Rune Factory 5 - Switch Review

Rune Factory 5 by developer Hakama Inc. and publishers XSEED Games and Marvelous Inc.Nintendo Switch review or preview written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes 


The latest in the Rune Factory series is finally here and it was worth the wait. Combining elements that would seemingly contradict one another, a casual farming experience alongside an action adventure RPG, that couldn't be further from the truth. Well married together in terms of style, it's up to you to figure out if you stay single or get married while taking care of this small town's problems while raising crops across the seasons.

The previous entry of Rune Factory 4 was a lesson to people outside of video game development that even if you do everything right, a studio may still have to close its doors. Acquired by XSEED Games sometime later, there would be a bit of a happy continuation as the Rune Factory series would see new life with Rune Factory 4 Special on the Nintendo Switch (Pierre-Yves’ Switch review and Nick's XB1 review). This was great for both longtime fans and a new generation of gamers growing up with the Switch and the story of the series now continues with a brand new entry.


Continuing on our history lesson for just a little longer, for those coming into the series now, Rune Factory is a spin off of the once Harvest Moon now Story of Seasons which itself continues to move forward with remakes of Friends of Mineral Town (Jim's review) and brand new entries like Pioneers of Olive Town (Pierre-Yves' review). While still having farming elements, Rune Factory is also an action adventure RPG with exploration, monsters and boss fights on top of the day to day chores.

Moving onto the reason that you’re here, Rune Factory 5 is both fun and relaxing which is funny when you consider the hard labor of farming and the perils of adventuring into the wilds. Starting off with a classic trope of an amnesiac protagonist, you can select their binary gender which, while not affecting much overall in the story, will affect your marriage candidates if you choose to pursue that path. If not, there’s nothing wrong with staying single as there’s still plenty to do both at home and out in the wild!

Starting off with your at home activities, while not remembering who you are may put a dent in remembering what you were up to in life, the town of Rigbarth that you find yourself in was more than hospitable in giving you the second floor of the local SEED headquarters. SEED are an organization that can be considered protectors of the people that patrol borders, towns, keep people safe and take care of more dangerous missions especially when dealing with monsters. It also just so happens that with this room and board, SEED is also your new employer.

While giving you a place to stay, a job which serves to move the main story along and a quest board to help out the local townspeople with small things, you are also given a plot of land in the back of the headquarters which has definitely seen better days. Once it’s been cleaned up however, it’s a fair sized plot of land in order to plant vegetables to sell for profit as long as you keep up with your daily duties of watering your crops and harvesting them once they are ready.

Now perhaps my favorite feature, and I hope to see this more down the line, were the more accessible options while farming. Instead of the usual, plow one square, move to the next, plow that one, move to the next, etc., etc., etc., you can plow, sow seeds or water a field by simply hitting the action buttons and your character will automatically move to the next square available for that action. While using the same amount of stamina to do it, it speeds up the process allowing you to get to everything else so much faster. The same can be said for your crops that you can pick up in batches and while targeting your bin, shoot for a three pointer and not even have to walk all the way over there. It sounds a bit “lazy” when saying it out loud but it was amazing to have and the time it saves can be spent doing whatever else inside or outside of town.

I really enjoyed that the farming in Rune Factory 5 is integrated into the gameplay and more like what you could find within the Story of Seasons series. While not to that same level, as there are plenty of other elements like adventuring to do here, it felt part of the day to day activities and not simply some patch of land that I would often completely forget about because I was out questing. Here, I definitely cared for not only my plot of land behind headquarters, but of the various other farmlands that you can unlock over the course of the story off the backs of flying dragons. This is a fantasy setting afterall and why not have giant flying farm dragons?

Like your plot of land behind your headquarters, the land on the backs of the giant flying farm dragons also need to be cleaned and maintained if you’re going to see a proper yield of your crops. Cleaning out stumps and boulders while pulling out weeds and grass is a must otherwise it’ll get overrun in the matter of days. You really have to wonder where most of this stuff comes from at times! While this can sound like a lot to deal with, and it can be depending on your current in-game character skill levels of each task, you can get help from tamed monsters as long as you can truly befriend them after giving them a place to stay and food every day.

