I have been a fan of the Rune Factory series since the original game. And now there’s Rune Factory 5! Does it hold up to its predecessors? Read below to find out!
First, some blunt honesty. I hated this game at first.. My character slid around like a greased pig! Doing anything was extremely difficult and it ruined the experience for me. I was not alone as many reviewers complained about this too. I stuck with the game though, and I’m not sure if the game got a patch, or I just got used to it, but things got better! On about day 3 (in real world time) the game started really clicking with me, and I fell head over heels in love with it.
Rune Factory 5 opens with a familiar overarching plot to series veterans. Your character wakes up with amnesia in a strange town, Rigbarth. From there your character is invited to live in Rigbarth. In exchange for room and board, our main character works for an organization called SEED (which is run by an eternal child, annoyingly enough). SEED’s job? Protecting the town from monsters. And of course, running a farm. From there it branches into exploring dungeons and discovering the mysteries of the world.
It’s not that deep but it doesn’t need to be. The real magic of Rune Factory comes from the day to day experience. Farming, befriending villagers, and interacting with town life is a lot of fun!. Apparently, there is a plot, and I’m supposed to go rescue a child’s mom to progress? Thanks but no thanks, I got a date with watering my turnips and making out with the local blacksmith apprentice.
As time went on, not only did I unlock more farming stuff, I was also unlocking events to learn more about the characters. The characters are not as eccentric as their Rune Factory 4 counterparts. In comparison, they’re kinda bland. But I still think they’re lovely, and I enjoy spending time getting to know them. There’s a good range of marriage candidates. Furthermore, starting gender is no longer a limitation to getting married, as same-sex marriage is now an option. Marriage candidates aside, I also like the characters you can’t marry. Especially Elsje, who I wish I could marry. There’s the buff blacksmith who used to be a hot mess, the old baker with a bad-ass past, and more. There’s so much to discover about the characters, and for me, getting to know everyone, marriagable or not, is easily the best part of the game.
(PROTIP. Don’t know what gift to give someone? Everyone is okay with turnip seeds! Plus they’re cheap!)
And yes, I did eventually rescue Hina’s Mom.
Don’t get me wrong, there are problems with the game. Technically, it’s a mess. Placing objects is messy. It’s impossible to place objects in a nice row or really where I want to. My room has furniture strewn about at odd angles. There are graphical glitches, and constant loading screens. Combat is manageable for the most part, but most boss fights are a slog.
Let’s be truthful though, none of this is new or unexpected. Rune Factory, while enjoyable, has never ever been a polished experience. In fact, the lack of polish, even in its most highly praised entries, has always been the one thing holding the game back.
If Rune Factory 5 could just employ a system like Stardew Valley, which makes placing stuff much easier because everything locks onto a grid, among many other changes, it would be an incredible game. However, if the series coming back after ten years has confirmed anything, it’s that no matter how much time it has in the oven the game will always be clumsy to play. If you’re going to play Rune Factory 5, you’re just going to have to accept it with these problems. I clearly have–but if you’re looking for a polished gameplay experience this game is NOT for you.
This leads me to the next point. One of the big selling points for the game is it’s now in 3D with the camera much closer to the player-character. After playing it, I just wonder…”Why???” This POV was clearly implemented with the idea that it’s what a game in 2022 should have, and no thought beyond that. The game would be infinitely better with a top-down view, like previous games. I’ve begrudgingly come to live with it. However when I’m in the midst of combat unable to see the boss or I’m in a slightly too big and too empty room, or when a camera angle swings a little too sharply, I curse whatever gaming entity thought the series needed to be 3D.
Plus sides to the gaming experience! While I touched on the characters, this entry has a really chill wholesome vibe that I really like! There are also some very nice gameplay tweaks and quality of life changes that I enjoy! One of my favorite changes is the ability to farm on the back of adorable dragons, which you can feed crystals for farming bonuses! Another is the ability to see where your character needs to go to trigger new relationship events. There are things to complain about, but on the other end, the improvements are lovely as well.
I don’t know if this game will bring any newcomers to the Rune Factory series. Ten years later, it’s still a niche experience that will only appeal to a certain type of gamer. For people who have been missing the world, or just want to feel like they’re living day to day in a fantasy world filled with loving friends, this is a wonderful choice. For people wanting a hardcore polished action rpg, there are better options (like Elden Ring)!