Well, Ginny did hers, I figured I would add my perspective. (Especially since, despite shared-brain status, we have different ways of thinking, and my target demo for my writing is closer to the game’s demo…) Hopefully, mine is going to stay in two parts: what I like, what I don’t like….hopefully. I’m not planning on going nearly as in depth, so if you really want the nitty gritty, I suggest running over to her blog and browsing.
For my new readers who don’t know what the hooey I’m talking about, Star Stables Online (SSO) is a horse MMORPG created by a Swedish company that is pretty focused on this world, having built several other games that are canon for SSO and share the Star Stable tag. The game is set on the island of Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik, btw), and follows a female player character around on her adventures as she tries to save the environment of the island before companies like G.E.D. and Dark Core ruin it…and the other, secret agenda of the latter that could threaten the safety of the whole world.
Despite the seriousness of that summary, a lot of the game is goofy silly fun times, which is part of why I play it. It’s running around on horseback, helping find lost items, reconciling feuding relatives or friends, and exploring parts of Jorvik. The plot is usually nice and fluffy. What seriousness there is doesn’t detract from the game, just gives the player some stakes in what is going on. It’s a relief from most books, TV shows, and films which insist on either being stupid in the name of drama or stupid in the name of comedy, constantly. Yes, some of the quests are silly as heck (there’s a reason for all the chipmunk antics, for example, that is completely ridiculous), but in ways that make me laugh rather than cringe…most of the time. See part 2 for the bad side.
I know there is a lot of fussing about the fact the main character and thus the player character can only be played as a girl. But speaking as someone who had to wait ages for there to be a female option in Pokemon? I’m completely unsympathetic. And let’s not get into how most female characters are depicted in other games, where it makes me uncomfortable, and I’m an adult. The biggest thing that has to be remembered is the target demo for this game, which is girls, 12+. Admittedly, the audience has gone weird (like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, weird, at least in the U.S.), but considering that most of the players are early teens if not tweens and female, I say let the avatar stay how it is. There are plenty of games where boys get to run around and fight monsters, let girls having horseback-riding fun times in peace, and if they want to play, well, the boys can suck it up like I did and play as a girl. (There’s also story reasons for this, double reason to suck it up.)
Graphics wise, the game is very pretty to look at. Recently, they’ve been doing an art up-grade, so now Moorland and Fort Pinta, two of the starter areas, are exceptionally pretty to look at, and much better organized than they once were. At this point, I don’t know how much more art upgrading they intend to do. I’d like to think they are going to continue doing this wide sweep so it would be one uniform look, but even if they don’t, I think the new areas still work with the older ones at this point. Older horses are all on the same model as the starter, which is referred to as a Jorvik Warmblood, but they start getting far better and the American Paint at least got a re-release of new colors that made it match the American Quarter Horses better, since the two breeds are so similar.
Thanks to another recent upgrade and the last summer of updates, there is also a huge variety in appearances for characters in terms of appearance, styling, and gear. Now, I am not as fashion-minded as Ginny, and I have a few issues with the clothes and gear, plus a major pet peeve (my hair is too popular, it drives me NUTS), but it is an amazing collection. And each time new items come out, you can tell that they are trying to experiment with what they are doing without losing what so many people like about them. Namely, the modesty level for the characters. I know this is weird to harp on, and Ginny did this in her review too, but it’s nice to be able to play with not only my own character properly covered, but those around me. The game makes it where you have to do so, and that’s a huge bonus in my opinion.
I think the reason why I love this game so much is it isn’t dependent on me being social or in combat. Let’s establish something: I’m not social. I mean, I will be friendly if I’m out among people and I’m perfectly fine at work. But when I get home, I don’t want to deal with people. I have Ginny and occasional phone calls from Mom, and that’s more than enough. Especially in games, where I don’t know you from Adam and Eve. This is why I stopped playing Farmville 2. I couldn’t get around needing at least six or seven friends who played without spending a ridiculous amount of money every month. And as for combat… I do fine in PvE games, meaning there is a set enemy I am supposed to go after, generated by the computer. But PvP, which is players against other players, irk the bejebus out of me.
But Star Stable makes it easy enough to avoid the flood of invites for friends, clubs, and groups, so I can just talk to Ginny or ride around if she isn’t on. The plot doesn’t require friends at all. In fact, you can run around completely solo (as I did the first time I played like three years ago), if that’s your drethers. And then when you do feel social, there is almost always some sort of role going around on. Now, I haven’t participated in any of these roles, so don’t ask my opinion of them, but they are there! And there is literally no combat to be had. There are races and sneaking around, but that’s about as anxiety filled as you get. I mean, the worst I’ve had to deal with is someone complaining in the chat where I can see it when I beat their super-fast breed of horse that is lower level and in bad gear, compared to my slower but max level horse in at least decent gear. (I don’t pay attention to stats like Ginny does, I don’t care. There’s a funny story about that involving my pony…)
Overall, I love this game. I feel like it’s a great investment, for anyone who is not afraid of indulging in their silly, fluffy girly side without feeling like they are completely checking their brain or dignity at the door. And for someone who lives hours away from her horse and does not have the money for lessons on a borrowed horse either, well, it’s a great alternative. But there are some problems… Check in next week!