For fans of the Horse Isle series of online games, building ranches is a lot of fun and can be quite profitable as well. In Horse Isle 1, you could get a small plot and put building icons on it in a predetermined pattern. In Horse Isle 2, you could get your own island and set up buildings in specific slots, but had more control over their placement and a lot more variety to choose from. In Horse Isle 3, you can buy land a hectare at a time and build pretty much anywhere the land is flat and stable. In another important development, you no longer have to be a subscriber to have a ranch.
Since this game is still in Beta testing (open Beta, thankfully) there are a lot of features that have yet to be released. However, it’s pretty awesome right now! Here are some of the highlights of Horse Isle 3 Ranches.
You can pick any biome to build in.
If you wanted to have a ranch on an ice sheet, you could do that. It might be a pain doing everything but you could. If you want one in a beautiful forest, that’s fine too. Same for plains, badlands, Mesa country, volcanic terrain, bamboo forests, creepy woods, mushroom-filled Wonderland, beaches, savannah, giant redwood forests, and more. Once you buy your hectare it’s yours to do with as you will. Of course, it’s probably a good idea to pick a place with grass so you can have hay fields and free grazing, and a place with water is also nice, but again you don’t have to. I love that flexibility.
There is a buffer zone around each ranch.
Around each ranch plot, there is a buffer zone so nobody can move in right next to you and be an annoying neighbor. There is an exception for people on your buddy list, so if you wanted to recreate suburbia you could do that. You can also do things like bridge rivers if they run across your land.
The first plot is affordable.
It’s nice that you don’t have to work too hard to get your first plot of land, that makes having a home attainable for almost everyone. Also, the first and simplest ranch house is pretty easy to build, not taking that much wood and stone. Prices tend to increase the more luxurious the items are. Manufacturing sheds cost more than a ranch house for example, but hay fields to feed your horses are cheap. Planters to plant exotic trees, though, are more expensive. As in the real world, greater luxury equals greater cost.
Things you can do at your ranch:
If you build a house, you can use it to craft horse treats and do a few other things. In the future there are plans to develop home interiors but for right now it’s just a building you can see on the outside. More styles of house are planned for the future as well. These could become really cool, as Horse Isle 2 has everything from castles to huts. The dev team is small but inspired.
Currently it’s possible to also build a shed for making textiles, one for crafting, and a furnace
for smelting. You use the furnace to make iron out of ore, or potash out of kelp. For example, if you wanted to oil for your oil lamp, you have a
couple of options. You could go and dig some tar out of a tar pit and then heat it in your furnace to make lamp oil, or you could gather olives or avocados and make cooking oil from them then convert that to lamp oil. I love the thought that goes into this! Try making bottles sometime. It involves burning kelp for potash, burning seashells for calcium carbonate, and melting sand for silica. Very cool.
You can build a breeding barn and also housing barns for space to have more
horses. If you like you can also fence your land and even put a gate on it that can be locked! Breeding happens instantly but it takes time for the foal to grow, of course. Once born, foals grow normally and the creators even remembered that it can take an extra year or two for really tall horses to fully mature.
If you build a hay shed, you can store bales in it, and feed all your horses at once by using a bale. You can either buy bales from other players or grow them yourself. A hay field produces a bale in about four days real time, and looks like a pitchfork sticking into the ground. If you build a well, you can fill your buckets. Buckets are used for watering horses and gardens. A water tower allows you to water all your horses at once.
Garden plots allow you to grow various crops, but one of the things I really like about them is that if you allow the crop to wither in the field, you can then gather more seeds for future planting. You usually get more seeds than you planted so it generally is profitable. It also is a nice nod to heirloom crops and seed-savers.
Since no one else can gather anything in your land, you could use a ranch or ranch plot to secure a supply of something. Your plots don’t have to be connected either, so you could have one as a “tree farm” or maybe a place to collect fruit or maple sap. As I write this, I have two plots of land, with a ranch house, at a picturesque place near a desert oasis, and two other plots up in a high valley atop a mesa. I do all my gardening and such at my ranch house, but go up to the valley when I need hay or alfalfa plants.
There are many ways to decorate and customize your ranch and they are coming out with more options all the time. You can have planters with bushes, flowers, or trees in them, you can build fences of various types, you can also have docks or bridges if there is water on your property. There is also an option for a show pen where you can put a favorite horse so they can be seen for others. Also, every building can be customized as far as main color of paint and trim, and the same with fences.
The creators of the Horse Isle series have really put a lot of effort into creating deep, entertaining and thoughtful games that give you a range of options for fun. I like that they aren’t a huge development company and I’m going to support Horse Isle 3 for the long term.