The Stardew Valley multiplayer beta has begun on Steam (and will kick off in a few days for GOG), and I was quite excited to hop on with a friend and give it a whirl. Fortunately, my buddy Shaun happened to be available for a few hours so we got right to it.
Right off the bat, there are some key bits of information to know going in. The farm, your money, and world updates (like Community Center progress) are shared across all players. Inventory, skills, and relationships with townsfolk are different on an individual basis. And of course, everyone is operating on the same clock - you all wake up at the same time and have until 2:00 AM before you pass out.
A few extra competent hands could potentially make the game less challenging. That's why they've happily provided options to adjust the game's profit margin to 100%, 75%, 50%, or 25% of normal values as a way for players to handicap themselves if they so desire. I decided to keep it at 100% for my first playthrough, but it's nice to have that option if I want to make use of it.
That said, many of the game's most severe costs are centered around the player's equipment. Each player must upgrade their own tools and purchase their own backpacks. When you spend money, you spend everyone's money from a collective pool. These early and mid-game expenses will likely dampen the advantage one might get from having extra helping hands in their game to a reasonable degree. We certainly didn't feel particularly wealthy in our few hours with the beta.
Our first few days began with Shaun and I doing the usual stuff one always does when beginning a new save file - clearing out some land and planting seeds. Each player gets their own welcome package of a certain number of Parsnip seeds and we stuffed the lot of them into the ground (along with some others we purchased from Pierre's). The next several days revolved around juggling different tasks. Rarely were we both in the same spot save when we were just starting or finishing a day. Shaun would forage on the beach and go fishing, and I would work on clearing the farm and foraging in the southern forest. We ended up mixing things up a few times however we felt like it. Of course, we also tended to the crops and put a little more work into clearing the farm each day.
Once the mine was opened up, we split our saved food down the middle and headed down there together. We made it a good 20 levels or so deep in the first day, barely returning home in time with our goodies. I added delving down the mine to my routine, and Shaun carried on with fishing and foraging. We soon were able to get a nice little crop going and we had a handful of sprinklers to make things easier for us.
The game ran pretty smoothly. Shaun reported a solitary unusual lag spike on his end as a client. As the host, I encountered one issue where my tools were making no sounds. A minute or two later, I was assaulted by a cacophony of what seemed to be every tool strike I had made in the last two minutes played at the same time. Outside of that, Shaun would occasionally tell me that he noticed a hiccup when I went down a level in the mines. It didn't always happen, but it happened frequently enough that it was noticeable. I also personally had an issue with the "Initiation" quest (kill 10 Slimes for the Adventurer's guild) not advancing for me, although it kept right on going for Shaun just fine.
One particularly annoying issue was that I was somehow able to click on the chat box even though I didn't have the cursor in there. I'm not sure if this was a bug or deliberate design. If it's the latter, I'm personally a bit worried about it as I tend to click around a good bit. I can totally foresee myself accidentally clicking it in the middle of combat and ending up dead as a result.
We encountered no issues with the graphics or sound (safe for the one aforementioned bug). The game's same delightful soundtrack carried on as it has, and the crisp pixel graphics had nary a fault throughout our entire play session.
There are some interesting new additions to the game for the multiplayer environment. One of the ones we noticed involved waiting for players to get in bed. The game can't start the next day until everyone is in bed. We discovered that one player staying in bed would regenerate their HP and energy at a pretty decent rate. Whether this is a bug or an intended feature, we made use of it whenever we could and saved ourselves from using a decent amount of food as a result.
We only had some three hours and change to play the Stardew Valley multiplayer beta. Many questions still remain unanswered for us, like how the game would handle things like marrying NPCs - could Shaun (as a client) marry an NPC and have them move into his shack? We weren't able to play nearly long enough to find that out.
My review of Stardew Valley has the subtitle "Friends, Farming, and Fun". The "friends" in that context was originally the town's NPCs, but now I can count real-world friends among those who make the game a richer experience. I can definitively say is that save for the occasional hiccup, the Stardew Valley multiplayer beta ran excellently. I have nearly 400 hours in the game as it is, and playing it with a good friend is certainly a fresh take on the experience. I'm excited to see what else is in store for the future for this game - Stardew Valley just got a heck of a lot more interesting.
Did you get a chance to try out the Stardew Valley multiplayer beta yet? What are you looking forward to doing with your friends? Let us know in the comments below!