It has been nearly a decade since the last Rune Factory game released. And while most of us have been growing up, finishing school, or (hopefully) fumbling our way through our mid-life crises, Hakama Inc has been working on the latest instalment in the Rune Factory series. Ten years is a long time to work on something. So, after so much time in development, players had very high hopes for Rune Factory 5. But for many, the game was not able to meet those high expectations. So we’ve figured out all the details in our Rune Factory 5 review, so you can see if it’s right for you.
The game is plagued with a couple of performance issues on the Switch. But while it isn’t perfect, Rune Factory 5 is still a charming, cozy, and wonderful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. And regardless of its flaws, the improved graphics and 3rd person perspective is a vast improvement from previous Rune Factory titles. It is available on the Nintendo eShop for $59.99 USD.
Story – An Oldie but a Goodie
The story of Rune Factory 5 kicks off like any good Rune Factory game does. You randomly appear somewhere with absolutely no memory of who you are, or what you’re doing, and save some poor soul from impending doom (in this case a young girl from the nearby town). The amnesia trope is one that we see in all Rune Factory games. It just wouldn’t seem right without one.
Upon your impressive flexing of your hero muscle, the young girl invites you to stay in the nearby town Rigbarth. Here, they quickly put you to work as a SEED Ranger. And thus begins your process of attempting to unwind the mystery of the town’s dangerous and strange events. The story here is very similar to other Rune Factory games that all follow a similar formula. But rather than getting old, it’s actually strangely comforting to know that this is the same Rune Factory we all know and love.
Gameplay – If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!
Much like the story, the overall structure of Rune Factory 5 remains the same as the previous titles. But far from being a bad thing, Rune Factory 5 reminds you of all the reasons you fell in love with the franchise in the first place. All of the best aspects of a farming/life simulator can be found here… and then some. From farming, crafting, and falling in love, to taming monsters and defeating bosses in gritty, fast paced boss fights. Every second of the in-game day can be filled with a variety of activities to suit every mood you might find yourself in.
The Rat Race
One of the driving forces of Rune Factory 5 is your job as a SEED Ranger. Outside the SEED Headquarters, you will find a bulletin board which contains requests from the townspeople. The requests are posted by members of the community that need help with something, and it’s your job to help them. The requests can range from defeating a pesky hoard of monsters, or gathering a certain item for them. You will be repaid for your work in in-game currency, and by unlocking more items in the shops or progressing the story.
In addition to completing requests for townspeople, you are also given other assignments from SEED. These involve capturing, and turning in wanted monsters. You do this by finding said criminal Monstermind, battling them until they are at low health, and flinging a seal spell at them by pressing ZL. This is a strangely fun and addictive mechanic, that is unique to Rune Factory 5.
It’s a Bird… it’s a Plane… It’s a Farm!
It might seem a little out-there, but it is a Rune Factory game after all. So, one shouldn’t be surprised to discover that not only are there up to five farms to collect, but they are also dragons… Nope, you didn’t read it wrong, the farms are dragons. Other than the fact that it exists on the back of a giant, mythical beast, the farming in Rune Factory 5 is more or less the same as previous titles.
You are armed with your trusty farm tools, which you are able to level up in order to become more efficient. This is definitely recommended, as maintaining six farms at once can be quite the task. Seeds for a wide range of flowers, vegetables, and trees are unlocked through completion of requests and story progression. Farming in Rune Factory 5 is a valuable source of money. It will also provide you with items to craft, cook, and feed to your army of monsters.
I did experience some issues with the camera switching from third person, to top down, and back again every time I left the boundary of my farm. The constant switching of viewpoints was very jarring. But I was able to fix this easily by switching the top down perspective off in the settings.
Fight for Rigbarth
Rune Factory 5 is home to many familiar monsters, as well as some new beasts to slay. All of which is done in the brand new, third person viewpoint. This more up close and personal perspective really improves the immersion of the game. It gives the monsters a more epic, and realistic scale that makes the boss fights in Rune Factory 5 the best the series has seen.
As well as being able to fight these monsters, Rune Factory 5 still includes the coolest mechanic in the franchise: monster taming. Any and all monsters in the Rune Factory universe can be tamed. They can be kept as pets, put to work on your farm, or become powerful companions in battle. These monsters can be levelled up just like you or any one in your party, so they have the opportunity to become absolute weapons on the battlefield.
Craft ‘Em All
While you’re on your adventures, you have the opportunity to gather items. These items can be found in the environment, like plants, and ore, or from defeated monsters. These items can all be used for crafting medicines or weapons. Gathering also plays a large part in cooking and is highly recommended throughout your play through. Buying expensive weapons, medicine, and meals to regenerate health becomes very expensive. So having the skills to be able to craft your own is priceless.
New recipes for crafting and cooking are learned by eating recipe bread. These tasty buns can be purchased from the Bakery in town, and somehow telepathically send the recipes to your brain when you eat them… I guess?
She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
The town of Rigbarth is filled with unique, and interesting characters. This is one of the places that the new third person viewpoint shines the most. The viewpoint is so much more intimate in third person, and it really makes you feel like you are getting to know each character on a personal level. The closeness allows you to relate more to the characters, and inspires you to actually engage in the relationship mechanics. If you’re someone who usually glosses over these aspects of farming sims, Rune Factory 5 might be the exception.
If you become good enough friends with someone, you are also able to invite them to join your party. They wont be able to join your party for good, but they will follow you around until you dismiss them. These townsfolk are able to level up in battle just as you do. And you are also able to equip them with weapons and armour to make them even stronger in battle. Your friends, plus the monsters you take on adventures with you can become huge assets to you in battle if you level them up enough. This mechanic is one of the most interesting parts of the Rune Factory series, and if taken advantage of, can get you some super powerful allies. These allies can be extremely helpful later on in the game, when combat becomes more difficult.
Audio & Graphics
Rune Factory 5 excels in terms of audio, with a soundtrack that matches the mood of the game perfectly. The songs that play on your farm and in Rigbarth are vibrant yet relaxing. And the music during combat reflects the heightened mood with a more fast paced and upbeat track. The music is just enough to enhance the experience, without being too distracting.
The characters are also partially voice acted, which adds a personal touch to the experience. It helps each character develop their own distinct personality, and gives them their own sense of charm. The game is also in dual-audio, allowing players to pick between Japanese, and English voice acting which is a plus.
The Downhill Slope
Sadly, this is where some of the issues of Rune Factory 5 start to rear their ugly heads. The game definitely suffers on the Nintendo Switch. The world is riddled with assets popping in and out, and whenever you enter or leave a building the game slows down to about 5 frames per second. Most of the frame rate issues can be combatted by hesitating for a couple of seconds after you leave a building to give the game time to catch up. But players shouldn’t have to worry about waiting for the game to catch up to them during their play-through.
It begs the question of whether the game would perform better on another console, but Rune Factory 5 is a Switch exclusive, and there are no further plans of releasing it on other consoles. The game was released in Japan a year before it was in the West, and the issues are still very apparent. So it doesn’t seem like any patches or updates are coming to save the day any time soon. The assets popping in and out, and the massive frame rate drops were not game-breaking for me, and I was able to ignore them for the most part. But I can see how this wouldn’t be acceptable for some people, so it is worth noting before purchasing the game.
Rune Factory 5 was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.