Anime Dating Sim Review Simulation

Rune Factory 5 – Review | Tilling the Fields

You’re never in short supply when it comes to farming games, there’s usually always a new one just around the corner. This is especially true of publisher Marvelous, who have put out many over the past half-decade via their Story of Seasons series. However, one spin-off series called Rune Factory fell into dormancy—that is, until today. With that being said, what does Rune Factory 5 do to prove that the series still delivers on all fronts after almost a whole decade?

Yer an Earthmate, Player

Like almost every other game in the series, Rune Factory 5 begins with you, the player character, having somehow wound up in a mysterious land with no memories of who you are or how you got there. The only things that you know are your name, birth date, and how to fight with a sword. After a brief battle with some monsters harassing a little girl, you’re soon whisked away to Rigbarth, a humble town nestled in the countryside. 

Once you become accustomed to your new surroundings, you’re admitted to SEED, an organization of rangers tasked with maintaining peace. You also find out that you’re something called an Earthmate, someone who has a deep connection to the earth and is naturally good at tending to farmland. It’s your job to hunt monsters, help the residents of Rigbarth out with problems, and solve mysteries. Along the way, more questions begin to unravel as things aren’t exactly what they seem to be. It isn’t long after you’ve settled into your job as a SEED ranger that things begin to take a surprisingly cynical turn. The earth is dying, and what’s causing that uproots your actions and had me wondering how much good I was really getting done. 

Despite the story being somewhat more cynical than normal, it’s still a Rune Factory game, so it’s still ultimately very uplifting and easygoing. Things will work out so long as you believe in yourself and give things your best effort—that’s more or less the motto of the series, and Rune Factory 5 is no different. 

Rune Factory 5 - Runes and Dragons

One thing that took me by surprise when comparing this to previous games are the residents and their involvement in the story. In past games, how integral a resident was to the overall story was mostly dependent on how frequently you partied up with them or whether you married them. Usually, the most important characters in a Rune Factory story were the player character and a set of characters you most likely wouldn’t even be able to romance or talk to very often. In Rune Factory 5, it felt as if residents were regularly involved with the narrative’s happenings, big or small. That said, I think the narrative falls just short of its predecessor, Rune Factory 4. This was primarily due to the main story being shorter overall, as well as having a far less interesting set of villains. The driving force of the story really does come down to the enjoyment you’ll derive from the protagonist and Rigbarth’s residents.

Rune Factory 5 - Field

Green Thumb

One of the many jobs you’ll have as a SEED ranger is tending to the farm to raise livestock, grow food, and garden flowers. As is the case in real life, it’s a time-consuming, arduous, yet deeply rewarding affair. Most of my in-game mornings were spent tilling and watering the fields, putting down seeds, and collecting fully grown plants to be shipped off for profit. They’re the sorts of mundane tasks that you do regularly that somehow never become any less rewarding to do. Not only is farming on its own very meditative and relaxing, but having new crops to look forward to that I can sell, use for cooking, or give out as gifts means that a new in-game day always brings new opportunities as well. 

The key to farming good produce efficiently comes down to paying attention to all the small details that the game provides for you. Things like what crops are in seasons, how many days they take to grow, how healthy your soil is, and how frequently you water your fields all play major roles in making quality crops. It doesn’t just stop there, though. Each crop has a level attached to it determined by the quality of seeds produced, and those levels can be raised further by growing a crop and cutting out the seeds with a sickle. By raising the level of crops, you can gain access to brand new seeds to grow, which can be used to make different items and to raise profits. It’s a gratifying process and could make up the bulk of your playtime by itself if farming is what you most care about. This wouldn’t even be giving the whole picture, though.

New to Rune Factory 5 is the introduction of Farm Dragons, massive dragons whom you’ll meet and befriend over the course of the main story. Once you’ve befriended them, you’ll gain access to the farms on their backs. Not only do they house far larger farms than the one you start with, but by feeding them various crystals, you can change the properties of your farm to further benefit them. Make it rain for a while so you don’t have to do watering, speed up how quickly crops will grow, increase yield sizes, and more. The benefits a farm dragon provides are balanced nicely so that you have a degree of flexibility in farming without making the process feel boring and effortless. The crystals you need to activate these effects are also rather uncommon, so it’s important to think carefully about when you want to use them. 

