Estimated reading time: 14 minutes.
Whoever thought that combining two of my favourite genres of gaming, farming simulator and RPG, *chef kiss* Bravo! Give that person a recipe bread. You, my friend, are a genius for creating something that's part Harvest Moon and Monster Hunter Quest.
What? Never have I ever played this kind of game, you say? Well, my fellow gamers, grab that hoe and shield, strap on your best overalls and chain mail, because this game is about to teach you some life lessons.
Which is somewhere between crop managing an array of vegetables and taming monsters...
If you've ever played a Rune Factory game before, you'll know the classic tale of how the protagonist is an amnesiac with the mysterious power of the Earth beneath his dirty fingernails. You wake up (either man or women, depending on your gender choice) in a forest to the sound of someone's plea. Driven to help them you jolt to your feet and hurry to their aid. Upon a rescue attempt you are brought to the sleepy town of Rigbarth, a quiet country living neighbourhood with strange happenings going on.
As the newbie in town you are introduced and thanked from a Ranger called Livia, who is in charge of keeping the peace. Any newcomers to the village will have to prove their loyalty by drawing energy from a strange orb called the soulsphere. However, as you stand before the sphere a strong blinding light covers the whole room. Shocking to everyone, Livia mentions how you have been chosen as an Earthmate, one who brings prosperity to the land, and hires you as one of the resident Rangers. Together with the townspeople it is your job to bring bountiful harvests and discover what has been threatening the land.
Ever get that itch to go and harvest the best produce you can? Well look no further, because Rune Factory 5 does a splendid job of making sure you put hours and hours into digital manual labour.
There are many aspects to farming in this game, but I'll start you off with the basics. As you begin your farmer life you'll be given basic farming tools to start off: A hoe, axe, hammer, sickle and a watering can. You're given a small plot of land to start experimenting with what you're given. Simple vegetable seeds are easily bought at the local store and each veggie has a description on how long it takes to grow and which season it thrives in. You can plant out of season, but once winter hits all your crops will wither and die.
In order to make sure everything grows properly you'll have to follow the formula of tilling the soil, planting, and watering. Once you've tilled and planted you'll have to continue watering for the next few days in order for your plant to grow.
Once your produce is ready you'll be able to harvest it from the ground and place it in your inventory, which you are free to choose what you'd like to do with it. The best choice would be to sell it by dropping it into your shipping container, which is routinely checked at 8am everyday. But you can save your produce to use in recipes or give them away as gifts.
Each time you ship an item you can view the value of that item with the info screen while holding it in your hands. Each item has a level, the higher the level the more valuable it'll become. If you continue to harvest the same vegetable long enough it's value will slowly increase.
You can also help your vegetation grow by giving it special soil, fertilizer, and liquid that could either strengthen it in stormy weather, stop it from withering, or help it grow faster by skipping a few days.
Weather plays a huge role in the game and you can always tell what it's going to be each morning you wake up. At the top right hand side of your screen, it'll display the weather conditions for the day, however, as the hours pass in mostly real time your forecast could also change. Rainy days are your best friend, considering it lets you avoid having to waste precious energy on watering.
Later, as you play through the main story of Rune Factory 5, you'll befriend a couple of the elemental land dragons that each reign over a part of region. You can look at these dragons as an expansion towards your growing farm. They'll be equipped with extra plots of tillable soil and barns where you can begin to raise livestock.
What makes the dragons different from your regular farm lands? Well, they can be persuaded to elevate the level of your fields by feeding them delicious crystals. Crystals can be found randomly during your explorations either as a whole gem or in individual shards. If you happen to collect 5 shards that represent the same elemental density you can visit the local jeweler to help craft a full crystal.
Once you have those crystals the dragon will happily help give your crops a boost. They can even change the weather with the right crystal. How glorious would that be?
Considering that Rune Factory 5 is half an RPG your character will also have health and stamina.
Stamina or Rune Points (RP) is the life source to your farming. Every single swing of your tools will drain your RP, which means you aren't built like a machine and will require rest to regain any lost RP. You can do this by either sleeping in your bed or visiting the local hot springs. The hot springs are great for regaining lost RP or Health Points (HP) if you wish to continue exploring the world, but you can only use it once a day.
Another way to regain lost energy is by eating food. You can either find it, buy it, or cook it. Sometimes the food you consume will have an added status effect, which will be listed next to the item before you eat it. This could help you if you find yourself in a sticky situation.
A warning! If you run out of RP your character will start taking their energy source from your HP, which drains rapidly and can knock you unconscious quickly if you're not careful. Your HP will also drop if you are hit by enemies so it's always a good idea to keep a couple bottles of healing potion in your back pocket, just in case.
As you work hard to collect lumber, stones, and all sorts of other goodies you can use those materials to upgrade the town or even your own home. You can also perform upgrades on your equipment, like weapons or armour. You'll have to apply for specific licenses in order to use certain work stations, gain the recipe and voila! You are now a junior blacksmith. Nothing screams blacksmith like installing an anvil next to your bed.
For each item you ship, monster you fight, or citizen you aid, you'll start to collect Directive Points (DP), which act like charity points. These points can help in further upgrading your town, equipment or even scheduling town events, but you'll have to talk to Eliza, your friendly neighbourhood wooden statue that sits downstairs in your office... you heard me!
Not only are you a forget-me-not farmer (seriously, don't forget to maintain your garden), you'll also be the resident monster buster. As a Ranger it's your job to take on tasks and explore new territory outside the town.
You'll mostly travel to new locations as you progress the main story, which will unlock new areas that are otherwise blocked off until further notice, but the areas you do have access to are full of monsters, treasure, and materials.
