Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch is an equestrian open world adventure developed by Aesir Interactive and published by Microids. The game released on November 17 on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC, and this review focuses on the PS5 version. I have been playing the game with my five-year-old daughter who loves horses, and we’ve been having a blast together. The camera controls have been frustrating, even for me, but otherwise this is a great free roaming adventure about running your own ranch and developing/breeding horses.
Your vacation at your aunt’s turns out to be far from what you expected. Your once grand family property has fallen into ruins and you find yourself facing a huge challenge to restore it to it’s former glory. You choose your starting horse, in our case a brown horse called Molly, and we learnt the basics of horse riding. There are obstacles you need to duck under and logs to jump over. Jumping over logs and gaps proved quite frustrating at first because you need to land perfectly clear of the obstacle, otherwise it resets you back a distance from the log/gap. You also use resources you find to repair bridges and other structures. There is no voice acting in the game so I had to verabilise our goals for my daughter.
We meet the mayor’s son Gabriel, the local woodsman Mattéo and the architect and master craftswoman Noella, amongst a number of other locals, who give us guidance on how to collect and process resources, such as wood at the wood mill. Most importantly, how to gain fame in order to access new buildings for the ranch, but also gaining opportunities to breed your horse with others. At first the quest system was easy to follow, albeit with a lot of galloping between locations. The island’s map is covered in a shroud of cloud and is revealed as we explore locations. It wasn’t until a few hours into the game that I worked out we could fast travel back to the ranch – game changer!
My daughter and I found ourselves wondering all over the landscape as there was wood to collect as well as fame orbs which became crucial to our progress. We found we needed certain levels of fame to enter horse some races and to build add-ons to our farm. As we gained fame, more locations opened up for us. The quests were strange in that I would be following one quest, arrive at the destination, hand it in and would get the next quest marker, but once at the new destination it was for a quest unrelated to the one i was on earlier. It seemed to jump between quests, but once I knew that we were able to focus on one.
My daughter didn’t mind this, of course, as she just enjoyed running around on the horse, jumping off to pet it, running through shallow water to clean it, and attempting to jump obstacles. I ended up having to do the hazard negotiation as it was too finicky for her, but it was a lot of fun. We were on one beach section and noticed there was a sandcastle near the water’s edge. Approaching it allowed us to add to it, then later we found a little girl standing in a paddock. We talked to her, and she asked us to fix her sandcastle which has fallen down. We had already done this, so could hand the quest straight back in and received some fame along with candy.
Each horse has its own set of statistics, likes and dislikes. Galloping between locations improved its fitness and therefore its stamina. We saw a cave in the distance so rode into it, and the horse got scared, decreasing its stamina. We jumped off and petted the horse back to full happiness, and that action raised its resistance to fear of the dark. You also need to feed and clean your horse. Feeding was easy though at first, we only had candy and carrots – both of which our horse did not like at all, and this affected the horse’s mood.
We could pet the horse and it will tell you which part of its head it prefers to be petted, increasing its mood faster. We were constantly reminded that we should clean the horse before its hair gets clumped, however we run around for ages and couldn’t find a wash station. We couldn’t build one at our ranch yet as we lacked fame, so gaining fame was what we spent most of our time doing.
The only major frustrating thing for me was the camera controls. When you’re trying to gallop fast along the racetracks with lots of twists, turns and jumps, having to manually move the camera around a corner as well was very difficult. A suggestion would be to lock the camera behind the horse for the race sections, then switch back to free look in normal roaming. It took many races to perfect the camera control for me as a seasoned gamer. For kids? It’s too much for them to have to think about.
Overall, my daughter and I really enjoyed our time together in Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch. It’s a fun open world exploration game about horses and is great for young kids to learn about resource gathering and looking after their horse. The camera controls were frustrating on the racetracks, but reasonably fine in the open exploration of the otherwise well detailed areas of the island.
This review utilised a PlayStation 5 key provided by Plaion ANZ. Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch is available now on PlayStation4/5, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis