Review: Rune Factory 5

Although Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons have always been about more down-to-earth farming adventures, Rune Factory flipped the series on its head and brought in many more fantastical elements in addition to adding combat. After Rune Factory 4 first released in 2012, the long gap before more news on the series made fans wonder if we’d ever see another entry of if that was going to be it for the foreseeable future. Fortunately the release of Rune Factory 4 Special eased those worries in addition to the announcement of Rune Factory 5 in the works. Now that it’s finally here, we finally get to see if Rune Factory 5 is the continuation of the farming adventure that so many wanted.

The story follows a young individual who wakes up in the midst of danger when a young girl is being chased down by monsters. Acting quick, they save her without a moment’s waste before passing out and being taken back to a nearby village. The young savior has no idea who they are, seemingly having lost their memory at some point, but the village decides to take them in and make them a member of SEED. The organization SEED is comparable to a park ranger of sorts, overseeing the village and nearby wild areas to ensure that everyone is safe. Soon after life begins in the village, mysterious things begin happening, leading to the new SEED ranger being sent out to investigate and put a stop to various monster rampages. Along the way new faces begin to appear, or return, and the village life becomes more hustling and bustling. There’s a lot of mysteries that need to be uncovered, such as the identity of the young SEED ranger and just what’s causing the disruption. This can be overwhelming for one individual, however, which is why it’s nice that things can take a more relaxed turn as part of the farming life.

Although there’s tons going on in Rune Factory 5, the humble beginnings are that of a farmer. Starting with classic turnips, players learn to tend to their gardens in numerous ways and begin earning money. The easiest way to do this is simply checking when vegetables grown best, hoeing the field, planting the crop and being sure to water it daily. There’s plenty of ways to improve each crop such as using a scythe on it when fully grown to get higher level seeds or using helpful nutrients to help them grow faster, better or larger. The only thing that holds back gardening in the beginning are the Rune Points, or RP, used much like stamina or mana in order to use farming gear and other skills. While most of these early crops will likely end up sold for money, food items can be saved for recipes or gifts to other villagers once things start moving. It may take a bit to get to actually planting crops, however, as every day the field tends to get covered with sticks, rocks and weeds that need to be managed. Fortunately nothing goes to waste, as all of those can be used as materials for crafting which is key for surviving in a world that isn’t afraid to throw monsters around.

Crafting is key for one particular reason: combat and being fully geared to take on monsters. Players can create weapons, armor, food for healing and potions for fixing ailments. Making things depends on the level of the crafting skill and eating certain recipe breads to teach more skills. At the start, however, this is a ways off and most will simply head out to hunt about easy enemies and eating simple weeds to get by. To those who are lucky it likely won’t be too long before stumbling across treasure chests with useful armor or weapons, in addition to plenty of items to keep handy or sell for extra cash. Combat itself is relatively simple and straightforward that changes with each individual weapon. Some are faster with an emphasis on lots of smaller damaging hits, while others come with slow but powerful attacks. As they’re used to take on enemies the weapon skill will also level up, allowing more styles of attacks to be used such as dash or charged attacks. If players are out and about with another villager they can do combo attacks once their bar has been filled up, in addition to giving them equipment and gear to make for stronger allies to fight with. There’s also a slew of spells that can be found such as elemental attacks or healing in addition to weapon skills that all require RP. At its core combat is simple, but for a title that runs on a constantly-ticking timer based on the day, it makes sense that it’s never too complex and fights don’t tend to run on long unless you’re under leveled.

