in my bank account with nothing to spend it on and I felt like I’d finally reached a plateau.

So I decided to start anew, and in a game that is all about starting anew, it felt fitting. I waved goodbye to Berry Farm and my little pink haired avatar and created Jemima. Whose hair and colour scheme is based off the Little Mermaid. Because I’m a goddamn adult and I can do what I like.

I thought I’d do things a little differently. While Holly preferred dogs, Jemima prefers cats. While Holly romanced the local doctor, Harvey, Jemima was going to flirt with the nature-loving artist Leah. Would my 70 plus hours of farming experience help my second attempt? Let’ see.

Spring, 1:

Anyone who’s ever played a Harvest Moon game knows that your farming legacy must first start with the death of a loved one. Stardew Valley follows in this tradition. The loss of my second grandfather was met with the same reaction as the first: indifference and slight annoyance. What was this guy doing with his farm? I arrive and it’s covered in weeds, no animals, no crops, how did he survive for so long?! Time to be shown up by your farming amateur granddaughter, old man.

I introduce myself to the townspeople. It’s bizarre saying hello to my other-save husband and him not going on about how great I am. This might take some getting used to.

I finally see Leah, her cheery demeanour and fabulous hair confirm that she’s the girl for me. This isn’t my first rodeo, I know the subtle art of seduction that’s needed in these games. I cram my inventory with daffodils (the wiki has confirmed she likes them) and figure out her routine. Perfectly normal video game romance stuff.

Spring, 2:

Wandered around the area. Visited the museum with nothing in it, and found a library book in the dirt. The sailor gave me a fishing rod and told me “if it smells, it sells”. I worry for the economy and cultural well-being of the town.

Spring, 3:

Knowing the map inside out does take some of the fun out of it on a second play through. The world doesn’t seem so big. It allows me to pinpoint the areas I need to go to and the best foraging spots, but the sense of discovery is gone. I was expecting that though.

What I wasn’t expecting was how difficult things are. My tools are weak. The axe can’t even crack a stump. A complete lack of funds means I can’t load up on seeds. My seventy hours had made me forget the hard grind of the first ten. I’d grown soft and doughy on my mountain of gold and cows.

Spring, 4:

Finally got 4 little squares of crops growing. Take that grandad. My harvest of green beans, parsnips and potatoes will put your legacy to shame.

Spring, 5:

Crops are doing well, despite my inability to craft a scarecrow yet. I have a cat that I named Mildred but it seems to be doing very little apart from wandering about and occasionally lying in a position that makes it look dead.

Talked to Alex, the stereotypical jock, by a weird fenced off area with a “dog” that I can’t see. Instead I’ve only seen red glowing eyes coming from within a box. Suspicious. Alex asked me if I got new “pants” and said that I must be “doing something right”. What does he mean by that? Are my superior farming skills already showing through from my choice of jeans? I make a note to avoid Alex and creepy “dog” in the future.

Spring, 6:

The mayor showed me the run down community centre. I’m not surprised it’s abandoned as the town is made up of around thirty people. None of whom seem to miss the community centre. I think the mayor is trying to guilt me into restoring the building so he can reap the awards and be elected for another term. Sly.

After pouring hours into cultivating friendships in my last save, I can’t really bring myself to bother with it all over again. Whether that’s because there’s a lack of character development from NPC’s or because I’ve become a stone cold psychopath I’m not sure. I find myself choosing the sarcastic options in conversations with little regard for friendship, just to see what will happen. Maybe that’s what going from everything to nothing does to you.

Spring, 9:

The game keeps telling me I’ve already given Leah two gifts this week and “that’s enough”. I forgot that happens. Stardew Valley obviously doesn’t understand how game romances work. You talk to them every day and pile them with gifts until they automatically fall in love with you. Well, just because I can’t shove a daffodil in her face continuously doesn’t mean I can’t track her down and talk to her every day.

Spring, 11:

Levelled up my farming skill. I now have a newly built scarecrow guarding my six crop plots. I’m at farming level 1. That’s one more farming level than grandpa seemed to have. If the scarecrow could high-five me it so would right now.

Spring, 13:

It was the egg festival today, there’s an egg hunt put on for the children and lots of food. In my last save I won it every year, and I was sure my skills would see me through. I was planning to impress Leah with my ability to shove small children out the way and collect small painted eggs. Only something got in the way: Abigail. That annoying “oh I’m so quirky” girl that everyone just seems to love. She won the egg competition and I retreated to my farm to lick my wounds. Abigail is swiftly put on the enemies list.

Spring, 14:

Thought I should battle through the weeds and rocks on my farm to have a little explore. Came across a weird shrine thing in the north-west. There was a piece of paper on it. I didn’t have any recollection of it from my first play through, it said;

‘Jemima-
Wait for my return on the dawn of your third year.
-Grandpa’

A cold shiver runs through me. My dead grandpa has ominously warned me that he plans to haunt me. I’m worried it might be because of the way I made fun of his complete lack of farming skills to the scarecrow. I’m reminded that in Stardew Valley, even the dead can’t be trusted.

