last love fest from me on Stardew Valley for now:
one of the things that really strikes me about the game (and helped get me hooked) is that it quietly takes a contemporary political stance: for example, forcing you to make various decisions about how you interact with a faceless corporation hellbent on growing at the expense of the last remnants of a once-thriving rural community. without any spoilers, in my game I’ve also encountered a few interactions that reflect on classism and give you options on how to preserve (or not) the dignity of less fortunate characters. also, for fuck’s sake, you (your character) can be gay! the fictional world and story are obviously fantasy, but are reflective of the world we live in and particularly the time we live in…or at least the recent past/near future, depending on how gutted by globalization the rural communities around you have been…but allows you to approach that situation optimistically (or not) and takes the rest of the town along for the ride.
there is a subtlety that exists throughout the game that is pretty unique, at least compared to games I’ve played. other side of that coin is I can see how it could feel too open-ended or boring for some folks, but I think there are tons of games (most of them?) that manage to be fun while being far more overt/direct in their approach.
all that said, I think even if you don’t care about any of the above, there is a lot to enjoy if you like exploring/simple combat/collecting/upgrading items/leveling up and related gameplay elements in a super accessible yet super deep retro-style RPG.