The latest instalment of the Rune Factory series drops on the Nintendo Switch this month. This is the 5th main line entry from Hakama. Let’s take a look and see just how it stacks up to the competition.
The story opens after selecting either a male or female protagonist and hearing a call for help from within the forest. Without skipping a beat, your character rushes to the aid of a young girl who has been attacked by a monster. After saving her and returning her home, it quickly becomes apparent that your character has no memory and no recollection of a home. In an attempt to aid you, the local rangers of SEED offer you a place to stay as well as a job, and thus your new life as a SEED ranger begins. What mysteries await on your journey to remember who you are? Well, you’ll have to see for yourself.
Narrative wise, there’s a surprising amount in the title. From the main story that sees you investigating events happening in the world to the side stories for the individual cast members, it’s all rather well done. I found it equal parts charming and intriguing, while the main story made up the meat of the gameplay and progression. I found myself gravitating towards the side stories as soon as they became available, and I was genuinely interested in learning about the characters that populated this town. While these side interactions work mostly to flesh out the cast, they don’t feel out of place and do a fine job of bringing the characters to life. The core story sees you delving into ruins to investigate strange occurrences, and dealing with the monsters inside, as you uncover the secrets behind the scenes while aiding SEED in various tasks.
The games’ sound design is a mix of relaxing and more upbeat for the battles against mobs and bosses. Add to this some voice acting and you have a fairly pleasant auditory experience that matches the gameplay well. While the voice acting is appreciated, I must say it was quite limited outside of the main narrative and even then, at times, single word responses were all you got.
Visually, the game opts for a 3D style that instantly one-ups the overhead view of the 4th main title in my opinion. However, it suffers when loading into the game’s main open world segment with frame rate issues for a few seconds as it tries to render the world. Honestly, it’s not the worst thing in the world and doesn’t seem to happen while exploring, but it was noticeable enough to point out. A lot of the monster designs were among my favourite pieces of art work, along with those of the brief animated scenes that often played out as the story progressed.
The game does a decent job of creating the world it creates. While not as detailed as titles such as Breath of the Wild, it’s overall passable as a title and is capable of some very nice looking vistas, be it the different biomes you visit or the dungeons you’ll be exploring. For the most part, I felt the game looked fine for a switch title overall, but also felt a few other areas were a bit poor. The main areas seemed to be on the higher end of the scale, while the less important areas fell short. Admittedly, this may be me nit-picking, but I felt it was worth stating for
Gameplay is made up of many areas, from farming to combat, all of which go hand in hand, but progress tends to tie in with the latter while taking care of your farm helps complete side quests and earn money for equipment and tools.
The farming side of the game sees you start with a small field with limited plots to help earn a few pennies with the limited crops available to you, but eventually, through the completion of requests and progress in the main story, new crops and fields will become available to you, allowing you to take steps to upgrade the town stores and even raise your own monsters to help with the farm work or aid you in battle. While I guess you could do the bare minimum when it comes to farming, utilising it as much as possible helps with many areas of the game, least of all being the main way to make money. Farming not only includes crops but stone, ore, and wood that play a large role in upgrades and crafting.
Combat is the area I found myself spending probably equally as much time with as farming, this will likely depend on your play style. Aside from the games’ dungeon locations, the world is populated by numerous monsters throughout the biomes you’ll visit. In order to survive these encounters, you’ll likely need equipment you either purchase or craft yourself. Equipment comes in many forms, be it duel blades, a giant hammer, a magic staff, or something else entirely. There are a variety of tools available in order to send monsters packing or to protect yourself. Overall, I have to say no one weapon type is superior, and your preference will likely be the deciding factor on what you stick with, though I personally found myself changing it up quite often.
Combat is action RPG styled with your character encountering monsters on the map near a “gate” that must be destroyed in order to stop them from spawning. While at times you will be trapped inside an area until you clear it, the majority of battles can be easily skipped unless you are trying to level up or gather drops. Many RPG tropes make up your combat power, be it level ups or your equipment and magic/weapon skills, all of which can be switched out as and when you want them (as long as you have them in your backpack). Combat isn’t particularly difficult, even when you factor in the bosses. The only time I seemed to have any issues in this regard is when I pushed on into a zone I simply wasn’t ready for.
Besides the farming and combat, there are a number of things to spend your time on, be it requests the townsfolk make of you or bonding with them and engaging in their side stories. You can even decide to throw a festival if you do choose. To be fair, it would be quite easy to spend a few weeks in the game without doing anything to further the main story thanks to all the side activities that you will find yourself doing in order to improve your skills, equipment, and relationships.
Honestly, there’s a whole lot to be doing on any given day and tackling all possibilities in a given day is likely going to be a tall order. With that said, it’ll likely come down to how you decide to play. Everything can be done at your own leisure, so don’t feel you have to go out of your way too often.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the title and will continue with it. As someone who has enjoyed the series prior, I can say it’s my favourite so far. While it’s a little rough around the edges graphically, I still see it as a step up from the previous entries. Most elements of the game go hand in hand, and despite there being a fair bit of meat to the title, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Mostly, I found this to be a fairly relaxing game that drew me back over and over. I’d personally have no problem recommending it.
Great little JRPG with added Farming Simulator that plays well enough on the Nintendo Switch.