Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch PC Review

If you enjoy riding horses and enjoy spending time with them, then there is no better game than Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch.

By Rayan, Posted 13 Nov 2022

It's always fun to try out games entirely out of our taste and favorite genres, especially when a much-needed break is essential from the typical action games we play. While I was looking for such a break myself, Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch came into the scene. Even though it's been long since I last went on a horseback adventure, Aesir Interactive on the contrary been on it for a while. They have a bit of history in making games concerning horses. Their first game Windstorm: Start of a Great Friendship received many positive reviews, while Windstorm: An Unexpected Arrival had somewhat of a mixed reaction.

Thus, horse enthusiasts were looking forward to Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch when it was first announced back in January 2022. The game finally launched on 3rd November with lovely graphics, an extensive map, and a wide variety of settings to explore. While it was a different type of adventure compared to the ones I recently had on Modern Warfare II, or God of War Ragnarök, looking for solid horses and scurrying about to get mats has been a lot of fun.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Horseback Riding, Horse Simulation, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch's visuals are beautifully refreshing and will remind you of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The island is full of life and color; although each part is distinct, they are all wonderfully interconnected. There are stunning coral shores, mountain peaks, isolated woodlands, and green open areas. Most of the game's excitement comes from just wandering about the world since there are no loading screens. The visuals will have you smiling as soon as you boot up the game. The horse movements are fantastic; at the same time, they have a sense of being alive, and they each have their different qualities, worries, and preferences. Some horses are loyal and will follow you even after you dismount; others may walk off if you ignore them.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch gets straight into the action when you start the game. After the quick character customizations, you head to an island to spend a vacation with your aunt. But when you arrive, things go differently than planned. Your once-grand-family estate is in shambles, and it's up to you to bring it back to its previous state. The game indicates the tasks at the top left corner, which works as a tutorial at the beginning too. At the beginning of the game, you're sent straight to the tack shed to pick a horse.

And while you're tasked with tons of construction work, you're also going to make friends who support the quests for restoring estate along the way. The gist of the story is your chance to make amends with the great Félix family and reclaim your family's previous prominence. While there isn't any cutscene to narratives to back this story, you understand this only by looking at a photo you were holding while making your trip to the island.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Horseback Riding, Horse Simulation, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Thus the gameplay starts with initially asking you to collect stones, wood, bricks, etc., for construction purposes which leads you to explore the many areas of the map. The concept of collecting materials made sense because you get to travel quite a bit on horseback and get to know your horse and enjoy riding on it. The animations while you ride the horse is actually quite realistic. Unlike other horse games, the galloping (running fast that involves lifting all four feet off the ground at once) isn't too sluggish, but the transitions between gates are smooth and realistic.

While going uphill, your horse will naturally slow down and need more energy to maintain its pace. You can maintain your pace and delay the energy drain by pressing the shift key in time with the gallop's beat. Most surprisingly, the lead (one set of feet touches the ground ahead of the other set) changes, and moving around, turning, halting, sliding; all of it looks really natural. This is where Aesir's experience came in handy because horse lovers will care about all these details when playing a game like this.

Thankfully Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch doesn't force you to any deeper extent for collecting building materials such as chopping trees or building quarries. These can be found lying around the map pretty much anywhere you travel, and collecting them doesn't take much effort. A pillar shows up in places where construction is required, and it doesn't take much effort to construct them either. Specific areas of the ranch are off-limits for construction unless you gain a certain amount of fame. You can increase your fame by competing in races, training strong horses, breeding and selling them, and also by discovering fame points throughout different locations on the map. Completing main objectives and side quests will also provide you with fame points, and these quotes will reward you with designs for construction opportunities.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Horseback Riding, Horse Simulation, Horse Traits, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Due to the game's nature, the horses you ride throughout the game need much of your attention, and addressing them soon becomes the game's main focus. While their traits are randomly generated by the game, feeding, grooming, and caring for the horses are common for all. Because every horse has unique characteristics and tastes, petting them in the right spot is essential. Sugar, sunflowers, apples, peppermint, or sand carrots are among their top choices when it comes to dietary preferences. Each horse possesses five unique characteristics: endurance, agility, strength, charisma, and luck. Although their traits may vary, the majority of them are consistent, such as whether they like sandy or open fields, detest being in the dark or the forests, are nosy or lazy, and so on.

