Stardew Valley had a stellar year with over a million sales of the game and over 1.8 million owners of the game on Steam. Now the breakout farming RPG is on its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and a Nintendo Switch version is in development. A lot of players are going to be discovering the game for the first time.
I played an awful lot of Stardew Valley after its release and found it thoroughly enjoyable. As with many new games, I learned a lot as I went along. I made some mistakes and I did some things inefficiently. I also got outright stuck in a few place. Version 1.1 of the game has released and new players have a quite a few new choices in front of them.
In my opinion, there’s a certain magic to discovering Stardew Valley. My gameplay tips for beginners and advanced players go into more detail for some of the game’s mechanics and tricks; this guide is going to focus on the absolute basics of things you’d need to know. Let’s get started!
You can move at your own pace, so have fun!
I’ll start with this as I feel this is the most important thing to put down on paper (so to speak). There’s no real goal or timer in Stardew Valley. The season changes and certain events only come once per in-game year, but it’s exceedingly rare to find something that truly can’t be done later or ever be done again. There are a handful of things that come to mind that cannot be changed (without the use of manually editing your save file, at least). I’ll address those in the next section, so if you want to completely avoid any spoilers you can skip past it. (Actually, if you want to completely avoid any spoilers it’s probably best not to read this guide at all—just go play the game and have fun!)
The vast majority of the game is tuned for you to move at your own pace. Even the light “end game” goal of two years (similar to spiritual predecessor Harvest Moon) can be re-done for a material cost if you don’t quite meet the goal you were looking for.
Some people are like me where they get a weird sense of joy out of being as efficient as possible. (Then again, I once got to design a paper form for a company and actually enjoyed doing it, so I might be a bit of a crazy outlier in that respect.) The important thing to note is that the only thing you lose by doing stuff at your own pace is efficiency. You can eventually do anything you want given enough time. If you’re slow on the controls, you can earn just as much money as I could—it will just take you longer.
Don’t stress yourself out and worry too much about not making something in time. If you don’t quite make a deadline, you can always stuff your things in a chest and move on later. Stardew Valley gives the player a lot of freedom to do things at their own pace, so always keep that in mind. Don’t let the game turn into a second job (unless you’re into that kind of thing like I am).
The choices that you can’t change later
There are a few choices made in the game that can’t be changed from within the game once you make them. There are ways to edit your save file to tinker with these one way or another (and Stardew Valley allows for a good deal of modding and save file editing on PC), but it’s not necessarily easy to do. If you don’t want to try to tinker with that stuff, keep these choices in mind before you make them. If you want to completely avoid any spoilers, it’s best to skip this section entirely.
Let’s start with your character. You won’t be able to change your name, favorite thing, farm name, pet preference, or gender. There is an option to change the cosmetic bits of your physical appearance (your clothes, hair, skin tone, etc.), but that’s it. These are all things that can be changed via save file editing. There are some tools and guides out there, but I haven’t used any of them myself so make sure you back up your save files before you try anything. Use these tools and guides with caution.
The next choice relates to skills. Each of the game’s five skills will give you a “one or the other” choice for a unique buff when you reach a certain point. Again, these currently can’t be changed without save file editing. Make your choices carefully.
The next is the choice between Joja Mart or the Community Center. This choice will affect the game world and the characters within it. If you buy a Joja Mart Membership, that’s it; the Community Center is destroyed and gone. Similarly, if you complete all of the bundles at the Community Center, Joja Mart goes out of business.
One important thing of note is that some Heart Events can be missed. Heart Events are cutscenes that happen once you reach a certain standing with a Villager. These mostly just give you a bit of story and potentially a change in relationship levels, but it won’t be the end of the world if you miss them. If you want to be especially careful not to miss them, read up on the character(s) you are currently making friends with.
Lastly, you can visit a Witch and have your children turned into doves. They fly away and disappear forever. Again, this may be able to be reversed with save file editing or mods, but it is otherwise an irreversible choice. You monster.