Rune Factory 5 - Fishing with Lucy

Country Living

When you’re not out exploring or tending to your farm, you’ll more than likely be spending a lot of your time getting to know Rigbarth’s many colorful residents. True to the usual mold of Rune Factory, everybody tends to their lives and schedules that exist outside of the player’s view. There are pre-established working relationships between the townsfolk, and everyone has an opinion on everything. It’s worth falling into the comfortable habit of making rounds and talking with everyone each day. Everyone’s always got something new to say, sometimes multiple things in a single day. It gives the whole town a nice sense of motion and liveliness, despite being so humble and small. Thanks to the game’s pin-sharp writing and localization quality, dialogue is always a treat to read.

Helping this further are Romance Stories, which supplant the Town Events from the previous game. In Romance Stories, you’ll briefly become involved in short stories starring one of the eligible bachelors or bachelorettes. While they do star them, many other characters will become involved in these plots, and the tone of each story can vary quite wildly. Some stories are absolute gutbusters, some are heartwarming, and some can be poignant. Peeling back the layers of each of the characters doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s exactly that which makes getting to know them feel so worthwhile. 

As mentioned earlier, different characters will constantly appear throughout Romance Stories. It never feels as if it’s only the protagonist solving the town’s problems. Though they are important in shining a light on the townsfolk, everything still feels like a community effort. There’s a sense of intersectionality that helps to further sell the idea that Rigbarth is one big family, and that the player is simply one part of it. No one’s a stranger here.

If you so wish, you can play favorites on who’s Romance Stories you choose to get involved in. Unlike the Town Events in Rune Factory 4, Romance Stories can be picked by the player’s discretion and do not begin at random. If there’s a specific character you wish to learn more about and interact with more, you are entirely free to pursue them.

Love in the Air

It’s not a Rune Factory game without an assortment of guys and gals to date and eventually marry. From were-animals to half-elves to princesses and their knights, you’ll not be in short supply of fantastical people to court. The bachelors and bachelorettes in this game might just be the most consistent set the series has seen yet; it feels like there’s a type for everyone to enjoy. The game also doesn’t try too hard to veer you in one direction or another. Nobody ever feels like the one that the developers wanted you to date, an issue that’s positively plagued many past Rune Factory games. Characters are treated equally, though some players may make their decisions on who to date before others, as some characters will be locked behind story progression. I personally went with Beatrice, the easygoing princess.

Dating mechanics are largely untouched from Rune Factory 4. When you start the game, you’ll bumble your way through conversations in your attempts to get to know the characters you wish to romance. Through the passing days, you’ll slowly learn more about each other as they open up to you and new dialogue becomes available hinting at their hobbies and what sorts of gifts they like. From there, you can give them gifts daily to woo them and invite them to join your party—in enough time, they might even be the ones to ask you to join them. Once you’ve raised your friendship to a high enough level, you can ask them to become your lover. Though again, just like Rune Factory 4, whether they’ll take your advances seriously or not is up to some degree of chance. Much like the rest of the game’s mechanics, Rune Factory 5’s romance will put out what you’re willing to put into it.

Once you do get hitched, you’re locked into that character being your romantic partner for that save file. The game will let you fully explore the stories of these characters once before you need to make a choice on who to marry, though. 

For the first time in the series, Rune Factory 5 also features same-sex dating and marriage. Newcomers need not worry about any restrictions on who they wish to date this time around.

Rune Factory 5 - Under the Moon

Performance and Graphics Woes

Something you’ll notice quickly when playing Rune Factory 5 is that the game does not feel quite right. From the terribly inconsistent framerate to the baffling amounts of pop-in, the technical side of Rune Factory 5 regularly harms immersion. Entering and exiting buildings will usually result in nasty framerate hitches that will usually clear up after a few seconds. Traveling the open fields, especially with multiple party members, will cause the smoothness to fluctuate like crazy. The only times you’ll see moderately good performance from this game is when indoors or traversing through dungeons. 

There’s also some noticeable input delay that adds an ugly layer of sluggishness to the entire experience. While most of the previous games were snappy and quick, Rune Factory 5 had me struggling to come to grips with the handling. From combat, to picking up vegetables from my farm, or wrangling up animal produce, it feels slow. It wasn’t something I couldn’t get used to with enough time, but it’s far from ideal.

