Game Review – Star Stable
To suggest that the world of MMORPGs (massively multi-player online role playing games) is dominated by armed conflict and superheroes is perhaps one of the biggest understatements of the digital age, so it’s refreshing to come across a MMORPG that focuses on a more down to earth topic but still leaves plenty of room for fantasy and imagination.
Welcome to Star Stable and the magical world of horses.
Before you can start playing Star Stable, you will need to register and download the Star Stable software. This turned out to be a bit of an ordeal, as Microsoft’s DirectX software is also a requirement. All in all, registration and installation on a Windows 7 PC took around 5 minutes – quite a bit longer than most MMORPGs.
Once you hit play, you start your Star Stable adventure by creating your own character and your first horse. (Take note – boys need not apply; the main character can only be female.) When you have finished picking your eye color, hairstyle and makeup (for your character, not your horse), you are transported to Moorland Stables on the mysterious island of Jorvik, where all the Star Stable quests and adventures will take place.
Although you can play Star Stable for free, the real fun is only available to paying players or Star Riders as they are called. You can become a Star Rider for $7.49 a month. There are discounted options for 3 months and 6 months or you can become lifetime member for $69.95. Star Rider membership gets you an initial allocation of Star Coins, which can be used to buy clothes and equipment and even another horse. You also get an additional allocation of 100 Star Coins a week, or you can choose to buy more at any time.
As well as Star Coins, riders can also earn Jorvik Shillings by playing daily quests, and entering races and championships. There are also weekly events, including fashion shows, treasure hunts, and even a Friday night discos!
Despite the sometimes limited controls and simplistic graphics, Star Stable clearly provides entertaining and ever-changing gameplay for any girl who is even mildly interested in horses. It is also an immersive experience; It can take around 150 hours to work through all 17 levels and new content is added every week. Regular players tend to visit Jorvik every day to groom their horses and take part in the daily races.
The Star Stable developers claim that the game enhances problem-solving skills and allows players to develop a sense of responsibility in both caring for their horses and managing their virtual currencies. It also encourages reading and engagement with fiction. The Star Stable story is now 248,000 words long and growing.
Like most MMORPGs, Star Stable also contains a strong social element. Players are encouraged to join riding clubs, where they can plan trail rides, picnics and special parades. There are also a variety of chat options: players can chat privately with friends or they can go public and chat with all the players that are currently active. Although the chat sessions are moderated and bad words are filtered out, it’s clear from a brief review of the global chat stream that Star Stable has its inevitable share of “mean girls.” Younger players would be advised to restrict their chat sessions to friends only, although it appears there is no way for players or their parents to opt out of the global options.
Star Stable can be played on a Mac or PC (Windows XP or later) and is available at www.starstable.com.