Horse Girl Games are a vastly under-appreciated genre of video game. Like cooking sims and a handful of others, Horse Games are dismissed as feminine, and therefore not ‘true’ games, and in turn therefore not worthy of any respect. Horse Tales, the latest game from Aesir Interactive, slots neatly into this category. By no technical, aesthetic, or mechanical measure was it even close to the best game at Gamescom, but it did feel like one of the most earnest, and we need more games like that.
Horse Tales is a relatively straightforward game, seeing you gather resources to build stables, crops, and other horsey things, but it’s the open world sections that have the most charm. In the demo, I spent a bit of time riding around with my horse, discovering new areas, jumping over and ducking under fences, and then taming a wild horse. In some ways, there’s not a lot of depth to Horse Tales – every mechanic is simple and without much nuance. But it’s also very authentic in its affection for horses and the ways to raise them, and that will likely see it find its audience.
It’s not going to tear up any trees, but it’s an enjoyable experience for those looking for a sweet and simple game with respect for the creatures at its centre. Horse lovers tend to be especially passionate, so I think players will look beyond the stilted graphics and restrictive mechanics in order to forge a deeper connection with the horses the game revolves around. One of the devs who walked me through the game even runs a blog on video game horses called The Mane Quest. It reminds me of the old Monster High or Barbie games – I’m not sure I could make a convincing argument that any of them are good games in the artistic sense, but they’re charming and fun, and what else do you think people are playing them for?
The respect the game has for horses comes across best when taming wild ones. I’m not sure I’d see myself doing much of the base building beyond what the game specifically demanded, but exploring the world is something I could get lost in. Far emptier than many modern open worlds, Horse Tales offers a more relaxing time of things. No need to clear 46 mission markers, just roam. When taming the horse, you must approach from the front with a sense of reverence, rather than the more combative approach from the rear that most games take. Each horse also has a personality, with strengths and weaknesses that can change as you train it. They still have names, which is strange for wild horses, but I suppose it streamlines the whole process if you’re going to be taming multiple.
Horse Tales might not be the best game overall at Gamescom, but it might be one of the best at specifically ticking the boxes of its audience. That’s the mane idea behind Horse Tales… geddit? It feels in some ways like an odd fit for Gamescom, which doesn’t cater to the more casual audience Horse Tales suits. However, when the game launches this winter, hopefully it will find its herd.
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