Despite only being released on 27 February, Stardew Valley, a charming indie farming sim for PC, has become a veritable cult-hit with hundreds of thousands of people joining in on the agricultural fun (SteamSpy owner stats for the game total a whopping 266,053 as of 6 March).
As strong word of mouth for the Harvest Moon-esque game grows (the game currently has a 98% 'overwhelmingly positive' rating on Steam based on 6,148 reviews), the addictive sow-em-up will have plenty of burgeoning agriculturalists stumped by the game's seemingly endless depth after the deceptively leisurely introduction.
Well fear not weary farm-hand, this brief walkthrough will help you through your first year by outlining which crops you should choose to plant and how to make the most of each season.
The idea of this guide is to establish a farm that demands as little time or daily energy use as possible, leaving your profitable plot to tick away independently while you get to socialising and getting 'dirty' in other ways via the romance features.
At 105 gold (more of higher-star produce) per plant, growing cauliflower – up to twice per season – is a quick win in Spring, but diversify with other crops too, as the bulletin board at Pierre's store in Pelican Town will post requests.
Always use fertilizer
Clear out all of the trees on your farm for an abundance of sap as you only need two units to create fertilizer. Adding this to tilled soil increases high-quality yields, resulting in extra gold windfalls. Just make sure you replant some tree seeds so they recover in time for year two.
Use leftover energy for resource gathering and fishing
After watering and harvesting your crops, remaining energy should be used to clear the rocks and trees around your farm. The stone and wood gains will save money in the long run, and you'll likely find one or two geodes for the blacksmith.
Alternatively pop over to the dock and start raising your character's fishing level, while also adding a bit of extra coin to your coffers. Keep in mind that fishing at different times of the day will mean you can potentially catch different fish. Perfect for the seafood requests on the bulletin board.
Buy strawberry seeds at the Egg Festival
If cauliflowers are key to year one, strawberries are year two's MVP. Ensure you have gold available for the Egg Festival (13<sup>th of Spring) and buy as many strawberry seeds as possible. Treat it as an investment for now, it will be worth it.
Speaking of festivals, these optional distractions will reward players with the chance to buy and win rare scarecrows, recipes and other goodies. Keep an eye on the calendar outside Pierre's grocery store throughout the year.
Don't build a chicken coop
Chickens are awesome. But, don't do it. The profit/loss balance will put your gold reserves into the red pretty sharpish. Wait until you have a bigger house, trust us on this one.
As Spring ends you should be able to upgrade your farm house, giving you a handy 36 additional slots of storage space for produce. If it is slightly out of reach (you'll need 450 wood and 10,000 gold), then save up for the summer.
Blueberries take the crop crown in the summer, so don't be seduced by the melons. The jelly prices might be enticing, but with three 'off the vine' berries every harvest and multiple fruit yields per season, the berries are clearly the best choice. Either sell the raw berries or get making some jelly (210g).
Fix the beach bridge
East of Elliot's cabin is a bridge you can rebuild for 300 wood. Fixing it opens up a second beach with coral sources and another fishing dock, so make sure you set some wood aside for the repair work.
Raising your farming level to four unlocks the preservers, letting you pickle vegetables and fruit jellies for up to 200% more gold per unit over standard produce. It takes a few days, but the gains are worth the wait. Have at least 20 preservers by Autumn.
Mine during the rain
With no crops to water on rainy days, clear out a few levels in the underground labyrinth in the mine. With no time restrictions and crafting material gains, the mine helps break up the standard daily grind.
New season, new berries. While not quite as lucrative as blueberries, preserved cranberries and their jelly will bring in the gold, while the excess can be stored in your fridge for later. Silver or gold star cranberries do not change the price of the jelly produced, so sell them raw for quick gains.
Consider a coop, silo and/or barn
If you are desperate to hear the cluck of chickens, now is a good time to get building. While expensive (you will need secondary crafting stations), after a few in-game weeks the cold will make crop growing a futile endeavour. The silo will help with time management should you decide on a barn/coop.
Upgrade your tools
Although basic tools are acceptable for year one, steel and copper tools will become integral soon enough (a copper axe and pickaxe is essential for the winter). The blacksmith takes 48-72 in-game hours to upgrade each tool, so don't drop off something you will immediately need.
Animal products and artisan goods
Rather obviously, winter is not a good season for growing crops. Instead, spend your time preserving any stored fruits, process any milk into cheese and use any chicken eggs to run your mayonnaise machine. Treat winter as a catch-up period to take care of any extra crops you harvested and feel free to build more processors if required.
Consider the fruit trees
It takes 28 days for a tree to produce fruit, but at this time if you have some spare change they are a good choice for the potentially fruitful spring season to follow. Pierre's grocery store sells them throughout the year, although the space requirements make them a poor substitute for the standard crop-fare until winter sets in.
Keep going back to the mine
With little else to do, the mine is worth a re-visit as you slowly get towards the levels that house iron, gold and other rare minerals for the museum. Get spelunking.
<sub>(This article originally appeared on iDigitalTimes)