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Stardew Valley review: Breath of fresh air for Android farming games
Aside from a few notable exceptions, farming games on Android usually represent the very worst of the insidious, cash-grab, wait-or-pay awfulness that represents such a huge portion of the Play Store game library.
Stardew Valley wants to change all that.
Following its breakout success on PC in 2016 and various impressive console ports, the indie smash hit finally launched for iOS mobile devices late last year. Now, Stardew Valley is coming to the Play Store priced at $7.99.
Will it be another fruitful season for the farming sim on Android? Find out in our Stardew Valley Android review!
Life at the ranch
Developed by a single person — Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone — over the course of half a decade, Stardew Valley was designed as a spiritual successor to classic Harvest Moon games like Back to Nature on the PS1.
Ostensibly a game about rebuilding your grandfather’s farm from scratch by tending to your crops and raising livestock, Stardew Valley is just as much an RPG with so much content and enough addictive gameplay loops that you could feasibly play it forever.
In addition to your agricultural responsibilities, you can also make yourself at home in Pelican Town’s community of misfits and weirdos, spend endless hours fishing and beach combing, or go dungeon crawling for rare materials and other goodies.
While there is a barebones overarching story about either rebuilding the town’s community center or siding with the corporate stooges at Joja Mart (definitely not based on any real world retail chain), Stardew Valley is all about individual stories which slowly unravel as you get to know your new neighbours.
The game runs on a calendar system and your day-to-day routine will change with each season and on selected days with community events. Almost all of your actions are tied to an energy meter which refills at the end of each day (as long as you go to bed on time!).
Everything that made Stardew Valley great on PC is present and correct in the Android version.
With only a limited amount of time and energy each day, Stardew Valley quickly grips you with its cyclical gameplay loop and it’s easy to lose real hours, days, and even weeks of your own actual life to it without even noticing.
For the massive number of things-to-do the game has to offer, however, it’s also a slow burn experience that delicately balances the need to perform repetitive tasks with the freedom to progress at your own pace. It’s pure escapism in video game form.
A fresh harvest
With the exception of the co-op multiplayer mode launched last year, everything that made Stardew Valley great on PC/Mac and console is present and correct in the mobile version developed by The Secret Police, makers of Dragon’s Watch.
That includes the picture-perfect pixel-art graphics, soothing music tracks, and all of the extra content that was introduced to the original game in the 1.3 update (details here). This is the full single-player package, making it undoubtedly one of the most content-rich games ever to hit the Play Store.
It also runs like a dream on high-end hardware. I tested Stardew Valley on a OnePlus 6T and a Google Pixelbook and didn’t notice any performance or graphical issues. That’s an incredible testament to the work of the port’s developers.
The London-based studio has somehow managed to adapt a game this huge and preserve its charm without sacrificing core content or its quality — especially considering the Nintendo Switch version originally launched with performance issues.
The mobile version also gets a boost over the original build with the addition of autosaving, with previous versions only letting you save when going to sleep at the end of each day.
While days in Stardew Valley can whizz by, you’ll still be able to cram in a tonne of activities before you hit the hay. Autosaving means you can water your crops or net a few fish on the train or subway without having to rush back home prematurely when you reach your stop.
In a neat touch, Stardew Valley on Android also supports existing saves from PC/Mac so if you’ve already spent hundreds of hours cultivating a plot of land you can bring your progress over to your phone or tablet. Cloud saves are not supported, however, so unless you want to keep copying and pasting your save file you can’t just pick up and play on any device you choose.
Tending to the touchscreen
The other mobile-specific change is full touchscreen support. The entire control scheme has been rebuilt from the ground up for Stardew Valley on Android (and iOS) and while the developers have done an admirable job at making a game that requires so much mouse clicking even remotely playable/tolerable on mobile, you can absolutely tell the game has been reverse engineered to accommodate touchscreens.
There are 8 different control schemes to choose from that utilize taps, invisible virtual buttons and a joystick, auto-moves, and/or a combination of each.
The default is tap-to-move with auto-attack switched on. Stardew Valley was already designed around a grid-style map so tapping on a tiny square to water a cabbage, whack a tree or open a chest feels fairly natural.
It’s still far from perfect though. Even with the added benefit of pinch-to-zoom for smaller phone displays, it’s still all too easy for a misplaced tap to lead to tragedy as your spade skips the patch of dirt you were aiming for and instead digs up a section of your precious harvest.
Navigating the map is also stilted as scrolling between different areas requires you to tap the edge of each screen. This immediately becomes a pain as the small path past the bus station that you’ll walk through literally thousands of times isn’t on a single screen. That means you’ll have to tap once, wait for the your avatar to reach the edge, watch the screen move two extra grid spaces, tap the edge again, and then you’ll reach the town.
Yet, while tap-to-move is capable enough to carry the majority of the gameplay, the combat sections are a different story entirely.
Read more: 15 best RPGs for Android!
Stardew Valley’s roguelike, Zelda-esque dungeons and melee combat was already one of the game’s weakest areas, but on mobile it becomes a chore. Auto-attack swings are fine for weaker enemies, but when you hit lower levels in the mines and face more challenging foes which can kill you in seconds it’s extremely unreliable.
The virtual buttons and joystick controls (which can be customized) fare slightly better in combat, but are a far more unwieldy for any other task in the game.
The best option is grabbing a Bluetooth controller as gamepad support is included, but that obviously means you’ll need to carry it around with you on-the-go if you want the best experience.
In the hyperactive world of Android gaming, Stardew Valley is a breath of fresh air. Just like its desktop and console counterparts, the Android version is a truly premium experience and its contemplative, occasionally melancholic tone is a far cry from the pay-to-win nightmares the farming sim genre is typically associated with.
Stardew Valley is pure escapism in video game form.
If you’re happy to sit in front of a PC or TV then that’s still the best way to play Stardew Valley, but lapsed players and newcomers are getting everything that made the game an instant classic, repackaged in a way that’s more suited for play in bite-sized chunks.
The Play Store has no shortage of PC/console titles ports that lost their magic in the transition to mobile. Thanks to The Secret Police’s downright miraculous work, Stardew Valley is not one of them.
That’s our Stardew Valley review! We’re falling in love with the game all over again on Android, but will you be joining the harvest when the game releases on March 14? Let us know in the comments below!