That’s the short list. There may be other things that I’m missing, but those are the big ones.
Making your character & choosing your farm
When you start a new game, the first thing you’ll see is the character creation screen. You pick your character’s name, your farm name, their “favorite thing” (which is just a fluff/flavor option that doesn’t really affect the game much), their pet choice (dog or cat), their gender, and one of five types of farm. You can also elect to skip the intro sequence of the game, and if you want to bypass the cutscenes anyway you can still do that in the middle of them.
Each of the five farms offers different choices in what’s on the land. Each has their own unique offerings:
- Standard Farm: Nothing unique as compared to the other farms, but it gives the most space for planting crops and building. All of the other farms ultimately have less space than this one due to cliffs and water.
- Riverland Farm: Much less space, but you can fish on your own farm rather than having to travel to other sections of the map.
- Forest Farm: Lots of trees, renewable large stumps, and unique weeds that drop Mixed Seeds (which give random crops when planted). The special weeds are a truly unique feature not found elsewhere, but otherwise, the seeds themselves can nonetheless be acquired.
- Hill-Top Farm: A mining area that scales with the player’s Mining level. It saves you the time of traveling to the mines.
- Wilderness Farm: Monsters Spawn at night including the unique Wilderness Golem. No particularly unique loot is dropped from the monsters, though. You can toggle off the ability to have monsters on your farm later in the game; this is the only farm where the feature is active by default.
Of course, aside from mechanical and practical differences, each farm has a different aesthetic appearance as well. You can see the different maps at the Stardew Valley Wiki if you want to look at them carefully before choosing.
Once you’ve made all these choices, you either go through the beginning cutscene (or not) and you’re released into the world to do as you please!
Time, Health, Energy, & Money
There are four core resources in the game: Time, Health, Energy, and Money.
There’s only so much time in a day. Once it hits a certain point (2:00 AM), you pass out and wake up the next day. This means that within the framework of a day, you can only get so much done. If there’s a particular event you want to attend or something you really want to get done, make sure you prioritize that!
Health only applies to combat. If you lose all of your Health, you’ll be rescued, charged a fee, and potentially lose some of the stuff you’re carrying. You can restore it with certain items if need be, but if you’re running low, you should try to escape so as not to needlessly throw away progress. If you do ultimately fail, you’ll still likely be able to recover.
Energy determines your ability to use tools. Every time you chop down a tree, mine ore, or cast a fishing pole, you’re going to use some Energy. If your Energy runs out, your productivity is going to go in the gutter. You can recover Energy by visiting the Spa in-game or consuming items to restore it.
Money is relatively straightforward. You need Money to buy things, and you make Money by selling things. You can sell stuff to certain shops in town (such as Pierre’s General Store) or put it in the Shipping Bin on your farm. If you are completely broke, you can still forage random items in the wilderness and sell those to pull yourself out of the proverbial gutter.
Leveling up Skills
The game has five distinct classes of skills: Farming, Mining, Fishing, Foraging, and Combat. In short, Skills are leveled up by doing things associated with those skills. When you chop down a tree, you’ll level up Foraging a little bit. When you water a crop, you’ll level up Farming a little bit.
Each Skill confers bonuses as you level them up. The most straightforward thing they give you is access to new crafting recipes (which are usually related to those particular skills). At Levels 5 and 10, each Skill tree will give you a unique bonus, such as more ore per vein for Mining or higher value on sold crops for Farming.
You can simply grind to level up skills as you go along, but you’ll level them up anyway as you do whatever it is you’re going to do. There’s no need to rush or grind here if you don’t want to. If you plan on focusing on growing crops, your Farming skill will level up as a natural consequence of that. If you chop down trees like a madman, your Foraging skill will go up. It’s pretty straightforward.
