stardew valley

Stardew Valley Co-op is a Wonderful Excuse to Return to Pelican Town

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Ever since Stardew Valley captured our hearts two years ago, fans have been clamoring for one new feature above all others: multiplayer.

But the pixelated farming sim was never designed as a multiplayer game. It took a dedicated team from indie publisher Chucklefish over a year to build the networking code, but the results are stunning.

Currently multiplayer is only available on the PC version of Stardew Valley in a beta stage. Enabling the beta is incredibly simple thanks to Steam and GOG Galaxy’s built-in beta features. Publisher Chucklefish has outlined the specific steps for hosting and joining games.

Once the beta patch is applied, it’s a simple as one player hosting a co-op match and the others joining. You can continue your same games and build cabins for joining players, or simply start a a fresh farm with those cabins already built.

Joining a co-op game feels a bit like being a sidekick in another person’s story. The host player gets the house while joining players are regulated to smaller cabins away from the mailbox and roads (although the inside of the house and cabin are about the same).

Everyone gets their own starting tools, energy bar, and freedom to tackle whatever they wish. Having multiple farmers running around tackling different projects opens up a whole new world of speedy efficiency.

One player can explore deep into the mines, upgrading their pickaxe and returning with artifacts and ore. Another can make loads of money improving their fishing skills, while one person keeps track of crop rotation and watering needs.

Share the Wealth

Players still have to work together for one crucial reason: everyone shares the same chunk of money. If someone upgrades their pickaxe, you may not have enough cash to buy seeds at the start of the next month. One player may be gathering wood to buy a chicken coop, but another grabs 300 wood from the storage chest to repair the bridge at the beach.

Coordination between players becomes key. An unruly player could easily tank the entire farm, much the same way they can destroy your hard-earned work in Minecraft or Terraria. That being said, the community around Stardew Valley seems genuinely sweet and earnest.

If playing with friends and family and those who have a shared goal of success, Stardew Valley is absolutely magical. Sharing money becomes a wonderful exercise in mutual responsibility and future planning. Can we splurge on a new fishing pole right now? Do we have enough cash to get all our crops started next month? Are you going to spend all day fishing again? Yes, yes I am.

stardew valley

The shared money pool also acts as an interesting teaching tool for shared bank accounts with couples. Just as in real life, couples need to maintain an open, honest dialogue when it comes to spending and saving money. Making big purchases without consulting your co-op partners could result in hurt feelings, unfinished projects, and a disastrous experience.

Having multiplayer characters with a shared money pool also provides an interesting quirk to the game’s balance. Previously the game was balanced by having tons of stuff to do each day, but with a limited pool of time and energy. Time remains a factor but multiple players means multiple energy bars worth of tasks that can be accomplished per day. This seems like a huge advantage until you realize you also have that many more tools to upgrade in the early game.

Although still technically in beta, I’ve found multiplayer to be extremely stable, with only a few minor hiccups and stutters. The biggest issue is that one-time rewards, like the chests every five levels of the mines, are only given to the person who opens them. Already Chucklefish has responded, and they’re fixing it so everyone gets a chance at the unique loot.

When Stardew Valley first launched my spouse and I sunk dozens of hours into it. We played our own separate games but loved updating each other on how we were building our farms, and any neat little tips and tricks we found. It’s one of the few games she has logged more hours that I did, and I practically play games for a living.

The 1.3 multiplayer update has rekindled our mutual enjoyment of the charming indie game. I cannot thank the designers enough for pledging to add a highly requested yet significantly challenging feature, and following through so successfully.

Stardew Valley’s multiplayer is available via beta on PC. The 1.3 update is coming next to Switch, followed by PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Divinity: Original Sin Is One of the Best Co-op Games for Couples

Posted by | Feature, Opinion, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

Seven months and 80 hours later my partner and I finally put down our PS4 controllers in triumph to watch the end credits roll on Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition.

We have played many cooperative games together over the years but none have enthralled both of us quite like D:OS. Its rewarding tactical combat system, huge world, and most importantly, a story that weaves together both characters equally kept us invested in one of the best cooperative gaming experiences we’ve ever had.

Divinity: Original Sin was part of the new wave of Kickstarter indie games back in 2013, riding the explosion of successful multi-million dollar campaigns like Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, and the Double Fine Adventure. The common thread through most of these campaigns was nostalgia. Indie developers wanted to bring back niches genres that weren’t popular with major publishers, such as point and click adventures, and tactical computer role-playing games. Two of my favorites.

Divinity’s campaign was a big success, releasing in 2014 on PC. As a fan of classic PC RPGs like Fallout 1-2, Baldur’s Gate, and Planescape: Torment I immediately devoured it. While it definitely fits the mold of a classic cRPG, Divinity goes beyond what I expected. It takes its open-world cues from the even older Ultima series and adds gameplay functionality that’s closer to actual tabletop Dungeons & Dragons than anything else.

A year later, in 2015, it released on consoles with an Enhanced Edition upgrade. It would be several years before we finally caught up with modern consoles and I considered giving it a replay, this time cooperatively with my partner

I was unsure it would be a good fit for us. Until then we’d enjoyed quicker, easy-to-digest co-op games like Diablo 3 and the entire Borderlands series. Divinity: Original Sin is a huge, dense, lengthy RPG that refuses to ever hold your hand. Yet we completely fell in love with it.

