Like a truffle pig, I often stick my snout in and around the internet to rootle up the rich fungus of fun life sims. Though Stardew Valley eclipses most others in the field (which you have tilled by hand and watered every day), brave contenders like Graveyard Keeper or the upcoming Witchbrook plough their own furrows. Today, though, I want to bring Verdant Village to your attention.
It's a fantasy life sim that is very, very much like Stardew Valley, except everyone is wearing medieval-ish clothes and has a name spelled in a bit of a funny way. Currently it's available for free via Itch.io, on the proviso that you understand it's in an alpha state.
Currently the Empyrean Vale, where you wash up without any memories and are promptly given a whole-ass farm, doesn't have all its areas open, but when finished it's going to be pretty big. Already available is most of the town, a mine, some grasslands and a forest, and a sunny beach. My favourite bit is the swamp, though, because it has a lot of weird lookin' mushrooms to collect and sell, and comes complete with lovely frog croaks.
The sound design in Verdant Village is, I think, probably where it pips Stardew Valley to the post. It doesn't have much music, instead relying on diegetic noises like birdsong, the wind whipping through the trees, or my favourite, little amphibians ribbeting away.
Verdant Village does have some balance issues, though, which the solo dev of Exodus Software is aware of. Fishing is currently really OP as a way to farm money, whilst mining, in particular, doesn't feel like it provides very much bang for your stamina bar buck. My first few days in game were a grind of going back and forth from the mushrooms to the village store, until I had enough money to buy a load of lettuce seeds. My current game is grinding going to the mine so I can repair a staircase, so it doesn't take as long to go to the mine...
The grind feeling can be mitigated by some of the side quests the villagers have to offer, but it can be hard to tell that they have them, or how to hand them in (the secret is that if they're behind their shop counter, you have to go around to the other side to speak to them outside of vendor mode, and select QUESTS from the menu on the right). The villagers are, by the way, all incredibly attractive.
But the balancing is ongoing, and actually if I'd wanted to I could have forgone any farming whatsoever. It's very possible to make a decent living from selling the things you forage so you can pootle about doing other things. And while the crafting could use some demystification (particularly the cooking) and it can actually be quite hard to find your way around, the Verdant Village alpha shows a game with a lot of promise already.
I'm excited to see what future seasons bring to my little farm, as well as the introduction of other planned features - most especially the archaeology and alchemy, which sound like a lot of fun. For now, though, I'm happy enough squelching about in the swamp, snaffling up loads of mushrooms. Like the greedy little pig I am.