Exacerbating the problem is that the game is just kind of drab-looking. Rune Factory never pushed anything more than simple visuals, but Rune Factory 5 tried to be more ambitious. The keyword here is ‘tried’, it’s just very dated-looking. From mountains and roads looking like they’re covered in low res moss to simplistic snowscapes that feel like cheap cardboard cutouts, it never impresses. To give credit where it’s due, though, the character models look very nice. They’re expressive, colorful, and a great representation of the art by Minako Iwasaki. 

Rune Factory 5 - Running through snow

Going Adventuring

A major potential portion of your playtime will consist of going out into the world and gathering, while also fighting off enemies you encounter along the way. Taking a page from Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, the areas in this game are all enormous in scope and fully interconnected. From the word go, you can explore many parts of the overworld and go wherever you desire. The game recommends that you stay on safer paths early on, lest you be swiftly beaten by enemies that are much stronger than you. For those brave enough to forgo this recommendation, you’ll be rewarded with rarer drops and more plentiful items like ore and grasses. It’s not a particularly exceptional use of open world, but it works and is a nice change of pace from the more linear level design of past numbered games.

It’s a big world though, and the game heavily encourages you not to explore it alone. Tame monsters and make them your pets to bring with you or bring along your favorite characters from Rigbarth. There’s no wrong way to go about it, and it feels like there’s an endless number of strategies you can try out with who you bring along. 

As you progress through the story, dungeons you’ll find out in the world will also open up to you. While dungeons are a Rune Factory mainstay, I was quite pleased to see how much they had evolved in this game. They’re filled with many dynamic traps and setpieces to keep things interesting, with interesting theming to boot. While it starts off with your standard jungle, ice, and volcano caverns, things get weirder and weirder before long. Dungeons are also longer on average compared to past entries, as they usually took me a few in-game days to beat as opposed to the single afternoons they took before. While long dungeons existed in the older games, they were often the exception and not the rule. In Rune Factory 5, it’s the opposite.

Hacking and Slashing

Dungeons are naturally also where the bulk of the game’s combat will take place. Despite the shift to 3D, Rune Factory 5’s combat bears the most resemblance to its direct predecessor. You’ll have many options to choose from in how you’ll want to approach combat, including 6 different weapon types. From the conventional Sword & Shield, to Dual Swords, to hand-to-hand combat, there ought to be a style that works best for you. While the move list with each weapon will start small, you’ll slowly gain access to more skills to put at your disposal as you put these weapons to work.

You also now have a conventional dodge mechanic seen in many modern action games, wherein you’ll be given a brief window to strike when you dodge at the right moment. I tended to avoid using it outside of boss fights and dungeons, since the inconsistent framerate made it harder to pull off. 

Rune Factory 5 is a fairly easy game even on Hard Mode, especially when compared to how difficult its predecessor could get. It’s difficult to gauge how easy a time the game will be for everyone since everyone will play the game differently. If you prefer doing many side quests as I did, the game will be a breeze. That said, building up your character’s stats and making the perfect gear is gratifying in itself, so it’s never boring in spite of its easiness.

Rune Factory 5 - Protagonist

Crafting and Learning

Nearly every single action you can take in Rune Factory 5 is tied to a different stat. This includes things as seemingly mundane as walking and eating food, they’ll double back and contribute to some kind of tangible stat growth. It’s a nice feedback loop that encourages you to regularly engage with everything the game has on offer, no matter how insignificant they might seem. This is best shown in the game’s Crafting system. 

With crafting, you can cook, create weapons, accessories, potions, and more with a combination of materials that you either create or find while exploring. Functionally, these are identical, but you won’t be able to make just anything because you have the materials. Each stat must be leveled up individually by making new items. Making new items is part and parcel of the game’s steady progress, although like everything else, you can engage with it at your leisure.

Verdict

There is no wrong way to enjoy a Rune Factory game. That was true in 2006 and it especially holds true today. Endless discoveries make for an endlessly enjoyable take on the farm sim genre. Although it is a clumsier game than its predecessor due to technical issues, Rune Factory 5 upholds the ever-heartwarming and ever-rewarding legacy of the series.

RUNE FACTORY 5 IS RECOMMENDED

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)

Looking for similar games? How about checking out Rune Factory 4 Special or Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town?

Many thanks go to Marvelous Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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