It Takes Two

Want to pick a lock and steal from someone’s home? Go for it! Want to murder everyone in sight? You can certainly try. Just want to head into a dungeon and find some sweet loot? Now we’re talking!  These things have all been done before, and done well, but Divinity: Original Sin puts a unique cooperative spin on everything. One character can distract a guard while another sneaks past. One can be in the middle of a lengthy dialogue session with a dangerous cult leader while the other can get into a battle with mutated plant life outside of town.

The seamless split-screen opens up the possibilities in an already player-driven world, allowing couples to join forces or separate to do their own thing as much as they want.

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The story focuses on two main characters who are equal in every way. Instead of having a second player tacked on as a sidekick or hireling, both are Source Hunters, essentially federal agents who hunt down dangerous magic users in the fantasy world of Rivellon. In Single Player you customize both of them at the beginning. Obviously in multiplayer we each get to choose and make our own Hunter. My partner created a mage who specialized in Fire and Earth magic, while my rogue wielded a bow along with some useful Witchcraft abilities.

While both characters begin the game as blank slates, we’re given numerous opportunities to flesh them out. Throughout several key moments in the story, our characters indicate they wish to chat. We had some fun roleplaying our characters with each other. Our responses earn points towards various personality traits, such as Romantic vs Pragmatic and Forgiving vs Vindictive. These traits don’t influence the game much (a +1 to a minor skill or so) but do wonders to bring our characters to life.

These moments are also baked into the single player, leading to some challenging exercises in juggling multiple character roles. Divinity is built from the ground-up for two player co-op, but playing single player is equally viable thanks to its carefully tuned turn-based combat.

You Have My Sword

Combat in Divinity is challenging and complex, which are not typically hallmarks of a good couch co-op game. It’s completely turn-based, with characters receiving a pool of Action Points each turn. Everything from moving to attacking to casting spells costs a certain amount of AP, along with putting spells and abilities on cooldown. Learning how and when to use skills is paramount.

Even more challenging is that characters don’t automatically learn new skills when they level up. Skill books must be found or purchased from vendors. This grants total customization to how we want to play our characters, but can be overwhelming in the beginning with so many options available.

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Complexity brings perseverance, and Divinity’s combat is very rewarding. Many abilities can be combined with the environment for satisfying effects. Cast a lightning bolt on a puddle to create an electrified zone that stuns anyone inside. Shoot a fireball into some oil barrels and watch the gigantic explosion that sets the ground aflame. Coordinating together is the only way to win many battles. Nearly every turn we had to discuss how best to utilize our abilities in any given situation, like the best cooperative board games.

I’ll never forget the time I lost my characters midway during a battle with some nasty giant spiders in the desert, only to have my partner pull us through with careful coordination and strategic planning. What seemed like a quick reload turned into an epic comeback as she gradually prevailed, and we cheered together at the end.

Thankfully Divinity’s battles prioritize quality over quantity. Many RPGs, particularly Japanese RPGs, are plagued with repetitive random battles designed to gradually drain your resources. In Divinity all enemies are visible directly on the map, and they’re relatively few and far between. Individual battles last much longer but are also much more meaningful, which is more how tabletop D&D operates than many hack and slash video games.

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Divinity’s huge world and length can be off-putting for many couples. Eighty hours is incredibly intimidating if you want to see it all the way through. If you do the math we averaged only about three hours a week, and that was typically long sessions on weekends.

Firing up the game became like our weekly D&D adventures (shameless plug): getting together once a week to unwind and play the next phase of a story together. The familiarity of jumping in to accomplish the next tasks at hand – rescuing an imprisoned witch, avoiding deadly patrols in a mine, helping a sentient wishing well find his brother – provided a strong sense of purpose and organic narrative throughout many weeks and months.

Completing Divinity: Original Sin has left a temporary void in our gaming schedule. Yet we’re also excited to jump into Divinity: Original Sin 2 when it launches on consoles this fall. I’m sure it will take us another 6+ months to finish. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

stardew valley

Stardew Valley Creator Teases Multiplayer Update “in About a Month”

Posted by | News, PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

Stardew Valley solo indie developer, Eric Barone, dropped a quick update via twitter on the highly anticipated multiplayer update. It looks like the free multiplayer patch should be arriving next month on PC.

The most recent news on Update 1.3 was posted back in mid February. Multiplayer has been in internal beta for most of this year. Barone has partnered with indie publisher Chucklefish to help add online multiplayer functionality to a game that was originally designed for single player.

It’s unclear whether the tweet references the previously mentioned beta or an official patch release.

Multiplayer will allow for up to four players to build a single farm together. One player will act as the primary host, who decides when to trigger events and when to sleep for the evening. Joining players can build cabins for themselves. Note that the game will no support local or split-screen multiplayer, though you will be able to connect via LAN, and online.

Chucklefish and Barone have previously announced that the multiplayer update will come first to PC, then to Switch, then finally to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Stardew Valley was one of Pixelkin’s Games of the Year in 2016. Its charming, pixelated art hearkens back to classic gaming era of the 90s. Its low-res appearance belies an incredibly deep, lengthy experience with lots of intricate gameplay features, like real-word seasons, multiple NPCs to date, a full developed town, a huge amount of farming and livestock options, and a gigantic dungeon to explore.

Stardew Valley originally launched on PC in 2016 and became one of the best-selling titles on Steam. It arrived on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later that same year. It released on Nintendo Switch last fall, along with the announcement that the Switch would be the first console to receive the multiplayer update.

Stardew Valley has been rated E for Everyone.