If there’s one thing I love on this Earth, it’s animals. More specifically, horses. They’re majestic, patient creatures that have lived alongside humans for as far back as history can tell us. But in gaming, they’re typically used solely for transportation.
Aesir Interactive offered players more through its enticing new title, Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, which explores deeper communication and relationships with horses, creating a true RPG that allows you to form the ranch of your dreams.
The problem? At least on the Nintendo Switch, Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch is a title that is a very poor port, resulting in some of the worst gameplay moments I’ve ever had on the platform. So, let’s talk about it.
Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch Biggest Takeaways
- Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch offers great, robust horse care mechanics that make working with the various horses feel worth your time.
- The game suffers from heavy optimization issues on the Nintendo Switch with frame rates dropping consistently.
- On the Nintendo Switch, Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch is an ugly, blurry mess that will leave you feeling underwhelmed.
- This is a port that needed heavy TLC and should’ve landed on the console in a better state, as it isn’t visually demanding.
- Avoid purchasing it on the Nintendo Switch if you can.
Final Score: 3/10
Starting with what I loved about Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch; the gameplay itself is actually really well-refined, and quite enjoyable. Though most mechanics are boiled down to pretty generic. You can build up the world with various materials at the press of a button, or ride your horse with a few dedicated buttons.
The horse elements themselves are where things really shine. For one, though horse riding is pretty surface-level, with some elements copied from Red Dead Redemption 2, there are horse races which were an unexpected highlight for me as they’re actually quite fun to navigate these courses.
The cherry on top of the gameplay, however, is the deep horse relationships you’ll make along the way. Each and every horse in-game has its own personality, stats, strengths, and even weakness that you’ll work through over the bond you make with that horse.
You can feed horses, groom them, pet them, walk with them, and even train them to work out their bad habits by utilizing training exercises and quest specific to that negative trait. I wasn’t expecting those mechanics to be as well-rounded as they were, and they weren’t too complex to where a child couldn’t keep up.
Where the game fumbles heavily is in its optimization. There are a lot of problems with this game on the Nintendo Switch. Specifically, there is a constant loss of frame rates, where the screen will basically freeze. This happens most often when transitioning from one location to the next or if you’re in a crowded area.
The worst aspect of that is when you situate your camera to lock on the middle of the screen, allowing you to use one thumbstick to move the camera on the x and y-axis, so you don’t need to use both thumbsticks. When utilizing this feature though, the game’s frame rate is at a constant chug.
And if you’re trying to do horse races with the screen lock on, then you’re in for a nauseating experience, as frames crawl at their absolute slowest in these instances. It makes one of the best things to do in-game something to avoid altogether because of it.
I also found many issues where my character and horse would get stuck outside of the map, which would leave me needing to restart the game again. There are also issues with jumping when riding your horse, where you have to time jumps awkwardly, otherwise, your horse will just fall into the hole you’re avoiding, or dive right into a tree trunk. It’s really clunky and odd.
I’ve got to say, I’ve played a lot of ugly Nintendo Switch ports since I’ve had the console, and this is definitely one of the worst. Though it has a sort of cell-shaded look that’s similar to Breathe of the Wild, this game is a blurry mess because of how poorly it was ported over.
Faces are so indistinguishable that you can barely make out, items in the distance blend in with their surroundings entirely, and the world lacks any sort of detail. It’s even worse when on horseback because everything is pretty muddy and blends together in a watercolor painting gone wrong.
It’s a shame though really because Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch is a pretty-looking game from what I’ve seen on other gaming platforms. This is just another example that developers need to pay more attention to the Switch ports when it comes time for release. If Nintendo can make Breathe of the Wild or even any of the recent Mario games look so amazing on this handheld, how come simple games like this flounder so badly?
Is Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch Even Worth Your Time?
If we’re strictly talking about the Nintendo Switch version of Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch, then I’d say that it is a title that you should absolutely, without a doubt, avoid at all costs. It’s buggy, the frames constantly are chugging along, and it’s actually pretty ugly.
But if we’re speaking about one of the other platforms that, I’m assuming it most likely runs better on and at least looks good visually on, then I’d say to check it out. I found the gameplay and world pretty charming. Its horse gameplay mechanics are also pretty notable, and something I’m glad that they did with care, as the final product on that front is great.
Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Be sure to check out some of our great guides as well, if you’re also playing Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch. If you’re just starting out, our guide “Where to Find the Gas Can in Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch” is extremely helpful.