While interacting with the horses, you can inspect, pet, mount, and feed them while there's no fixed schedule or agenda that you need to follow. Also, you need to get accustomed to their different petting patterns since each horse prefers certain areas of its body parts to be petted. If you care or pet them less often, they will be less loyal to you than you'd expect.

This mechanism worked surprisingly well in the game and had me wondering how the developers made horses look so natural. It's not only how they move but also how they gain traits. For instance, if you travel for too long without brushing your house, it'll become crusty and gain the Dirty trait. It stresses the horse continuously and at the same time, reduces the speed, which means traveling from one area to another will take much longer. Though there's a way to care for this at the stable, it takes a while.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Stable Construction, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

The joy of riding horses, however, dries down a bit when you get deeper into the gameplay, particularly when building constructions starts to get heavier. Simply put, the game wants you to breed and sell horses, and for that, you need stables with pastures. Building them not only requires plenty of refined resources but also requires you to the road around the map to collect them. The process gets really taxing soon, and even more when you find out that a building isn't functioning as how it should be since there are no instruction manuals or notifications to follow.

It takes a bit of both time and grinding to get the hang out of this system, and might end up having you frustrated for wasting so much of your time trying to understand how things really work. I recommend only jumping into constructions if necessary for the quests. Because when a quest requires you to construct a certain building, even if you've previously done so, you must construct it once again. By constructing it again, you will be squandering valuable resources.

Sadly, the game's poor camera and repetitive mini-games for nursing horses take away a lot of fun from the gameplay. Many environments and pathways are too congested and tortuous on horseback to be enjoyable. For instance, at the Brichwood you can't make many tight bends at a glacial speed while battling a camera that is actively working against you, and similarly, there are several places like that where the game will move at a snail's pace. And you also have to keep an eye on the horses when you travel to certain locations because some horses won't move into dark areas, and some won't run properly in sandy areas.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Map, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

While you'll be making many trips to different areas of the map for quests and collecting building materials, considering the vastness of the map, the absence of fast travel just makes matters worse. Understandably, the game is designed to enjoy the horse ride as much as possible, but while there are other gameplay mechanisms involved, I find it difficult to understand the reasoning behind some of these design choices, particularly when there is a lack of essential features to make the gameplay enjoyable.

Even while the landscape is gorgeous, the game itself seems lifeless. Wild horses appear sometimes, and non-player characters (NPCs) may sometimes be seen riding about on their steeds, but otherwise, there isn't much to do in this neighborhood. It would have been fun to visit the stables and see the horses at rest, take them out to the pastures, and perhaps train them on the courses we have at the ranch to improve their overall statistics.

Perhaps it would help to get a feel for the variety of horse colors and breeds available in the game if you could also see the steeds from other ranches. Having NPCs engage with the environment more would have been a welcome addition. Adding voiceover to the protagonist and the NPCs we interacted with would also make things more lifelike. There are tons of potential for Aesir to explore from here onward because Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch builds a solid foundation for their future horse games.

Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, PC, Review, Feeding Horses, Horse Simulation, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

Anticipations were a bit too high for an indie game of this level, and yet it didn't fail. Even though most gamers would hate Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch because of its current state and the complex mechanism, a horse lover would love it. This game is purely made with the intention of pleasing this particular segment of gamers. There are certainly some visible bugs during the gameplay, which I'm sure the developers will fix over time, and more improvements will be made in regard to the general animations.

Perhaps there will be an RPG or Simulation that takes horse micromanagement to a very deeper level, but this game isn't quite ready to bear such a weight at this moment. Simply said, if you enjoy riding horses and enjoy spending time with them, then there is no better game than Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch.

Azfar Rayan (@AzfarRayan)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Switch
Publisher(s): Microïds
Developer(s): Aesir Interactive
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Adventure, Racing, Horse
Release Date: 2022-11-01

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