|Rune Factory 5
|March 22nd, 2022 (Switch)
July 13th, 2022 (Steam)
|Action RPG, Farming Simulation
|PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
|ESRB – T for Teen
When Neverland went under in 2013, I didn’t know if we would ever see another entry in the Rune Factory series. Fast forward to 2022, and the franchise is indeed still kicking with its latest entry, Rune Factory 5. It first launched a couple months back for Nintendo Switch, but it is now also available for PC players. Does this game rekindle the magic that previous entries had, or does this return fall flat? And, how well does it perform? Well, I have the answers for you, so read on and find out.
Rune Factory 5 takes place in a small town, Rigbarth, in the land of Norad. Our protagonist (name and gender player determinant) is awakened by a nearby scream. They find a young girl, Hina, being attacked by monsters. The protagonist fends off the monsters and brings Hina back to town before collapsing. When they reawaken, it is determined that the protagonist has amnesia. In order to determine if the protagonist is trustworthy or not, the mayor, Simone, has our hero utilize a Soulsphere. The Soulsphere analyzes whomever touches it. Seeing the Soulsphere’s reaction, the Field Captain for the local SEED regiment, Livia, determines that our hero is an Earthmate, a being with special abilities and a close relationship with the land. The protagonist is invited to join Rigbarth as a citizen and joins SEED as a ranger, as they recover from their memory loss. Will our hero regain their memories? What mysteries will they uncover as they work for SEED? Will they be able to live a comfortable life in this unfamiliar land? Will they find true love? Only time will tell.
The main story is pretty average. You perform tasks as a SEED ranger, discover villainous plot, stop the villain, save the world. That’s the story in a nutshell, nothing crazy. You can complete the story in less than two seasons. I finished the story by Summer 11, but there’s no rush to complete it if you want to take your time, there are no time restraints. While the main story is forgettable, the Rigbarth citizens are colorful and entertaining. Each one has their own distinct quirks, hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Lucy is an upbeat girl who loves to fish and challenge the protagonist to competitions; Priscilla is a very kind girl who loves baked goods and is scared of traveling outside the town walls; Simone is Rigbarth’s mayor and loves to test experimental medicines; Palmo is an eccentric and creative architect; Heinz is a gems dealer who loves to tell jokes (some not that great); Fuuka is a were-animal that loves shiny and sparkly things; Cecil is a curious lad who aspires to be the next great detective; Martin is Cecil’s older, extremely hard working brother, and apprentice to the town smith, Darroch; Ryker is Palmo’s apprentice, dislikes working hard, loves to take naps, and seems to only really wake up at night; Ludmila is a succubus who is very attached to the protagonist and loves to make wild statements. These are just a few of the lovely people you’ll meet during your life in Rigbarth. Personally, my favorites were Lucy and Ludmila. Lucy is a ball of sunshine and a joy to speak to, and Ludmila is just wild, in a good way. If the character is a love interest, you can also initiate side story events with those characters. Some of these are one and done, while others can continue for multiple days. These events can really flesh out a character and I highly recommend doing them, especially if it’s for a character you really like.
Gameplay in Rune Factory 5 is split into two sections: Adventuring and Daily Life. Daily Life consists of farming, fishing, cooking, participating in Festivals, and mingling with the Rigbarth citizens, similar to the Story of Seasons games. Farming is the main activity most fans are familiar with. You till your field, sow the seeds, water the seeds daily, and eventually harvest the crops. The crops you can grow, and the ease with which you can grow them, depend on the game’s season. For example, potatoes grow well in the Spring and Summer but not as well in the Winter. You start off with one field, but this will grow to a max of six after progressing the story. There’s nothing revolutionary about the farming portion; if you played a previous game in the series you know what you’re getting. Fishing is simple and involves pressing one button. You wait for the fish’s shadow to snag the bait, and then reel them in. Cooking can be performed after snagging a Cooking License using the Directive system. Directives involve using SEED points to gain numerous things that can enhance your life in Rigbarth. SEED points can be gained by performing numerous tasks like hunting Wanted Monsters and completing Villager Requests. Among these are the abilities to cook, make medicines, craft equipment, and so on. After getting the license, you can get the furniture needed to perform the task from Palmo. You can also use Directives to schedule Festivals for the town. Festivals can consist of just giving an item (such as a crop) to Simone, or playing a minigame unique to that festival. For example, the Buff-a-Move requires you to dodge Buffamoo of different colors. Depending on how you do in the Festival, you will be ranked. If you get first place, you can get nice rewards and increase your relationship with the villagers.
I enjoyed the Daily Life portion of the game. It was relaxing and I liked mingling with the villagers, and smoking them in the Festivals. I personally wish the Fishing minigame had a bit more substance to it, but I know some will enjoy how simple it is. Cooking could get annoying as you had to run to a different type of cooking table depending on the recipe, but this can be resolved after getting all the different types of cooking hardware. You’re able to combine all the cooking options into one table using the Directive system, but you have to get all the available cooking utensils first. I enjoyed how the Festivals each had their own unique quirk to them, and I’m looking forward to what other Festivals, such as the Buddy Battle, are like.
Adventuring is the action part of the game. You traverse four different field maps, and numerous different dungeons, all while defending yourself against monsters. You can utilize numerous weapons (including farm tools) to combat these foes. These include short swords, long swords, staffs, dual swords, axes, and fists. I found fist weapons to be the most fun as you can grab enemies and throw them around, pro wrestling style, though I used short swords the most because my strongest weapons were usually in that class. In combat, you can use normal attacks and skills, blast foes and heal allies with magic, team up with villagers and perform Link Attacks, and capture monsters using the Catch ability. Link Attacks are special team-up attacks performed with your party member. As you fight, your party member’s status box begins to fill up. Once it’s full, you can press R1 and the left stick to perform a powerful cooperative attack. These can make boss battles a breeze. Catch can be performed after receiving the Spell Seal from Livia. You can use Catch to freeze monsters in place, or charge it up to capture monsters and make them your ally. Using skills and magic (and doing other activities such as Fishing), will use up RP. RP is the gauge located underneath your HP bar. If you use up your RP bar, your HP will be depleted instead, so be careful. You can increase your HP and RP by raising your skill level in different things or by leveling up. For example, just eating and sleeping will increase those skills and in turn, make you stronger. Even walking has its own skill level, so walking instead of fast traveling can benefit you in the long run.
Adventuring and combat are simple and straightforward. If they stayed that way the entire game, I would’ve loved it. Unfortunately, that turned out to not be the case. Once you get to the late story, and a dungeon called Everlasting Darkness, you hit a huge difficulty spike. You are forced into a dungeon that constantly drains your RP, and you’re not allowed to bring villagers with you into the dungeon, thus forcing you to either go it alone or make sure you have monster companions in your employ, which pretty much makes monster recruiting mandatory. If that’s not enough, they throw in enemies that have a 100% chance of instant KO’ing you. This is just a bad design decision and made the game needlessly frustrating. I enjoy a good challenge sometimes, but this wasn’t even a fun challenge, it was just annoying. Similar problems plague the last two story dungeons of the game as well – especially the final story dungeon where you once again can’t bring human companions and once again have to deal with cheap, one-hit kill enemies. These enemies honestly ruined what would’ve been a pretty decent experience. Also, I find it humorous that they teach you how to use Link Attacks early in the game, but then prevent you from using one of your strongest attacks during the final story dungeon. Again, these are really questionable decisions that ruined my experience.