Spring, 17:

A cut scene involving Linus, the man who lives in a tent outside of town, was triggered. It’s a moving moment in the game. I thought back to the hours I dedicated to my last save and realised that no other instant topped this scene in terms of character building. I’d almost forgotten about it, as expanding my farm had pushed the surrounding characters into the back of my mind. It’s disappointing that this level of emotion doesn’t really return after this.

Spring, 18:

I’ve given Leah so many daffodils, even if the “only two presents a week” rule has hindered my plans.

Triggered a cutscene in her house where I encouraged her to organise an art fair. Managed to avoid the option that has “(creepy)” prefacing it. Just in case the player doesn’t realise that asking for a kiss completely out the blue is really inappropriate.

She must be so enamoured by now.

Spring, 19:

Looked around Leah’s house, found a book that says ‘How to Deal with Overbearing People’.

May have to rethink my strategy.

Spring, 24:

It was the Flower Dance today. A festival where the local singletons do a nice little jig surrounded by some flowers. On my first play through I failed to dance with my beau in the first year. This time I thought my dedication and ability to avoid the “(creepy)” option would mean I’d be dancing with Leah.

She said no.

She danced with that writer Elliot who lives on a beach and does nothing. I stood in the corner as my heart shattered.

Elliot is added to the enemies list.

Spring, 26:

My farm is expanding well. Finally managed to get a chicken coup built. Bought two chickens and named them after Overwatch characters. I think ‘Widowmaker’ is a great name for a little chick.

It’s taken me almost a full season just to get the rudimentary chicken coop built, but, I’ve enjoyed the hard work a lot more than having piles of cash with little to do.

That’s my first season completed. My life of luxury made me forget how little you start with and how much longer everything takes, but that’s what I really enjoyed about going back. Finally building a chicken coup, looking at what it required to upgrade and yelling “How much?!” rather than immediately being able to do it. Yes, the sense of discovery is gone, and the characters don’t interest me as much as they did, but it’s still been fun to make different decisions and pursue different paths. My seventy hours experience hasn’t helped me as much as I thought it would either, and that’s a great thing. It made coming back feel fresh, rather than treading old ground. So Jemima’s farm may be slowly building up, her love-life is hopeless, and her dead grandpa is threatening her; but I’ve enjoyed every minute.

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24 Comments

  1. sicanshu says:

    I hate Elliott, that wannabe Fabio pretending to be a writer. J.D. Salinger writes more than that guy. Personally I’m waiting for the next big update to start a new farm. Wish ConcernedApe would give us a date on that. Anyone heard anything?

  2. SalaciousJames says:

    This was a great read, and reminds me that I need to get back to the game. Thank you!

  3. Yglorba says:

    > I finally see Leah, her cheery demeanour and fabulous hair confirm that she’s the girl for me. This isn’t my first rodeo, I know the subtle art of seduction that’s needed in these games. I cram my inventory with daffodils (the wiki has confirmed she likes them) and figure out her routine. Perfectly normal video game romance stuff.

    You know, when you put it like that, the experience of being a romancable NPC in a videogame must be a little bit like this.

  4. OscarWilde1854 says:

    About Spring 1: I don’t think the idea is that he died and you came the next morning or anything… I mean, if you’ve ever lost a loved one, it can take months for the will and everything to be finalized (or longer) so the overgrowth, lack of animals, etc. can all be pretty easily explained that way. Maybe its been 6 months since anyone worked on the farm? And maybe for his later years it was already pretty underworked.. particularly if you think about how fast things degrade in this game. Try sleeping without touching your farm for 2 full seasons (6 months) and see how it looks!

    • Aztek says:

      There’s flaws in that logic too.

      When the farm owner on a family run farm passes the rest of the family won’t just all down tools and run the business to the ground. Pretty sure they would carry on carrying on until everything is sorted.

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        Uh, guys; I’m pretty sure that arguing the realism of a game where you can make sprinklers out of iridium and woo people by giving them driftwood twice a week is a pretty futile endeavour.

        • Jeremy says:

          So you’re saying driftwood twice a week is NOT the ideal way to woo someone? This changes things.

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            Admiral Snackbar says:

            I wish someone would give me driftwood twice a week.

  5. Tacroy says:

    I’ve played Spring 1 maybe four or five times, because every time I play through it I decide I can do it better if I try again.

    The thing that ruined me was this one save where a fairy came by on the first night. No way you can beat that.

  6. ZedClampet says:

    I used a mod to double the length of the days. As a result, I got bored going into my second summer and took a break. All I need is one sunflower to finish my community center stuff. Maybe I’ll just go back in and go to sleep as soon as I get out of bed so I can get to fall and plant my sunflower seed.

