Finally, a game that focuses on healthy eating as you take control of a salad bar in Ranch Simulator Early Access. If only that were true. Said title is indeed a simulator, but you’re tasked with doing up a ranch and finding a new vocation ‘living the life’.
The story, which can be described in a sentence or two, revolves around your character inheriting their grandfather’s ranch. A grandfather with no name, as he leaves you a note, signed off like that.
And that’s it. After an initial tutorial that is quite fun, you’re free to do as you please, within reason. This entails doing up the ranch, constructing new buildings and acquiring some cute lil’ farm animals.
Ranch Simulator Early Access Review
Before you can build your empire, you must create a character. Time and time again, I’ve drooled at these customisation options and almost always come out with a vanilla character that either looks like me, or not far off the default.
That doesn’t stop me from spending a good half hour of experimentation. Choose from a male or female, but you can refer to them as whatever you like, and then adjust the features such as their facial features, muscular tone, and what they wear. If choosing a female character, you can naturally adjust their bust and have them in underwear. It’s your choice.
After the token 20-30 minutes creating a rather dull character – that’s on me; you’re transported to the derelict ranch. Emphasis must be placed on the nature of fetch quests and backtracking. If that bores or irritates you, stay clear of Ranch Simulator Early Access.
First of all, you have to locate a few items and rebuild the Jeep-like vehicle left to rot in the garage. Grabbing a Jerry can, you head on up to the local gas station and fill her up. There’s a clear indication of your objective, but I ignored them, causing me a few delays.
Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chicken
The gas, or petrol station, is an indicator of what’s to come: Ranch Simulator Early Access is pretty barren. The shop part is permanently closed, and there’s nobody about. You still have to pay for your fuel though.
From here, you’re told to head to the local dealership to get a radio installed. As mentioned, I ignored the instructions and ended up buying an ATV like a chump. Eventually, I was back on track, securing a couple of chickens, then back to the ranch once more.
Once you have your chooks sorted, it’s time to tear down the existing home to build a new one. This plays out like House Flipper as you start from the attic and knock seven bells out of the wooden structure, working your way down to the ground floor, and a lot of fun.
After cleaning up a bit, you then need to build your new home. Pressing tab brings up your demolition options plus the building skills, and you can scroll through the available designs. Once a structure is good to go, you then need to locate the materials.
Heading on over to the trees, you knock one down, chop it up, then it’s over to Jerry the can for some much-needed fuel into the bandsaw. Here you cut the logs down, then head back to your home to place them.
It’s not massively detailed as all you need to do is carry three planks at a time, aim the cursor and press E to place a section automatically. I didn’t mind so much going back and forth but devised a method to speed things up.
I went to get my Jeep, but despite being bigger than my ATV/Quad, it was impossible to place the wood on it. In short, I had to get said ATV to speed up the process. By the time you place all the planks, the house materialises into something liveable – no need for decorating; it’s good to go.
However, this carrying of materials is a bit of an issue as you’re limited to what you can carry. Obviously, you’re not going to take a pig all the way home or to the market, but going back and forth to pick up one item at a time is a ballache.
To survive in Ranch Simulator Early Access, from Toxic Dog and Excalibur Publishing, you need money. Money comes from selling your wares, i.e. eggs and milk. The best way to earn money is hunting deer and selling the meat to the local store.
With the same option via the tab button, you switch to a revolver and shoot the local wildlife. As you approach it to get the ‘skin’ option, the animal morphs into a tidy little animation of meat. As unhygienic as it is, you throw this on the back of your wheels, one bit at a time.
Another element that is quite frustrating, which could do with developing for the future, would be having a tracker of sorts to show where items are on your map. I did try using a manual waypoint, but it disappears when you get close.
On that note, the play area is reasonable in size, but you only have a car dealership, gas station and local shop. And forget about mingling with the locals – they’re as ignorant as pig shit. If you attempt to talk to them, they’ll send you to the computer terminal to purchase/sell goods.
Despite the lack of things to do at the moment, I spent a good amount of time playing Ranch Simulator Early Access. Just like the real thing, it’s quite calming and therapeutic to experience the game, even if not much happens.
The game’s future looks really promising, and I look forward to unlocking more animals, structures, and perhaps people to interact with. The radio stations in the game aren’t precisely GTA, but they’re serviceable. I switched them off, basking in the sounds of nature.
Visually it’s quite the treat too. The character customisation is very nice, and there are multiple options to tweak include depth of field type settings and more. I dropped down to 1920×1080 as I was capturing some footage, and it still looked great.
However, my biggest criticism is not the lack of things to do or the yokels, but the driving sections. You need to rely on the cars quite a bit, and they handle like a fridge on an ice rink. The slightest movement sends them all over the place, but at least there’s no damage taken in crashes. If all else fails, you can sprint everywhere as there are no stamina gauges.
Overall, I’ve very much enjoyed playing Ranch Simulator Early Access. In its current state, I still managed to clock in the hours and forget myself, which, from my perspective, is an excellent reaction to a game where you inherit a ranch. I’ve said where I’d like to see improvements, but if it released as is, naturally with a few more features, I’d still be happily loitering about the ranch.