Upgrading your Tools
You can upgrade your tools at the Blacksmith with enough money and the right resources. Certain things on your farm can’t be cleared out until you have the proper tools and certain resources will be unavailable. It’s cheapest to mine the resources yourself, but you can also just buy the stuff you need. The items needed for the last stage of the upgrade are difficult to buy but can still nonetheless be purchased at a premium via the Traveling Cart.
Upgrading your tools isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s very helpful to you as a player. Some tools will gain new abilities (such as an upgraded Axe being able to chop down bothersome Large Stumps on your farm). Some tools will become more efficient (the Axe again; upgraded Axes chop down trees in fewer hits, saving energy).
If you want to do it on the cheap, you can mine the ore yourself. You’ll still have to pay the Blacksmith to do the upgrade and wait for a couple of days, but you can get it done. If you want to wholly focus on something else (like Farming), you can just buy everything you need to get the upgrade done. In any case, when you upgrade your tools, bear in mind that you’ll have to do without them for a couple of in-game days, so make sure you don’t set your farm back by doing it.
Making the most of your Farm
You can do a lot on your Farm. You can plant crops, harvest wood, raise animals (after getting buildings on the property), and more.
Your Farm is shaped by your desires. If you wanted to raise a bunch of animals and eschew crops entirely, you can do that (provided you have the space for the buildings and you can afford to build them). If you want to fill up every conceivable space with crops, you can do that. If you want to completely leave it alone and mine all day, you can do that.
Make your Farm work for you. Whatever your gameplay style is, you can do something useful with it. There are even some passive money-making options that require minimal interaction from the player (such as Lightning Rods) if you don’t want to do much on the farm at all.
Stardew Valley has a Crafting system. Most of the things you make in the game are useful in one fashion or another, and some of the Crafting Recipes are decorative items. Certain elements of the game’s mechanics are gated behind Crafting. These are largely in the Farming Skill tree, though the other ones do give you some unique Workbenches.
The most standout example is Artisanal Goods. These are goods from your farm that you process into higher quality items. For example, you can turn Eggs from your Chickens into Mayonnaise with a Mayonnaise Machine. These goods can be sold for more money, used as gifts for certain people, or used as ingredients in cooking.
Other items you can make include healing potions, Warp Totems (which instantly transport you to somewhere on the map), and decorative items for your farm, such as floor tiles or lights. Crafting is a core part of the game as you progress, although a lot of it is centered on the Farm. If you’re focusing on Mining or Fishing more than Farming, you won’t necessarily need to use Crafting very much to get the most out of those professions.
Making Friends & Getting Married
There are dozens of people throughout Stardew Valley and the surrounding area. You can interact with them, do quests for them, and befriend them. A certain subset of people can be dated and eventually married.
Friends will confer certain benefits. They’ll give you a recipe or two in the mail, send you gifts, and potentially unlock unique mechanics or features. This is completely optional; you can be a Hermit and basically ignore everyone in the village if you want to.
If you get Married, your spouse will move in with you and occasionally help out on the farm. They’ll help out in little ways, and you can eventually have a child with them or adopt one (depending on your relationship). You can marry any of the game’s eligible candidates regardless of your gender.
Now get out there and have fun!
This should be enough to give you the rough basics of the game. This guide is by no means comprehensive. Stardew Valley is what I like to call a “Wiki Game”; there’s so much to do and so much to learn that it’s helpful to have a guide to hand if you need it. I highly recommend the Official Stardew Valley Wiki, and I make use of it myself whenever I’m playing.
If you don’t yet own the game, check out our review to see what we thought of the finished product. We also have some good alike. If you don’t yet own the game, you can get it on the Playstation Store and Microsoft Store for the consoles. PC users can grab it on Steam, gog.com (Affiliate), the Humble Store, and GameStop for $14.99 or your regional equivalent.
What did you wish you knew when you started playing Stardew Valley? What’s the silliest mistake you made the first time you played the game? Let us know in the comments below!More About This Game