It may seem a bit odd to need to tame monsters in order to get farm hands, but it works and they do a good enough job once you’ve raised their friendship levels high enough to assign them chores. I mean who doesn’t want some help while needing to tend to multiple different fields? Otherwise, in order to get to that point, you’ll need to not only tame them while out adventuring, but you’ll also want to give them gifts, brush them and take them with you while out and about in order to strengthen your bonds.

This second half of the Rune Factory 5 experience is where I oftentimes found that the pacing was perfect. It would let me concentrate on my farming, on my fishing, or on my cooking. On the other hand though, for those tiny other times, I felt like the pacing could be a bit too slow as new main story events could take a while to come around and without them, you’ll be stuck to the area(s) that you’ve already unlocked as there’s no way to branch further without these stories.

These mini adventures help to kick things into gear and really get out of town and do what an adventurer does best. Adventure! Level up! Perfect existing skills! Acquire new skills! Survive boss fights! The list goes on and it’s a fun distraction from your day to day chores as the exploration and the combat is easy to adjust to. Exploring is rather simple with simply moving around a map and checking out what kinds of monsters are roaming about or what kinds of materials can be picked up.

When it comes to defending yourself while exploring however, you’ll have plenty of options from short shorts and long swords to axes, lances, staves or even your farming tools if you’re brave enough. The combat is never really complicated following some rather basic routines. To spice things up though there are new end pattern combos that can be learned by repeatedly using those weapons and multiple spells and special abilities to be cast. There’s nothing overly indepth to the system but it does change the pace up a bit while out and about after a few days of farming and checking out any events that could have popped up around town.

Otherwise, between the farming and the adventuring, you’ll have time that you’ll want to better your other skills. Cooking food, making potions or creating and strengthening gear. Some of these will need a license while others can be started on right away either through the use of some of the existing shops, or if you’ve made enough money, right from your very own second floor bedroom! This is really one of the reasons to get into farming early on as to do this from your own room you’ll need to buy “furniture” and it isn’t cheap. While not cheap however, working out of your second floor bedroom is pretty sweet and saves a lot of time especially when you can set up everything you need: fridges, stoves, knife blocks, alchemy sets and weapon avils.

What I didn’t quite like about this aspect is that you are very limited as to how you can place your furniture and in those limitations, it just doesn’t look right. Taking the space of about two floorboards is about as close as you can get from each piece as well as the back wall so a lot of these features just look like they are standing in the middle of the room instead of being neat and tidy like the first floor or anyone else’s house. Furthermore, there’s no locking grid and you have to fiddle around with how close you can get each piece to each other as you only have so much space before shelling out 10K per upstairs renovation.

Finally though, making a return for some fun and games is the ability to host festivals by the use of SEED points which are replacing Rune Factory 4’s Royalty Points. With these SEED points you can do a variety of things such as get licenses for cooking and mixing medicinal elements through a series of easy enough to answer questions. Otherwise, you can also throw festivals for fishing, be on the receiving end of some form of bullet hell berry throwing contest, these people are weird, and finally expand your inventory space of your main inventory, dresser and fridge spaces!

Getting these points is fairly easy as there are more than enough quests that will appear on the above mentioned quest board and finding other events will certainly help the process. Just make sure to save up and spend it on what you really want instead of creating a whoops-like scenario and host a festival instead of unlocking a license you need to finish a quest which would give you the points for the festival.

If I were to have perhaps one real complaint of my adventure with Rune Factory 5, it would be more mechanical in nature but one that I hope will be fixed in time. Rune Factory 5 runs rather well until you leave the inside of a building for outdoors. The first few seconds are stiff before everything smooths out and into place while in town. While not on the sale scale, there's also a bit of this when monsters load up once you leave town for a bit of exploration and combat. Is it enough to make it unplayable? Not at all, but until you get used to it and adjust as to when you can start moving around? It's a bit tedious for an otherwise wonderful experience.

Summary

Overall Rune Factory 5 was fantastic once you put the small issues like frame rates and furniture placement aside. Whether spending just a bit of time to clear a day out of your in-game calendar or sitting down and clearing out a day of your real world calendar, there’s just something magical about the farming simulation of both these and the Story of Seasons series. Want to do something more than farming? Rune Factory has you covered with plenty to explore and challenge yourself while out in the field against the local monsters and eventual boss fights!

Score: 7.75 / 10





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