Last year, I had the absolute pleasure of discovering The Mane Quest, a website dedicated almost entirely to horses in video games. With Elden Ring now out, and with riding featuring prominently, I wanted to check and see if they had thoughts about the game’s mount, and I have not been disappointed.
The site—run by game designer and horse lover Alice Ruppert—takes a light-hearted, if also deeply practical approach to the subject matter, and this Elden Ring review is no different. Rather than reviewing the game itself, it simply takes a look at Torrent—and some of the game’s other mounted creatures as well—and examines how “realistic” their animation and controls are.
In the case of games like Red Dead Redemption 2, their coverage obviously leans towards the truly realistic side of things, since those are actual horses we’re playing with and they can be directly compared. In Elden Ring, though, they aren’t really horses, and so the review is a little different.
Given the game’s magical foundations, most of it is just fine:
Torrent’s neck is covered in enough shaggy fur to make a Jorvik Wild jealous, his long forelock and wide set ears give him that Highland Cattle, fresh-out-of-bed look, and there are a bunch of dapples on his butt that are adorable, though sadly mostly hidden by tack and baggage.
Mane Quest’s problems eventually turn up somewhere I’d never even noticed them, but now cannot unsee: Torrent looks like a horse, but their legs bend like a goat:
Now let’s get to the bit I’m not fine with: Torrent’s joints. Our goat-horse unfortunately suffers from the two very common issues of overly bendy forelegs and completely stiff fetlocks. I feel like a broken record at this point, because I’ve pointed this out in so many games already, but a horse’s fetlock joints should lower as they bear weight. Animating an extra joint is of course extra work, but I still am continuously disappointed that even a game of the scope and resources as Elden Ring does not consider this necessary for its main character’s mount.
We can try to explain this away by pretending that Torrent is more goat than horse, or at least a mixture of the two: from looking at goat walk footage, their lower legs stay fairly straight indeed. Since Torrent’s legs look significantly more equine than uuh… caprine, I’m not really satisfied by that excuse. Especially since there are actually other non-goat horses in this game as enemy mounts and they have tend to have the same issue.
While aesthetically jarring, there is at least a point to it: goat legs might look weird, but they work.
…playing the game for longer has made me realize that the choice is at least partially understandable from a gameplay perspective – in a game like Elden Ring, where precision and timing is crucial against every foe, your mount’s movement being uneven might be enough to stop you from using it during combat.
Meaning: I get why smooth movement was prioritized over equine realism.
I would also like to imagine that at some point in Elden Ring’s design process somebody said “maybe the player needs a horse”, and somebody else said “not fucked up enough, it needs to be a horse with goat legs” and everybody nodded.
You can and should read Mane Quest’s full Torrent review here.