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Rune Factory 5 Review: "Worth The Wait"

Rune Factory 5 Review: "Worth The Wait"
Image via XSEED

Written by 

Jaimie Ditchfield

Posted 

22nd Mar 2022 08:00

Rune Factory 5 is a far cry from competing games like Elden Ring and Ghostwire Tokyo that have released around the same time. This is a title that is all about relaxation, through farming and building relationships with its wholesome cast of characters, rather than exhilarating action from start to finish. Think Stardew Valley, but anime. How does the latest instalment in the Rune Factory franchise hold up however?

An Amnesiac's Beginning

Rune Factory 5 review: An amnesiac's beginning

If you’ve played a Rune Factory game before, then you won’t be surprised to know that you’re playing as a new resident who just so happens to have a stereotypical case of amnesia. This time, you awaken in a forest clearing but quickly bump into Hina, one of the game’s many villagers who will be assisting you in your light-hearted fantasy life.

Following this encounter, the residents of Rigbarth quickly adopt you as one of their own, in addition to enrolling you as a ranger in the local SEED organisation, which is essentially the security group in charge of defending Rigbarth.

The story has its interesting moments, but you're more likely to benefit from the character interactions opposed to the overall story. For the most part, narrative progression usually takes a backseat, and can be approached whenever the player feels inclined to do so. This results in you having full control over when you want to interact with the world, instead of being shoe-horned down a path you have no desire to instantly walk down. The game will let you know when important events are available, but you can tackle them at your own pace.

Live Your Ideal Fantasy Life

Rune Factory 5 review: Live your ideal fantasy life

Despite its serviceable narrative, everything else in Rune Factory 5 is where the game truly shines. The core gameplay loop will likely be familiar to series veterans, with farming, combat, festivals, and more daily activities that have become a mainstay of the franchise over the years.

Just like with other life-simulation games, Rune Factory 5 gives the player complete freedom when it comes to how they want to play. Most of my time was spent cultivating and maintaining my farm to make some extra money, in addition to growing specific crops that would assist me in developing my relationships with the locals.

As a new resident in Rigbarth, the field leader, Livia, gives you the task of renovating and maintaining the livelihoods of the town. This can be accomplished in a multitude of ways, such as gathering materials to expand the stock at the in-game shops, or by creating “Directives” to change up certain things about the town. At the beginning of the game, your options will be limited, with the Directives primarily being used to host festivals during the game’s four seasons. The festivals are a good excuse to gather everyone into one location, but they were ultimately a pointless mini-game with very few rewards.

Farming is one of many objectives available to you in Rune Factory 5, with simple to grasp controls, but some robust mechanics for those looking to get the most out of these efforts. At the beginning of the game, you have limited space to work with, so you will have to plant crops strategically to ensure you receive the most amount of profit during a harvest.

Rune Factory 5 review: Farming

However, as time goes on, more fields become available to you, thus making it easier to fill up your wallet. Not only will you have to manage your resources, but also your RP (Rune Points), which essentially act as a stamina meter. As soon as it reaches zero, tasks will start to drain your health instead, so there is often an extra layer of strategy during your daily objectives.

 

Unsatisfying Combat

Rune Factory 5 review: Unsatisfying combat

Another key aspect of Rune Factory 5 is combat, but it’s nothing to write home about. During your time in Rigbarth, there are instances where you are required to go out on expeditions to defeat or capture specific monsters, and maybe even complete a dungeon or two. There are a variety of weapons to choose from, such as long swords, spears, battle gloves, hammers, and more, but it's easy to gravitate to one specific weapon type and render all the others meaningless. However, the biggest flaw in regards to Rune Factory 5’s combat is the insane amount of performance issues.

The Nintendo Switch often struggles to retain a consistent frame-rate during graphically intensive games, and it's no different when it comes to slaying monsters in Rune Factory 5. The performance issues here manifest in frame-rate drops, resulting in enemies being able to land attacks that should be out of reach, since the poor performance causes input delay. This also translates over into walking around Rigbarth’s main hub, and it also affects the ability to harvest crops now and again.

Make Friends And Develop Relationships

Rune Factory 5 review: Make friends and develop relationships

Developing relationships with the townsfolk has always been one of the most celebrated aspects of the Rune Factory series, and it's no different here with a wide array of characters, each with their own personality traits and unique histories. Some of them are more defined than others, primarily the "bachelors" and "bachelorettes", as they are designed to be interacted with on a more intimate level. Occasionally, you will be able to witness side events called “Romance Stories”, which are visual-novel-like quests that gives you a deeper understanding of a specific character’s daily life.

Getting closer to the locals in Rigbarth will be a continuous objective throughout the course of the game, so it’s up to you to figure out the likes and dislikes of each individual character. In doing so, it will make it easier to find appropriate gifts for their birthday and understand the best method to interact with them. As soon as your relationship reaches a certain level, the protagonist will be able to confess their feelings to the character in question, which eventually leads to an in-game marriage ceremony. Additionally, Rune Factory 5 is the most inclusive game in the series to date, as for the first time in the franchise’s history, same-sex marriage is available.

A Relaxing Experience

There is a lot to do in Rune Factory 5, and players have the freedom to live out their ideal fantasy life at their own pace. Although there are a hefty amount of performance issues, Rune Factory 5 is still a charming experience that can be taken with you on the go, and is worth the wait for fans of the series. If you’re looking for a game to settle down with in the evenings, then Rune Factory 5 might be worth the investment.

 

8/10

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Code provided by the publisher.

 

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