Your field Captain can also give you some monster quests that either entail you defeating or capturing your target. Defeating a monster is pretty straight forward, but capturing them is a whole other issue. You'll be gifted a seal spell that allows you to capture monsters on the field. It will consume RP and does have a recharge limit. You can perform it in two ways. One: you can lash out and momentarily stun the enemies or two: you can capture them. Capturing them will require you to weaken them first and a little bit of luck on your side. The weaker the monster, the higher the capture rate.
Offence is only as good as your weapon and luckily for us the game has a variety of weapon styles to help you annihilate a plethora of enemies. You can be quick and nimble with swords, daggers and lances, or you can hit hard and heavy with claymores, hammers and scythes. Magic rods are also available if you're more of a distant fighter, just remember that magic will eat away at your RP. Each weapon you wield will level up, granting you access to unlock hidden abilities like a dash attack or ultimate moves.
You can also equip abilities that are related to your weapon type. These attack abilities allows you to perform a flashy move set or magic spells that can aid you in battle, but what's flashy and strong takes up more RP.
Did you know? You can fast travel in the game? That's right! You can quickly get somewhere faster by opening your map. You are limited to certain locations, but you can warp anywhere at anytime. When it comes to fast travelling in dungeons, you'll have to completely make it to the next floor in order to travel to that floor's location. Most fast travel points are always near the entrance to areas.
Armour, accessories, boots, hats and gloves are equipable and available in-game. You can either find them in chests, buy, or craft them. Each equipable is different and will display its stats in the menu screen. They can also have resistances added onto them for extra durability.
You can also buy outfits that are more for a visual preference, but cost a fortune, and if you're itching to fight monsters off and greet your neighbours in your bathing suit, by all means.
Remember the sealing spell I mentioned earlier? Well, not only does it help rally monsters to your side, you can also attempt to form a bond. That bond will allow the monster you befriend to join your farm. You'll need to upgrade your Dragon Farm to have barns, but once you do you can catch and tame any monster in the game (other than the bosses).
Once you house your new monster mates you'll notice that they'll drop items. Depending on the monster you tamed, they'll drop specific items (Chicken = eggs, Goats = fur, Cow = milk, Wolves = claws, etc).
Make sure to spend time grooming, feeding and travelling together to raise their relationship levels. The higher the level the more likely they'll help you around the farm and drop higher quality items.
Everything you do in Rune Factory 5, and I mean EVERYTHING, is a skill. From farming, selling, fighting, magic, cooking, crafting, sleeping and walking. Everything gains exp towards leveling up your skills. The higher the skill the better at it you become... I can sleep better? Huh? You may not notice it right away, but the more you work at something, the less amount of energy you consume. Which is extremely helpful for farming.
If you've played a Rune Factory game before, or even Harvest Moon, then you'll be familiar with the dating sim aspect of this game. Continuing this, Rune Factory 5 allows you to build relationship levels with the townspeople and sometimes some of those individuals can even become your future spouse. When you open your menu and scroll over to your friendship chart you'll be able to see who is romanceable and who are neutral companions.
You can raise anyone's relationship meter by talking to them or giving them gifts. Talking will always increase the meter by a little. The best way to woo someone's heart is by presenting them with, well... a present. Each character has their own likes and dislikes, so you'll have to make notes on what that is. You can even receive hints if you pay close attention to the conversations you have with them.
Eventually, once you've reached the top level of the friendship, you'll have the option to court the partner of your choice. The bonus? You can romance either male or female, regardless of which gender you choose at the start of the game. So enjoy the married life if you choose. Having a spouse means extra hands on the farm.
What's that? We can have children too? More workers--- I mean more love to spread throughout the community.
Later on, once you've raised your friendship level to a higher point, you'll be able to invite either your monster friends or town friends to join you in battle. Any monster you tame will fight by your side if you ask it to, but the towns people, specifically the bachelor/bachelorette, will only fight by your side with high friendship.
Rune Factory 5 does an amazing job in showing you how much they have improved since the last release going from handheld to console. The graphics are more realistic, the colour is sharp and bright, the music continues to set the mood and the overall character designs and interactions are never boring.
I'm also happy to say that I like the option to marry either gender in the game. While playing older Rune Factory games where you were given either a male or female protagonist was a nice touch to the series, since older instalments only had you as male and it got boring fast only having to marry the girls, but Rune Factory 5 went above and beyond to tear down that barrier again and allow the players to have free reign over who they choose to be their partner. Well done RF!
However, the game is not without it's flaws. I found most of the flaws in the game to be small annoying details, but when there are multiple small details it tends to gather into a bigger problem.
Things like how your main character will ALWAYS shout something if you water. each. individual. plant. or seeds, or wood you chop, or stones you mine. Speaking of mining and logging, the hit box for stumps and boulders is so small that 8 out of 10 times I'll miss... even though I'm standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF IT.
I also noticed that if you're surrounded by too many monsters the frame rate drops and everything tends to move at a snails pace. You either have to run away just so the game can catch back up or kill a few in slow motion.
There was even a moment that some of the character portraits won't show up in chat scenes, making it seem like the text box is pointing to no one.
To conclude, Rune Factory 5 does a great job of delivering a great story and farming experience. If you find that combat isn't your style you can always turn the difficulty down to focus more on the farm life sim. Having a wide variety of events and characters you can interact with will never make a dull moment in the game.
If they had spent a bit more time polishing and fixing some of those minor bugs the game would be smooth sailing from start to finish. I'm giving this game an 8 out of 10 for it's spectacular visuals, compatibility and easy to pick up combat.Score: 8 / 10