  7. Shazbut says:

    Loved spring
    Liked summer
    Endured fall
    Quit after winter

    Never really understood the appeal after the first year. Am I aiming to have a farm made of solid iridium? Am I expected to kill hours of time until the right season comes along and I can finally give an eggplant to the community centre?

    • ikehaiku says:

      To me, the game really stalls after a while. (but, like, after a long while).
      I’ve played twice till about end of Year 3, once with with a Community Center/ friendly focus , once with a Big Bad Company / lonely bear focus. I had fun twice – and to re-emphasis, I spent about 40 hours in both play-through , but now I just can’t see myself either continuing on a save game, or starting over (that my change when co-op will be there).
      But again – if all my Steam games would have gave me a 80+ hours quality time…

      • Konservenknilch says:

        I hear ya. For me, it ran out of steam after year 2. Community Center fixed, got a spouse (Alex), adopted a kid, got more money than I can spend, all animals and crops. Now I just lack the motivation to go for all Iridium, horse and slimefarm and whatnot. Then again, I’m not complaining about 40h entertainment for 20€.

        Speaking of spouses, I feel kinda sad for them. In the case of Alex, he always goes on about what a great football (or whatever the name of that sport was) player he will be. Aftetr moving in, all he does is cook for me, do the dishes and some farmwork. He even has a dialogue line like “Farm life is nice, but sometimes I look at my old ball and feel sad… sigh”. Kinda harsh life lessen there.

        • Cropduster says:

          Ha yes, it’s actually pretty bleak. All the npcs have their own lives and routines, but once you marry them thats all forgotten. Life time is over sucker it’s farm time now.

          The worst thing was that with all the sprinkers it wasn’t even necessary. Anyway I quickly tired of farming and stopped playing, but I like to think my spouse is still there, endlessly watering and spouting mundane shit, while my pc lives with the homeless fella.

      • Xercies says:

        From What I remember from my playing Harvest Moon it was kind of like that, but in some games(Friends Of Mineral Town I remember the most) there was a few hidden things that you had to get a certain relationship up to the highest level or your tools up to a high level that could allow you that extra push of playing some more.

        Also it was almost kind of nice after awhile of not really playing for any length of time but just popping in for 10 minutes and watering some plants and doing the daily routine.

  8. Malagate says:

    Ahh yes, I’ve done this too, except I tried a different gender player character on my second save – it’s nice noticing all the differences, some are more subtle than others.

    Also Holly didn’t a dance at the 1st flower dance, despite knowing the favourite items of her chosen beau?

    One word: LOSER! XD

    Nicer words: shoulda planted cauliflowers immediately and then plied them all over Maru, that’s how I avoided being a wallflower that 1st spring, but then I had three years experience in seducing a third of the town by that point.

    Ain’t no-one I hadn’t gone 10 hearts with…some of which were done after getting married…as a male farmer with a female wife. I believe the term is “farmboy is on the down-low”.

  9. geldonyetich says:

    The lack of end game pressure is deliberate, from what I gather, it’s supposed to be a relaxing game.

    • GameCat says:

      In theory every Harvest Moon game and Stardew Valley are supposed to be relaxing, but in practice they all quickly turn themselves into capitalist simulator where you think only about stacking a sweet piles of money like Scrooge McDuck to buy everything you can and then die from boredom.

      They’re all great games anyway though.

  10. OmNomNom says:

    Great read, really well written.

    Almost makes me want to play this game except… well, no explosions.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Au contraire, you can make explosives to assist with mine exploration/ground clearance/public nuisance.

    • frightlever says:

      I think it’s a better game to read about than to play, for many people. I was obsessive with it for about 20 hours and just stopped cold because I was just doing stuff, so I could do slightly different stuff a bit later on. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of stuff to do. Stuff that other people apparently find a lot of fun than I do. The days seemed too short, particularly at the start when I had to spend ages watering my crops by hand. I’m not remotely interested in romancing NPCs, which may be part of the problem.

  11. satan says:

    I found this game really stressful on so many different levels.

  12. Canadave says:

    “I have a cat that I named Mildred but it seems to be doing very little apart from wandering about and occasionally lying in a position that makes it look dead.”

    I found the cat in Stardew Valley to be hilariously realistic. It wanders about for a while, and then suddenly collapses into a nap with a loud thump.

    It would be nice if there was more to the pets, though. Like if the dog could help you forage and the cat was a randomly mobile scarecrow or something.

  13. fatherjack says:

    I get this a lot when people recommend me games like this: I start them and really struggle to get past the tedium. Then they see me playing and are like “oh man, I forgot how annoying/bad/ineffective that is when you first start”

    Unless it’s multiplayer and I can play through that initial pain with them (like Factorio) I usually stop playing at that point.