started: 5/7/23 | finished: 5/9/23 | reviewed: 5/11/23
played on: nintendo switch (physical) | release year: 2022
if youve ever played a horse-centric game, you probably know that a lot of horse-centric games suck, which is a shame. the woman who runs the mane quest understands this and reviews many different horse games, looking for ones that are worth playing. so when i found out she was involved with the development of this game, i had super high hopes for it!! stuff was said about it like "itll redefine the genre". i enthusiastically preordered a physical copy for the switch.
luckily, the steam version came out a couple weeks prior, and i was able to watch gameplay and see the lukewarm reviews it was getting from people like me who were hyped for what we thought would be an amazing horse game and cancel my preorder. i nearly dropped 40 bucks on it D:
i was still kinda curious about the game, so i borrowed it from a library and played through it. at the start, i decided to keep my pre-generated character. when i went to name them, it told me i had a 500 character limit!? so of course i typed a 500-character essay about horses. but no, it wouldnt let me name my character that bc it was "too long". why didnt you put in an actual limit then... i decided to just name my character I Like Horse.
on to the game itself. the basic idea is that youre in charge of your aunts estate on a peninsula where people like horses, but she let it go to shit and you have to rebuild it (well you dont HAVE to, i finished the game having barely touched it) and do some quests. ill start with the most positive thing i have to say about it: its very fun to ride around on your horse!! instead of just holding forward and switching speeds whenever, you just use the stick to steer your horse left or right, and to continue speeding up, you press the b button timed with the footfalls of your horse. this is a fun system and makes traversing the map less tedious.
...oh no, little german boy! dont play horse tales: emerald valley ranch!!! "oh mein gott zees is ein game full of backentracken"
the actual game just consists of...fetch quests and going from one objective marker to the next. the 4 and a half hours it took me to beat the main storyline was pretty much just spent going whence i came. and the game does not respect your time. one quest had me go through a HEDGE MAZE on horseback to get to an npc, just so she could tell me to go somewhere else.
the map has fog over every place you havent discovered yet...and over some parts of places you HAVE discovered for no reason other than to cover up paths to other areas i guess?? when you get an objective marker thats way off in the fog, you either have to guess which areas will have paths that lead you to it, or just look up the map online. this is an open world game, but youre pretty restricted on where you can actually go, and there are invisible walls aplenty.
towards the end of the game, a quest gives you a horse with near perfect stats and perfect traits, meaning theres no reason to ever breed horses except for color. which doesnt really matter since you cant see horses on your estate. or anywhere else. on another npcs estate, there are huge empty pens with no horses in them. you can only see horses people are riding and wild horses (which despawn immediately if you scare them). whats the point of taming more horses if you cant see them?? why rebuild your estate at all if you cant put horses in it and its just a bunch of empty buildings???
i did not give a single shit about the story. its hard to when the dialogue can be said out of order and every character makes sounds like "haha! oh! hmmm! hoho! ahh!" theres this girl youre rivals with and you beat her in a race and she calls you a nerd, and then you have to be friends with her because her rich parents want her to sell her horse and she gets lost and falls off her horse and you have to look for it and yadda yadda. and then she doesnt come to your party and youre like I Thought She Was Different...but she just couldnt come because her brother came home so you throw another party and the game ends. and diversity win! one of the guys who gives you quests mentions a husband you never see or learn the name of.
AND, back on the topic of the game not respecting your time: by the time you are going to do the stuff for the final party, you have that near-perfect fast horse. BUT since they needed to make the game longer i guess, you cant just go here you need to go. you have to follow an npc on his slow ass horse. you cant go ahead of him. he stops and waits for you to get back behind him.
i could keep rambling about stuff i didnt like in this game for a while probably. the whole thing is just really disappointing. i would have abandoned it if i didnt think riding my horse was fun.
i encountered a LOT of bugs, glitches, and other jank in this game. its pretty sad. here is a sampler:
in conclusion: im glad didnt buy this, and you probably shouldnt either.. it was very okay. i think i like horse isle 3 more, and thats a grindy mmo with homophobic staff that looks like it came out in the 2000s.