Shane's been gaming for nearly 40 years and loves a broad array of games in addition to being one-quarter of the Assorted Meeples group.
Stardew Valley is a truly amazing game, and there's a reason it went from being described as "Harvest Moon but Better" to being the new gold standard by which all farm-sim life games are judged.
This game wasn't just a huge leap forward for fans of the original Harvest Moon franchise of games. It revitalized the entire genre and showed that it was extremely popular with modern gamers wanting relaxing games. It opened the way for games like Slime Rancher, My Time at Portia, Graveyard Keeper, and dozens of others.
While a great game with enjoyable mechanics, there's a lot to absorb when you first start playing. The following are 11 great tips to improve quality of life while playing and to help beginners get a great start on their new farm in Pelican Town!
1. Adjust Your Zoom Settings (Among Others)
If you have a widescreen 4K monitor the game tends to be extremely zoomed out anyway, but for the rest of us, or for players who just have to min-max everything - even relaxing games - hit escape to bring up your menu and go to the settings tab.
If you scroll down there are some basic changes you can make that improve how much of the area you can see around you (very handy in-game) as well as some extra guidance to avoid wasting precious energy using tools in the wrong place.
Look at the UI Scale and the Zoom Out sections and take it from 100% down to 70%. This will pull the camera back and shrink the corner UI, allowing you to see more of the screen which is super useful.
I also strongly recommend the "Show tool strike location" setting since this helps you avoid watering the same square twice or hoeing the same square twice saving you the energy from that mistake.
How Much Can You See in One Screen?
2. Sprint to the Spring Onions
Energy is so crucial in the early spring and summer seasons of year one. If you go south of the farm, across the plank bridges, and all the way to the bottom of the screen there are multiple places where spring onions grow.
Load up on these!
Not only do they provide really good energy in the early game, but they count towards your foraging skill, which is important for a variety of reasons ranging from crafting recipes to the all-important first salmonberry season strategy (detailed further below).
This energy can be used for watering crops, chopping down more trees (fix that beach bridge!), or catching even more fish to sell.
On most new files my first action is to water crops in the morning, and the second is to race south to see how many spring onions I can find.
3. Watch Your Leveling
When you pause you can check a player's levels. This shows you how many levels (out of 10) you have in farming, mining, fishing, combat, and foraging. Check this at the beginning of the day and write those numbers down or keep them in mind.
If you do a lot of one thing during a day like harvesting crops, fishing, or cutting down trees, check the levels again. Even though you don't get the announcement of a level up until you sleep at night, the game actually takes note of the moment it happens.
When a player levels up a skill they get full energy the next day. Doesn't matter if they passed out at 2 a.m. or worked themselves to exhaustion, you get a clean slate the next morning.
So if you level up during the day, feel free to push yourself, get more done, run around and socialize since you can work into the night. Take advantage of the fact that you can get more done and for once won't be penalized for passing out outside at 2 a.m.
Important: If you pass out and have a lot of money you will lose 10% up to 1,000g so you still need to be careful if you're carrying a lot of cash. If you don't have that much money on you, feel free to work yourself to exhaustion on a level up day!
Watch Those In-Day Level Ups!
4. Fish and Forest a Lot in the Early Game
If there are two underrated skills to level up quickly in the early game it's fishing and forresting (in other words, cutting down trees to upgrade the foraging skill). Fishing is a great way to earn big money early game for crops, and chubs are great energy without giving up too much income.
Many players are die-hard proponents of spending nearly all of day three fishing. This is a great way to level up the skill and earn good early game money. Chubs are also very good energy for low investment, and if you capture a treasure chest while fishing this can led to gems, artifacts, or an early weapon like Neptune's Sword is huge for those upcoming mine runs.
Cutting down trees not only provides sap for fertilizer and torches, but wood (needed for many buildings & building upgrades) which is a very valuable early game resource that can open up the other side of the beach, be used for building chests, and is needed for a variety of other crafting recipes.
Cutting down trees is also the easiest way to level up the foraging skill early and getting to Level 5 foraging by Salmonberry season in late spring of year one is huge to get double berries, and as a result, near endless energy throughout year one.
Fishing and cutting down trees early are great ways to level up your character and give yourself a big leg up in year one.
5. Don't Ignore the Mines
The mines are a crucial part of getting your farm up and moving in Stardew Valley. Metal bars are needed to upgrade all of your tools, as well as major crafting ingredients for sprinklers (all three types), kegs, rings, bee hives, preserve jars, and many more.
The only way to get these extremely important crafting ingredients is to go through the mines quite a bit. This lets you set up automated watering on the farm with sprinklers, start brewing wine and jam, and just getting everything moving.
