Stardew Valley‘s varied gameplay and open-ended nature have made it an enduring classic among fans of the farming sim genre. Though farming is the principal focus of the game, the multitude of available activities in Stardew Valley make it quite a customizable experience. However, no matter what direction is taken, players will require a substantial amount of rare materials and resources to optimize their game — particularly so in the later years. Quests also become more difficult, though the rewards are equally higher. Following this path, all players will inevitably be forced into the most difficult dungeon in Stardew Valley: the Skull Cavern.
The Skull Cavern is notorious among fans for many reasons — namely its chaotic difficulty and consistently dangerous enemies. Located in the Calico Desert, the cavern is unlocked after players reach Floor 120 in Pelican Town’s Mines, and it requires meticulous planning to survive its increased arduousness. There are an unlimited number of floors in the cavern, and though a few specific ones are used in quests given to the player, there is no indication of which type of enemy lies within them. Stardew Valley is very rarely a scary game, but the Skull Cavern is an intimidating prospect to many players. Despite this, employing the proper strategies makes it much more manageable.
What Makes the Skull Cavern Different
The Skull Cavern differs from the Mines for several reasons, with the most immediately apparent being the significant increase in difficulty. Monsters are much more dangerous here than in the Mines, as they deal more damage and are much more difficult to take down. Some even require more than just a sword to fight, like the Mummy enemy that requires a bomb to fully kill.
The Skull Cavern also does not have an elevator and players cannot save their progress; each excursion into the cavern begins at Floor One. However, time moves slower than usual to compensate for this. To further balance the difficulty changes, the Skull Cavern also contains mine shafts, that when jumped into transport players three to fifteen floors down at the cost of health. The cavern also has many rare treasures and resources to make the trip worth the player’s efforts, some of which are found exclusively within the cavern.
Preparation Is the Key to Success in the Skull Cavern
Before entering the Skull Cavern, players should take care to properly prepare so as not to risk losing their hard-earned money, tools, and treasure. To begin, a passive yet important way to increase good fortune is to enter the cavern on a day with high Luck, which can be measured by watching the Fortune Teller’s daily TV broadcast and by eating a meal that increases Luck.
Luck can help eliminate tricky parts of the cavern, such as the amount of Gem Nodes that appear on a floor. Meals that have a long time duration and increase both Luck and other attributes are ideal, such as Spicy Eel (Luck and Speed) or Pumpkin Soup (Luck and Defense). Boots and rings contribute to this as well, such as the Space Boots, which add four points to both Defense and Immunity. It is important to note that buffs from a single Food and Beverage can stack, but not two of each. This should be kept in mind when bringing food used to replenish energy, as eating a new food with buffs will negate the previous one.
The correct tools are critical to success within the Skull Cavern, particularly the player’s Pickaxe and weapon. A Pickaxe upgraded to at least Gold is imperative, though Iridium is ideal. Due to the strength of all the Monsters in the cavern, the Galaxy Sword is similarly ideal, but if a Prismatic Shard has proved hard to come by, the Lava Katana is sold at the Adventurer’s Guild for 25000g and is appropriately powerful. Bombs are an indispensable resource as well, as they are easy to craft and can clear entire floors. Lastly, Totems that warp players between the Desert and the Farm will save even more time. All food with buffs that should be brought into the Skull Cavern, as well as bombs, are available from the Desert Trader next to the cavern’s entrance.
The Best Ways to Navigate the Skull Cavern
Once inside the Skull Cavern, time becomes a precious commodity. It is important to maximize yields of resources and treasure while minimizing wasted time and damage taken. If players feel overwhelmed by monsters or short on time, staircases, whether crafted or purchased, can be used to immediately proceed to the next floor, avoid dangers, and save time. The Skull Cavern is often considered to be the most stressful part of an otherwise calm game, so staircases are an easy way to escape oncoming threats. Bombs are also a viable option to quickly reveal ladders or mine shafts. Mine shafts themselves can be used to skip levels, but only if players have ways to heal themselves back up quickly, as there is no telling how far the shaft will fall.
There are multiple types of floor layouts found within the Skull Cavern. The majority of them are similar to the Mines, though a few are unique to the cavern. Prehistoric Floors and Treasure Rooms both contain rare valuables, though the latter also has strong enemies. Large, spacious rooms that lack immediately identifiable treasures should be skipped, as searching for the ladder takes too much time.
The Skull Cavern, however dangerous, is an integral part of Stardew Valley‘s storylines and an indispensable source of rare and vital materials. Moreover, though the cavern has no end, reaching Floor 25 will complete the quest “Qi’s Challenge,” and reaching Floor 100 achieves “Qi’s Hungry Challenge.” The latter is only available after reaching Ginger Island, but the former is activated one day after entering the Skull Cavern for the first time. Though many avoid hope to cavern for as long as possible, entering it will become necessary in the course of the game’s story. Luckily, there is a multitude of items and strategies, that when utilized, can turn a formidable trip into just another excursion to the Mines.
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