Fighting monsters is all well and fun, but Rune Factory is also well known for one other key feature: taming monsters! Nearly every enemy that’s seen wandering around or can be faced in battle can also be tamed, assuming a barn has been built and has room to house them. For most enemies this is a easy task as giving them any old item has a chance to tame them. Every monster has preferred items (which are more often than not the item that they themselves are capable of dropping when defeated), but they can be simply given weeds and has a chance at taming them. Taming is valuable for multiple reasons with and first and foremost being that there are no traditional farm animals that can be purchased, but instead players must go out and tame a cluckadoodle for eggs, a wooly for wool or a buffamoo for milk. This extends to certain other monsters too that can drop materials daily, assuming they’re well fed, and offer many opportunities for more crafting or making food. Once a monster is friendly enough they can also help on the field with cleaning up, planting or even picking items that have been planted. They can also be taken out and fight alongside the player, with the added bonus of being able to rid on monsters that are big enough and attack with them at the same time. There’s also another option to add monsters to the party as temporary allies through the new capture mechanic which offers a couple options. If not fully charged up, a capture spell can be shot at a monster to stun them for easy attacks or even steal an item from them. If the capture spell is fully charged up it has the chance to make the monster an ally for a full 24 hours from the moment of capture. Great for those adventuring alone in the moment and feeling overwhelmed by the monsters nearby, and handy for getting rare items!

Of course, there’s a lot more in this world than fighting or farming. Those are all fine and good, but it’s always good to take a step back and get to know the villagers around town, including the set of single people looking for someone to love. Like similar titles in the genre, a big point of enjoyment in Rune Factory 5 is choosing a partner to marry after learning about them and getting to know one another. There are twelve total single characters that are fully accessible for players regardless of their selected gender at the beginning. Not all of them will be available from the beginning and may take plot progression to unlock, but building a relationship with them and the other villagers is a major part of living with one another. Making friends can be as easy to talking to them daily and giving them a gift from time to time. There’s no hard time limit on when a player needs or even has to get married. They can easily take their time enjoying the story and focus on characters later if they like, but it’s worthwhile talking with them and completing requests to get more items. Doing requests rewards helpful items and access to more supplies like more available crops to plant or flowers to be grown among many other things. This includes the major place in town, Studio Palmo, which is where players access important upgrades such as various crafting tables and upgrades to other facilities. There’s also Eliza, the mysterious talking box, that can assign festivals and offer other upgrades with points used by completing requests which helps get more lively events going around town. For anyone finding their journey a little unbalanced, Eliza can also change the difficulty at any point as well.

One of the biggest and most glaring flaws in Rune Factory 5 is its framerate. While playing it for a long time might just cause one to eventually get used to it, the inconsistent framerate is always a tad jarring. Going outside from a building causes the world around to chug in order to load things and simply running from one side of town from another causes pretty regular dips. Battling is actually not terrible if there’s only a few enemies on screen, but it will begin to chug a bit if too many are around especially in the overworld. Dungeons have it much easier due to the enclosed space, but it never feels beautifully smooth in any regard. The visuals are charming, albeit simple, but do their job especially in the lovely character artwork seen when people are talking. It would be nice if the art had been a little more stylized akin to the Wii Rune Factory title, but it’s serviceable nonetheless. The models often have an awkward lack of mouth movement, but it’s usually easy to overlook. The music is catchy but there aren’t any masterpieces here; it’s just a nice and pleasant soundtrack to casually enjoy when working or wandering the world. There was a bizarre bug witnessed while playing that caused a few seconds of the credits to roll in the midst of a cutscene, but it didn’t break anything at all it was just a hilarious moment that resulted in a fitting exasperated looking character after they faded.

Closing Comments: 

Rune Factory 5 feels exactly like what it set out to be: more Rune Factory for fans to enjoy. It doesn’t add a slew of new things from a mechanical perspective, but it offers a brand new world to explore with more characters to enjoy along the way which is not too different from exactly how new Story of Seasons titles handle things. The biggest thing holding it back is the framerate, which is especially disappointing given the title has been out in Japan for nearly a year and seemingly hasn’t been fixed. There’s a dynamic resolution option which can be turned off for slightly improved framerate, but nothing shockingly better. There’s a lot to love in the gameplay loop, characters and endearing story, and that’s what ties it together for anyone who can sit through the choppy framerate. For those who have been waiting for another entry in the series, Rune Factory 5 delivers more of what fans love in the brand new fantastic world of farming, taming and romance.