Driving into Ranch Simulator
Posted on November 6, 2023 by Aywren
Ranch Simulator is – as it says on the box – a simulation game about ranching, which includes activities such as farming, animal husbandry, building and hunting. I’ve had my eye on this game while it was in early access, and pulled the trigger this weekend since it is now released as a 1.0 version and was on sale for 50% off.
The Ranching Sim Experience
You can play both solo or multiplayer, so I convinced Syn to join me, though I wasn’t sure if this would be her thing. Ranch Simulator is somewhat a more realistic version of a Harvest Moon farming sim type game, just without the colorful NPCs to romance. The focus really is on building up the old ranch your grandfather left to you, in a completely open-world sandbox way.
After the tutorial (in which you completely demolish the old house on the ranch, which was quite the experience), you’re just left to do whatever you want. For some people, this might be intimidating. But for those who have experience with sandbox and farming sims, this may be completely fine.
Come to find out, Syn appears to enjoy it immensely, though she’s never joined in my multiplay of Stardew or anything. There’s enough of a survival game vibe (minus the need to eat/drink, sleep, or worrying about fall damage) that I think she felt right at home with how the mechanics of the game works.
You start out with very little money and only a little UTV for transportation. You take what you have and build from there, just as any farming sim gameplay loop provides.
I have to mention (since I noted the UTV), of all parts of this game that I did enjoy, the controls for driving the vehicles are just terrible. It’s not enough to keep me from playing the game, just enough for me to not look forward to driving.
I saw this pointed out in the reviews I read, and didn’t think it would be a big deal. But similar to Farm Simulator, you are using vehicles all the time to drive from your Ranch to the town locations to sell. That’s the only way you make money, so driving is not optional.
I’m hoping that since this is just a 1.0 release, vehicles will be improved in time. Though I didn’t play in early access, I know that this full release has moved the game into Unreal 5 – so improved the graphics quite a bit. I also know they want to add pets – cats and dogs – eventually, and will be discussing a future roadmap soon, based on their release blog post.
The Things I Enjoyed
Aside from the obvious – raising animals – I’m glad that this is a super forgiving game. The vehicles are hard to drive, but they don’t take damage from crashes, and neither do you. In fact, very little hurts your avatar in game, aside from major predators you run across (wolves, bears). You can die, but then your multiplayer pal just runs over and revives you (not sure what happens when it’s solo play). No penalty and nothing lost.
There’s no hunger or water needs, as I stated before. No real need to sleep, either, unlike a Stardew type game. Sleeping is just for moving night to day and saving the game.
There are a few short, very rudimentary quests in the game that help you make some cash, especially early on. I’d like to see more of these quests and would love to see the NPCs get more character to them. I don’t feel like this was a focus of development, but I do think it would improve the game. We don’t need a dating sim like Harvest Moon, but just give the NPCs a bit more character.
Raising and breeding animals works great. I know they’ve updated the animal appearance with this newest release, and I feel like they look and act pretty realistic. We’ve got a bunch of chickens multiplying on our ranch currently, which produce eggs and the occasional rooster meat.
I also want to note that multiplayer has worked flawlessly for us so far. You just generate a session code that you give to your friends, and they can join your current game. No muss, no fuss.
Horses! We haven’t gotten that far yet, but you can buy horses at an auction and train them (to sell back at a higher price? – not sure how this works yet). I know you can’t breed horses yet, but I do hope that might be a future thing given all other animals seem to be breedable.
Building is a neat system. It feels a bit like The Forest in that you place down a visual blueprint of a structure, then bring materials to it to slowly build it out. I like this as it makes for the feeling of group contribution in multiplayer.
Things to Know
Just a minor warning - the gritty part of raising animals in this game is that yes… you can kill animals for meat. Some livestock, like cows and goats, are milk producers, but pigs are 100% meat animals as they have no other produce in the game.
So, be aware that animal slaughter for food is an element in this game. However, you can play without killing animals, if this bothers you. Just raise animals for milk and eggs instead. Then you can focus on farming if that suits your gameplay better.
While meat production and cooking – for meatballs and sausages – is a moneymaker, cheese making is just as viable, I do believe. I’m looking forward to exploring the cheese making element, in fact, so maybe I’ll be focused more on milk and cheese in the future, myself.
Anyhow, yes. We’ve put almost 11 hours into Ranch Simulator, and it’s a slow burn type of game when it comes to money making. We’ve just bought our first pickup truck – having two vehicles is a good thing for two players – and we’re setting down the blueprint of our future farmhouse (this will take a while to build).
While this can be played solo, I feel like playing with friends is vastly superior. There’s so much to do that having more than one person who can focus on crops or animals or building or quests or hauling produce away to sell and buying supplies to bring home… yeah. Multiplayer is just better for how this game is structured.
Once we get some automation (there are things like sprinklers, auto-watering windmills and the like), things will be easier to handle. But for now, two pairs of hands are much better than one. And we’re having fun.