Steam Casual: Rival Stars Horse Racing

Lately, I’ve been on a kick for playing casual games from my Steam library – and I’m less worried about clearing my backlog. I realized a number of these games I haven’t written about, or have only talked about passingly, despite putting a good chunk of time into them. So I want to get some writing done while they’re still fresh in my mind!

Back in February, I was in search of a horse breeding/training game for the PC (non-browser) when I stumbled upon Rival Stars Horse Racing: Desktop Edition. It’s important to note the “Desktop Edition” bit for this title as it was originally developed for mobile gaming.

Mobile vs. Desktop

While it’s true that it has roots in a mobile game it doesn’t look and (mostly) feel like one. The mobile version is free to play with in-app purchases while the desktop version does not have in-app purchases. But there are a few things about the desktop version that feel like hold-overs from a mobile game – such as simplistic controls, very simple “training,” and encouragement to log in from time to time to receive a payout.

The desktop version is also behind the mobile app in terms of features. However, those features are planned on a development roadmap and are slowly being added to the desktop version. Overall, I am content with what I see happening with the desktop version.

Game Features

All of that aside, I feel that Rival Stars is probably one of the better racing/breeding horse games I’ve played. It does lack the concept of having different horse breeds – you breed your basic “Race Horse” – but breeding for coat color and racing traits are fun to mess with. Apparently black horses are harder to come by.

There’s even a creative mode where you can design your own horses and put them up for the community to download and breed. This is very cool!

There are many different modes to play, though I mostly play the Story mode – think of this as career mode where you’re building up your stables and working to breed better horses and enter more prestigious races.

The one thing that sometimes bugs me about Story mode is that they cap you on things like upgrades to training and foal stalls. So it’s very much on-rails what you are allowed to do at your current point in the story and at your stable’s level. The only way to level your stables is to complete all the tasks assigned to you for that level – sometimes new tasks pop up as you go along, too.

I’ve run across a few instances where I’ve trained up my best horse to the highest skill level – in this case it’s 21 – and then a quest comes along after that which requires me to train a horse to skill level 21. The fact that I already have a horse at skill level 21 doesn’t count – I must instead race/train another horse all the way up (which is frustrating and expensive).

I needed my best horse to be skill level 21 in order to complete a previous task, which was to race my rival. Yes, there is actually a rival in the story mode of Rival Stars. And he’s a mouthy jerk who is often tough to beat.

I was pleased with the last race where I not only came in first place, but he didn’t even place in the top three! Booyah!

The racing does have very simple controls due to the mobile influence, but this isn’t a bad thing. You’ll be doing a LOT of racing, and for the most part, it’s a satisfying experience with the announcer droning on about what horse is in what place. Once you train up a horse that can just smoke the the field, you really don’t have a lot to worry about in the lower level races – I’ve heard the challenge does turn up at a later levels, though.

There’s also multiplayer online racing, which I have not tried since I’m not the competitive sort. But if you enjoy that kind of thing, it’s included!

So do I recommend this game to horse lovers out there – yes and maybe. The desktop version is a bit pricey (I got it on sale), and it really depends on how into it you get with whether or not it might come to feel repetitive eventually. I almost suggest trying out the free to play mobile version first – it seems quite popular – then if you find you like it, and you rather play on PC, pony up for the desktop version.

Overall, I’ve got a little over 19 hours into this game (which is good by my normal standards) and I still feel like I have plenty to do going forward.