Rune Factory 5 is the long-awaited sequel to Rune Factory 4, released way back in 2012. Developed by Hakama and published by Xseed Games, Rune Factory 5 is a part farming simulator and part role-playing game.
Rune Factory 5 does not have any direct ties to Rune Factory 4, which is fairly typical of long-running RPG series. The story follows the main character, either male or female, as chosen by the player, in the town of Rigbarth in the Kingdom of Norad. The main character has no memory of their past. Despite their amnesia, they are quickly enlisted into Seed. Seed is a group of peacekeeping rangers tasked with keeping the Kingdom of Norad from collapsing into chaos. There are dungeons to explore and boss battles to win, all of which are set up through the daily actions of your character. The setup for the story will feel relatively familiar for fans of Japanese RPGs, especially the concept of the main character having amnesia and setting out to save the world. The story’s familiarity does help bring new players in with relative ease though, which can be a big plus.
While the main plotline is nothing to write home about, the interactions with characters really matter in Rune Factory 5. The story takes place over a daily cycle, with each day’s actions influencing what will happen the next day. Interacting with different characters allows the option to have them join you when certain story events like boss battles or dungeon explorations are triggered. In addition, interacting with characters and using your daily time to go on adventures with them will increase the number of items you can earn and upgrade and improve your relationships with the other characters.
Similar to games like Stardew Valley, several non-playable characters are available as romanceable options. In addition, there are many male and female characters to romance, which helps give plenty of variety when it comes to the direction players choose to go. Also, for the first time in the Rune Factory series, players have the option to enter same-sex marriages with NPCs. It is a welcomed addition that adds even more variety to the game, as being locked out based on gender really limits the potential to explore more of the characters in depth.
The gameplay for Rune Factory 5 focuses on two primary genres: farming simulator and RPG. The farming simulator aspect was quite honestly my favorite part of my experience with the game. Typical farming simulator features like watering plants and clearing debris are present, but a fascinating mechanic called Soil Levels piqued my interest. Soil Levels are relatively straightforward but play a vital role in improving the quality of your farm. You level up the soil simply by planting and harvesting crops, but the upgrades can help improve the speed at which crops grow and the quality of crops produced. The farming systems feel layered and have some depth to them, but never get too tricky once you get the hang of it. I really enjoyed the combination of strategy and simple, relaxed farming.
The RPG aspect of Rune Factory 5, while not my favorite part of the game, is still exceptionally well done. There are many areas to explore and dungeons to clear, and the hack-and-slash combat is highly satisfying. Your weapons level up the more you fight, unlocking new skills that can be used during more difficult combat in later areas in the game. My only real issue with the RPG sections of the game is how bare most of the locations feel. Visually, Rune Factory 5 feels almost identical to Rune Factory 4, a 10-year-old game released on the Nintendo 3DS. Some advancements regarding location density would have been nice, especially when areas like the town of Rigbarth feel almost entirely empty.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some serious performance issues that I encountered during my time with Rune Factory 5. Frame rates feel incredibly inconsistent, and entering new locations caused some severe stuttering. There will be a day one patch that should hopefully fix some of the issues, but it did severely impact my enjoyment when the game felt like it was struggling just to chug along. Loading times are quick, though, which does help alleviate some of the frustration caused by the issues with unstable frame rates.
Rune Factory 5 is a refreshing farming role-playing game that should really appeal to fans of the niche genre. There are plenty of options for growing your farm, and the non-playable characters along the way are really interesting to interact with. While some serious performance issues held the game back at times, my time with Rune Factory 5 was still enjoyable. It may not be a perfect or highly innovative game, but Rune Factory 5 is definitely worth the time spent playing.
Rune Factory 5 releases on March 22nd, 2022, on the Nintendo Switch.
Rune Factory 5
- Rating - 7/107/10
Rune Factory 5 is a refreshing farming RPG that should really appeal to fans of the niche genre…It may not be a perfect or highly innovative game, but Rune Factory 5 is definitely worth the time spent playing.