I may have spoken in the past about how the reality of being employed as a game critic means not always reviewing things I specifically want to. While it would be nice to always get to talk about the most popular games, there are processes for these things, and as such, we end up reviewing strange offerings like My Fantastic Ranch.
By that very same token, I’ve mentioned before that part of the fun of diving into the indie scene is never fully knowing if a game will be very good, or utter garbage—as I maintain that it’s more interesting to review a good/bad game than a mediocre one. I went into My Fantastic Ranch, based on looks alone, thinking it was going to be terrible, and that I would have a fun time tearing it apart. What I got instead with My Fantastic Ranch was a surprisingly solid management sim that serves as an excellent introduction to the genre.
My Fantastic Ranch begins simply enough with a fairy named Feritella guiding the player through the game’s basic systems of starting a ranch. Like most sim games there’s no real story component to it other than making a nice ranch to impress the Kingdom, so you can make a nicer ranch. While a possible story element would have been a nice addition to My Fantastic Ranch, the lack of one doesn’t subtract from the experience either. What matters most here is the gameplay, and honestly, it’s actually pretty solid.
My Fantastic Ranch is essentially a beginner’s Cities Skylines. Players need to build and manage the various components that allow their ranch to function—Tack Sheds will increase the number of Creatures one can have, while Staff Offices will allow you to hire personnel to manage your Ranch. Players can then fill their ranches with dragons and unicorns, each of which has different elements and badges that give it different bonuses.
“What I got instead with My Fantastic Ranch was a surprisingly solid management sim that serves as an excellent introduction to the genre.”
Since the Ranch functions adjacent to the “Magic Institute,” students will come to visit and participate in different Arenas—this is how the Ranch generates income. Players must choose a staff member to manage the Arena, as well as pair students with their preference of dragon or unicorn in order to maximize profits. As well as profits, players must clear objectives to increase the Ranch’s reputation, allowing for more Arenas to be built, and more space to open up.
As the Ranch grows, players can add Dorms for students to live in and generate weekly income, as well as build a Festival Arena where the Prince and Princess will attend and give specific requirements that can greatly increase the Ranch’s reputation upon successful completion. While it’s mostly hands-off, there are a few times dragons or unicorns might “act silly” during an Arena and players will need to actively calm it down for better student satisfaction.
It’s simple and straightforward while requiring a minimal level of strategy, and it is a perfect introduction for younger players into the genre. There’s enough variety while not being overwhelming, and the way Feritella guides players through every one of the game’s mechanics before taking her hands off the wheel for players gives younger players ample understanding of the game before giving them the freedom to build their own Ranch.
Visually, the game has a minimalistic style, a chibi style that isn’t the most original but works for something of this scale. It utilizes a wide pallet of bright colours to create an environment that is fun and inviting. I was genuinely surprised that Feritella was fully voiced, and it’s genuinely well done. There isn’t a lot of music in the game, but what’s on offer is whimsical and suits the fantasy setting.
While My Fantastic Ranch doesn’t really break the mould in any real way, it acts as a solid starting point for any young gamers looking to get into the simulation genre. I think it may have worked a bit better as a mobile game, as opposed to something you’d load up on your Switch—or even your Xbox Series X—but it’s an inoffensive game that does more good than bad.