A while back I did a review of Star Stable Online which is my current MMO of choice due to its non-combat oriented nature and general accessibility. What isn’t widely known by those who play SSO is that SSO isn’t the first Star Stable game, not by a long shot. I mentioned these briefly in the first review. Now I’ve had a chance to run about in the Star Stable: Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer Rider games and poke a bit more into the games’ background.
In reality, I’m not entirely sure how these games came about. The Star Stable, I guess we can call it a franchise, started back somewhere around 2005 with the PC games of Star Shine Legacy. Star Shine Legacy was produced by Stabenfeldt AB which is a European book club company. They have 4 book clubs and the one that is of interest to us is what was called Pony Club back in the early 2000s, a club for girls that had horse books. Now it is called Penny and Friends. They worked together with Hidden Entertainment AB, an intellectual property rights developer that owned Pixel Tales AB, a game design company.
They created a story about four teenage girls that rode special Star Horses who were trying to save the Island of Jorvik from an evil alien force called Garnok. They were chosen because they had the ability to understand the Star Horses and had special powers granted to them by Aideen. Aideen is something of a mystery, she is probably also an alien force of light who worked with the horse like aliens and took the form of a human to give Jorvik life. (It is my pet theory that the rest of the horse aliens became the Star Horses.) I’ve watched Let’s Plays of these, and they are somewhat short games that are okay story wise but nothing groundbreaking. However, the whole idea of a book club company creating what were essentially visual interactive books isn’t really the normal way I feel a video game comes about. I am not going to argue with it, just, it is strange to me.
After they created Star Shine Legacy, they went on to create a game called Star Academy about how Lisa becomes a rock star. She participates in a singing competition with three new friends to get a record contract with Black Light Records. Based upon a popular European television show called Star Academy that is like a combination of American Idol and Big Brother. The contestants sing pop songs in English while living in the same house. Star Academy is one of the games I haven’t been able to find a play through. From the looks of it, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of Garnok, nor does there appear to be any horse riding.
Lastly, they created the Star Stable Season Rider games. Each game has a theme of a different season, starting with Autumn and ending with Summer for four games total. These were single player games that have very similar game play to Star Stable Online. They expanded greatly upon the world of Star Stable with a much larger map and with races and competitions being the primary thrust of the gameplay.
Because these games were created for a book club, they are hard to acquire. I managed to find copies of all four seasons through Amazon. With scarcity also comes a price increase, the boxes recommend selling the games for twenty dollars. I wasn’t really able to find a game below thirty. So, if you want to try these games, a word of warning. It’s going to cost you. I bought them because I knew they were relatively long and I didn’t want to watch a let’s play. It would drive me crazy because I would rather be in control. (So, I’d skip something and then miss out on stuff. So yeah.) If anyone is interesting in watching Let’s Plays of either Star Shine Legacy or the Star Stable Seasonal Riders, follow the handy links to some Youtube playlists.
The Star Stable season games are completely combat free and are suitable for children and adults of all ages! The game controls are fairly simple to understand and there is a certain amount of flexibility in how you play. Just like in SSO, quests open up as you level (maximum level being eleven). There is nothing pressing so they are rather relaxing. Not only that, each game opens up a new area of the map to explore. That means, if you have played Star Stable Online and like the world of Jorvik, the Rider games give you entirely new scenery and an idea on where everything is located. (Admittedly most of the places that made me squeal were in Winter Riders.)
Let me be clear, Autumn Riders takes place in one area, Silverglade/Harvest Counties/Goldenhills, while Winter takes place in Pine Hills north of Silverglade and the Golden Hills. Each game takes place in an entirely different area and you can’t visit the previous area without switching games. It can be extremely entertaining to compare the old map to the new map. (Yes, Old Hillcrest in SSO and Hillcrest in Autumn Riders are in the approximately same position on the map, virtually nothing else is the same, but they are in the same spots!) Riding through Autumn Rider was like stepping into a wild Jorvik where there weren’t any towns and virtually no people.
The scenery and weather and day to night cycle were great. This is a forcing mechanic to make you save the game. There were times that I literally stopped, usually in high places, to look around at the scenery, especially as the sun was going down because it was just too pretty. (Though the sun sets to the north instead of the west, the same in SSO which makes me scratch my head. Err turn that -90 degrees, would you?) Winter Riders is especially good for this because several of the races take you high into the mountains and you can see down into the Silverglade area (even if you can no longer go there) and are high enough to be able to also see Jorvik Bay in the distance.
Their water engine was beautiful in Autumn and Winter for the rivers and bays, but for some reason they didn’t use it in Spring and Summer, much to their detriment. I am still strongly against putting weather into SSO, and the Claymore Challenge is my argument as to why. The Claymore Challenge takes place in the rain, and it is so dark, you can’t really see. The weather itself was well done. The lack of illumination made the whole area a chore to do. I don’t like straining my eyes in games.
If the primary purpose of these games were to world build, then to an extent they succeeded. If the purpose of these games were to tell a story well, let’s get into that tomorrow… there is a not so great aspect of these games being relaxing.