Not to mention the mine has some seriously great goodies that will help you speed up growing the farm, opening up new sections of the map, and advance the game and how you can set it up.
Don't put off the mines for too long - the sooner you get those bars the sooner you can set up quality sprinklers, kegs, and upgrade those tools!
6. Take Mushrooms Over Bats
This is one of the most argued questions in Stardew Valley, and there are legitimate takes from both sides. However, for the true beginner the question of "Should I take mushrooms or fruit bats in the cave in Stardew Valley?" is actually fairly easy.
The answer is mushrooms.
Mushrooms provide a cheap daily source of energy, gold when you need it most, and some of the mushrooms are needed for Community Center bundles. Having a daily source of energy and income is huge, and makes this a big get for early farm setups.
7. Explore, Explore, Explore!
You only unlock fishing after you meet Willy on the beach. You only unlock the Community Center when you enter town on a sunny day at the right time from the right direction. You can't unlock the desert without the Community Center, or Skull Cavern without finishing the Mines.
In other words, more and more of the game is unlocked the more that you check out. There are also some really amazing bits of graphics, interesting locations, and really cool details to be discovered in this game.
Fire flies at night in summer, cutting down a tree loaded with butterflies, or the occasional appearance of a redheaded woodpecker are delightful sights and just a taste of what's out there in Stardew Valley.
So explore, get to know the area, and look at the many different sights, sounds, and storylines doing so opens up...not to mention more foreageables!
8. Add a Day to the Growing Season
When you hover your mouse over crop seeds, it tells you how many days they need to grow. Always add a day to this. The days listed are how many full days are needed for the crops to mature, and THEN on the next day they can be harvested.
This makes it very easy to plant crops one day too late to harvest before the end of the year because you had 14 days until the 28th, but you actually needed 14+1. Since most crops change when the season does, this is a big deal.
If in doubt, add a day to the stated grow time to make sure you're not planting crops too late in the season to harvest.
9. Keep an Eye on Season Changes
It didn't occur to me this could trip up some players, but I also played the old Harvest Moon games, so I expected crop loss between seasons. While there is a warning about that via mail, it can be easy to forget if you're a new player.
Most crops die when the season changes. There are only a few specific crops that can survive 2 or more seasons, and those are:
- Ancient Fruit (Spring, Summer, and Fall)
- Coffee (Spring & Summer)
- Corn (Summer & Fall)
- Tomatoes (Summer & Fall)
- Sunflowers (Summer & Fall)
- Wheat (Summer & Fall)
Any other crops when the season changes so be sure to pay attention to that calendar!
10. Place Strategic Chests Across the Map
Your wooden chests don't just have to stay on the farm. You can place these on the beach, in the mines, all over town if you want. You do want to be careful since an NPC walking through a chest will destroy it, but in places like the mines no NPCs go up there so having chests and furnaces by the elevator instead of all the way back at the farm just makes sense.
When you unlock the second section of the beach, as long as you keep the chests out of Leah's path (which you have to work to put a chest in her way) you can have fishing, crab pot, or other supplies right there on that side of the beach.
Having a chest right outside Skull Cavern is also a very good idea - especially if you don't have a Galaxy level weapon when you start exploring.
Smart chest placement will save you a lot of headaches!
Stardew Valley Old Mine Setup
11. Race for Quality Sprinklers
No matter what type of farm or file I'm playing, unless it's a really oddball attempt one of my first priorities is to race towards mass producing quality sprinklers. This makes it much easier to plant massive fields of crops that bring in the funds to build and upgrade the buildings, get the bus moving to the desert, and funding all the other projects you have for your farm.
Quality sprinklers are a massive quality of life improvement in the game and as long as you aren't on the beach farm, are going to be a major part of your game.
This means getting to level 80 of the mines so you can mine gold and iron more, and farming level 6 to get the recipe. Even a few of these will make a huge difference in gameplay.
If you have 50 of them, that's a game changer as far as your in-game budget goes!
Bonus Tip: Play Your Own Game!
One of the things that makes Stardew Valley so great is that you can play your own game. There's no hard 3-year stop where the town judges whether you can stay or not, if you miss doing something in one season another year will pass by and another spring, summer, fall, or winter will come around.
Some of my friends who play Stardew love to mix-max the farm into an industrial crop-producing giants with endless rows of crops. I have some files that follow this route, one where I'm casually designing my dream beach farm, and others where I focus on creating a giant orchard, or designing a maze with bought statues.
Stardew Valley is an amazing game and one that offers an open canvas to create the experience that you want - so enjoy it, and do it your way!
© 2022 Shane Dayton