Since my review of Star Stable Online, I’ve had a chance to purchase and play the single player Star Stable Rider series of games. In my previous portions of this review I discussed the origins of the game and some of the good and bad parts about them, mainly that they are good on world building and not so good on having actual story due to one of the writers leaving the team.
Overall, to me, these rider games seem better researched. Part of this is the horse descriptions given in the game and the other part of it is how the game actually works.
Unlike in SSO, there is actually more attention paid to the horse in the game’s mechanics. The horse’s endurance, dirtiness, hunger and thirst along with a general health all had their own bars. If the horse was exhausted or too unhealthy they wouldn’t perform at peak efficiency. The horse shoe around the map also had a heart meter that indicated how much your horse liked you and that depended on how well you took care of it. This actually made races and general running around more challenging. You can’t just run all out all over the place like in SSO. The horse will eventually refuse to do more than a gallop until you brush, feed and water it.
There were also a lot less stats on the gear and the horses. So, these stats mattered a lot more. If you wanted a horse that could jump the best, you had to have as many strength items as possible. Or if you wanted a horse that could run far without tiring, endurance. What was majorly important in the Spring and Summer games with dressage and reining, was to have horses with high discipline so they’d stay in the gait you told them to do! The horses could also swim! Talk about a major relief. In Autumn and in Spring riders, there were quests built around swimming.
There were a huge amount of events. Huge. I really liked the Endurance races. They were tense without making me jump every thirty seconds and possible because of the way the horses were set up. Though there were plenty of cross country events too. Dressage and reining were sufficiently difficult but not so much they weren’t enjoyable. There were even different types of show jumping events and some I’d never heard of, so it was educational for me. (My least favorite events in SSO are the show jumping. Though Mr. Anderson’s Steeplechase in Autumn Rider’s is taking a close second.)
My favorite game mechanic was in Autumn rider. In Autumn Rider, the vet has a series of quests that teaches you about different type of grass and feed that your horse can eat. Then, as you ride about in Autumn Rider, you can gather these grasses and things such as carrots, turnips and apples to feed your horse instead of giving them hay. Not only is this actually better food for the horse, it allowed you to save stable points, the game’s currency and reserve them for better gear and better horses.
Another great mechanic was the ability to control your own stats. As you leveled up in the game, you were granted experience points that you were then allowed to allocate to your choice of ride, command, jump or care. This meant that you had more choices on if you were going to be a better jumper (important in Winter) or if you wanted your horse to respond faster (important in spring and summer) or if you wanted to be able to ride really well (most important in autumn.) It gave you just that much more control, and I wish it would appear in SSO.
Oh yes, before I forget, another entertaining thing about the seasonal rider games. There are a lot of horses! Each horse is a different level and different color. You can’t control their stats but only train them to the maximum their stats allow. There are two models of horse. A thinner model with a pointy chin (think the Jorvik Warmblood starters in SSO) and a wider model with a rounder head. If you pay attention, you will see horses in the seasonal games that are basically non player horses in SSO. They are trotting about the world, you just can’t buy them. For instance, the standard bay stable horse is the Hungarian Furioso breed. The bay appaloosa style with a white blanket is a Colorado Ranger horse. And the funny tan pattern among the starter Jorvik Warmbloods was actually the coat for the Choctaw. (The more you know.) There are at least 15 horses in each game, and only the Morgan was repeated twice.
Each game gets progressively shorter, the areas smaller, while the stable points become harder to come by and the horses become more expensive. By Summer Rider, I refused to buy a new horse until I could afford a level 11 horse. (There should be 2 level 10 or level 11 horses in each game.) In Autumn and Winter Riders, it is almost imperative to buy a mid-level horse. You can’t progress past certain competitions without them. By Spring and Summer, it is just a waste of stable points. You earn stable points by cleaning stables. Each stable you get to in the game will give you more and more stable points. (I say they are more free form, but if you go where they send you to go between each trainer, you will open the stables in a progressive way.) For instance, the first stable will give you around 180 and the last stable will give you between 600 to 800 stable points depending on game and how many stables there are.
So, in Autumn Riders, this isn’t much of a problem to earn stable points. Not only are the horses much cheaper in Autumn Riders, a level 10 horse being 2000 to 2500 stable points compared to Summer Riders, a level 11 horse is 6000 stable points, Autumn Rider’s quests sends you back and forth across the map constantly. So, by the time you reach the next stable, it just makes sense to do the chores and take care of your own horse at the same time. By Summer Riders, not only are they not sending you all over the map or back and forth constantly, the stables are fairly close together so it doesn’t always seem to make sense to do chores. Even though you need to in order to gain at least 8000 points to get the gear and the highest level horse you’ll need for the final competition.
Doing chores is also a pain since there is a much narrower field for the horse to acknowledge you are trying to feed, water and groom them. Half the time I was putting the feed or the water bucket icon up next to the horse’s eyes before the game would recognize that I was trying to take care of the horse. That, and you had to get the chores by the notice board, go into the stable for the bucket, brush, shovel and hay, come back out of the stable to fill the bucket and go back in to water the horses. I eventually came up with a rotation where the horses got fed, groomed and mucked twice before they were watered once it was that annoying.
Autumn Riders took me a good twelve hours to do. Granted, I bought two horses and it takes at least an hour to train each. So, there was ten hours of story. In contrast, Summer Riders took me four hours on story and maybe another one or two in order to get enough money buy the level 11 horse I wanted, train said horse, win all the medals and do the Rodeo. Spring had 6 hours of story and Winter, I want to say 8. And these games are supposed to be going for the same price.
And if you thought the map in SSO was bad, the maps in the Riders game is ten times worse. Roads are not marked, nor are towns. I spent an hour or so in Autumn trying to use the roads before I went “uh huh, no,” and started using the compass instead. In Autumn, I relied heavily on my knowledge of where things were in SSO in order to know where I was at that moment. I couldn’t do that in Winter, Spring and Summer.
A word of warning about Spring Riders. Spring Riders has heavy glitches in several events. Linda’s dressage event in Beauvista past the bronze medal is not able to be completed even if you do Alex first. You can get all the medals for Sabine’s race behind Beauvista Stable’s but you won’t be able to train with her past one time, as she gives you the gold medal twice and remains grey on the training. The final competition of the Rondilla Riding School says it has ten figures, there are eight, so if you screw up on the figures that you need to gallop on, you’re screwed. I was afraid Summer Riders was going to be the same, however, some events are just mislabeled and I was able to get all ribbons and buckles. If you like collecting everything there is to be collected, this is just frustrating.
Overall, if you are looking for a good single player horse riding experience that is similar to SSO, then these games might be for you. Personally, I found them to be too expensive for what they are. Some of the problems of these games are just written larger in SSO and are probably due to the same reasons. They felt like an experiment of how to work out the game mechanics for SSO, as each game had less and less time and care put into it even as the game mechanics such as the camera improved. They would be much better if they were redone up to SSO’s standards and given actual conflict and plot as a bridge between what happened between Star Shine Legacy and what is happening in SSO. As there is an interest in single player games in the Star Stable setting. (Of course, it is easy to say this, but not so easy to do this. Such is life.) I also wish they’d release Star Shine Legacy and Star Academy for download, but… that is wishful thinking. As I’m not about to put the same amount of money into them, as I did into getting these. No. Once was enough, thank you.
(I should probably now review some other games. Eep.)