Rune Factory 5 – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG, sim game
Developer: Hakama Inc.
Publisher: Marvelous, XSEED
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Rune Factory 5 – Review

Site Score
7.1
Good: Satisfying core gameplay loop
Bad: Visuals could have used more polish
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It’s been almost a decade since Rune Factory 4 debuted on the 3DS, and fans have been eagerly anticipating a new entry in the series ever since. Sure, an enhanced port of Rune Factory 4 arrived on the Switch and other platforms in 2020, but the added content was hardly enough to tide fans over for such a stretch of time. Now, almost a year after Rune Factory 5 arrived in Japan, the wait is finally over for fans in the West. Can it live up to expectations?

Story

The setup for Rune Factory 5 will feel familiar to veterans of the series, as things start out with the protagonist suffering from a bout of memory loss, which has become somewhat of a hallmark for the series. Players get to choose the gender of the protagonist and can rename them from their default names of Ares (M) or Alice (F), before being thrust into Rune Factory 5’s story. After rescuing a young girl from a handful of monsters, our amnesiac hero is taken to Rigbarth, a quaint little town under the protection of SEED. SEED is a police force of sorts, tasked with protecting Rigbarth and helping out the townsfolk with any trouble they run into.

The hero is invited to stay with SEED while they recover from their memory loss. In exchange for room and board, they are recruited into the organization, something they gladly accept. As it turns out though, our hero will have their work cut out for them because the quaint little town is about to deal with a troubling situation, the outcome of which will shape the future of not just Rigbarth but the entire world. Townsfolk have gradually gone missing and the magical rune energy that flows from the sacred places around Rigbarth is becoming weaker. It’s up to our hero to get to the bottom of the situation, with the help of the friends and allies they meet on their adventure. Rune Factory 5’s story is a bit of a slow burn but once things get going, the narrative arc becomes just engaging enough to motivate players to keep going, even if the “fate of the world” story feels a bit overdone by this point.

Graphics

While our initial impressions of Rune Factory 5’s visuals were good, disappointment started to set in as we spent more time with the game. The overall anime aesthetics look great, with lovely character designs, and whenever a new character that is important to the plot makes an appearance, a short cutscene plays that looks like it came straight from Studio Ghibli. The actual in-game 3D graphics are a different story though. With janky character animations and muddy textures, Rune Factory 5 looks like a PS3 title rather than a recent release. We understand that the Switch isn’t a visual powerhouse and that this is the first entry in the Rune Factory series to boast full 3D environments, but neither of those arguments is an excuse for the overall lack of visual polish seen here.

Sound

We were fans of Rune Factory 5’s OST, which incorporates environmental sounds, like the cries of cicadas within the music. The atmospheric tunes capture the mood of a quaint village perfectly and really help sell the appeal of living the Rigbarth life. One audio aspect we had a problem with though was with the voice acting. The quality of the performances is consistent enough, and the voice cast certainly knows how to bring their characters to life, but when you’re performing repetitive tasks -which, unsurprisingly for a farming sim, you’ll do plenty of time – the protagonist keeps repeating the same three lines over and over, which gets really grating really fast.

Gameplay

Given that it’s been almost a decade since the last mainline release in the Rune Factory series made an appearance on a piece of Nintendo hardware, there is a good chance that Rune Factory 5 is the first experience many players will have with this long-running franchise. For anyone wondering what the gameplay is like, the Rune Factory games are a hybrid between classic dungeon crawling JRPGs and farming sims. A good way to describe them is that they are a cross between the Atelier games and Harvest Moon, with a little bit of Pokémon thrown in for good measure.

The farming aspect is incredibly important, and you’ll spend much of your time in the field, tending to your crops, throughout the entirety of the game. There’s a lot here for fans of farming sims to get their teeth into, as Rune Factory 5 fleshes its farming gameplay out a lot more than something like Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. Not only do you have to ensure that your crops are watered, your fields are free of unwanted weeds and the ground is kept toiled every day, but there are other factors to keep in mind, such as leveling up the soil itself. The sheer amount of things to keep in mind when taking care of your crops prevents Rune Factory 5’s farming elements from becoming stale and repetitive, despite the inherent cyclical nature of farming gameplay, and successfully harvesting the result of your efforts feels satisfying. What you grow can be sold and reinvested in more resources, or you can use your gains to cook dishes, which have all sorts of uses elsewhere in the game.

When you’re not busy farming, you’ll spend the majority of your time exploring Rigbarth and its surroundings as you venture into dungeons, hunt for treasure, and complete requests from the townsfolk, some of whom you’ll eventually be able to marry. The game’s hack ‘n slash combat is simple yet very satisfying and if you’d rather recruit enemy monsters to fight by your side rather than slay them outright, you’ll be able to learn a magic spell that allows you to catch them. If it isn’t clear by now, there is a lot to do here, but Rune Factory 5 never feels overwhelming as the game takes its time familiarising you with every little aspect. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that Rune Factory 5 takes things a little too slow early on, as the opening hours of the game seem to progress at a sluggish pace as you are gradually introduced to what’s on offer here. This will be frustrating to anyone returning to the series, as there is no option to skip the lengthy tutorial chapters. Still, a handful of hours are only a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of hours you’ll be able to pour into the game if you’re a completionist.

There is another issue with the game’s pacing though. It’s a bit difficult to fully describe without experiencing it for yourself, but there is an awkward disconnect between Rune Factory 5’s end of the world plotline and the leisurely pace of the gameplay. There is no sense of urgency, and the game instead wants you to take things at your own pace. If you’d rather build a relationship with one of the NPCs, work towards an epic harvest, or simply do side quests, you can always deal with the impending end of the world later. We’re still not quite sure how we feel about Rune Factory 5 treating the main plot as if it was a mere sidequest, but when the overall gameplay is of this level of quality once you get past the opening stages, then who’s complaining?

Conclusion

There certainly are areas where Rune Factory 5 could have improved upon, both with its presentation and with its awkward pacing, but overall we still enjoyed our time with the game. The core gameplay loops are solid, both when farming and when the game takes the classic JRPG route. Of course, we won’t have to convince long-time fans of the series, as they already know what they’re getting here, but even for newcomers, Rune Factory 5 offers plenty to love.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Rune Factory 5 - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


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