If you've been eagerly waiting for a healthy mix of farming and fighting like I have, here comes the delightful Rune Factory 5 for Switch.
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Having reviewed the remake of Rune Factory 4 on Switch a couple of years ago, I've been looking forward to a new title in the series ever since. In Rune Factory 5, you play as someone who lost their memory then found themselves in the town of Rigbarth where they've been given a home by the regional leader of SEED, an organisation that protects the village and ensures monsters don't breach its walls. In true Rune Factory fashion, you're given a small plot of land to clear, till, and sow seeds in order to grow all manner of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. When your plot is tended to, you can also go on excursions outside of the village to take down wild monsters. v1d30chumz 44-192-38-248
In Rune Factory 5, these kinds of activities reward you with SEED points which is a currency that can be used to unlock directives which are a mixture of village rules and perks such as unlocking a new festival or upgrading the size of your bag. However, as you go up the ranks in the SEED organization, you start to uncover a sinister plot that unravels the villagers' stories and puts you at the center of it.
When I was first left to my own devices and started to wander around the town of Rigbarth, I was unfortunately pretty disappointed. The graphics are good but nothing special and in some ways, they're subpar. For example, the character models are really well done and each person you meet is full of personality. However, the town is very spread out and there's a lack of texture in the landscape.
In addition to the underwhelming visuals, there is either a lack of instructions for important mechanisms or a translation issue that caused me a lot of trouble when starting out. There are some instructions in the online manual that can be accessed from the main menu and more on sign posts but it's just not enough and it even took me a while to realise that the sign posts were mini manuals. Believe it or not, it took me many in-game days to realise that I couldn't purchase furniture until I moved a wardrobe off a raised wooden platform in my bedroom. Now that I mention it, this system of delivering large items to your home is not intuitive in the slightest. I also had problems understanding how to capture monsters and was confused by the different terminology that's used in multiple places. Having said all of this, although the start was very rough, I began to really have fun with Rune Factory 5 as soon as the gameplay clicked.
One thing that I was pleasantly surprised by was the quality of writing. There's a great variety of characters including some that are half-animal and there have been many occasions when I'm part of group conversations where each character's personality truly shines. Some conversations can be pretty deep while others actually had me laughing out loud at how silly they were. In addition, a quality of life improvement that builds on this is that you can see indicators on your map that show where to go to trigger a conversation which will boost your relationships and some storylines will last days and take you all over the town and even involve multiple characters.
Meanwhile, another enjoyable (although not new) feature is that you can ask villagers to join you for the day to boost your relationship and even fight with you in dungeons. Unfortunately, their level seems to only increase as you fight with them so they won't be much use in the later dungeons unless you've been bringing them along for the ride every day. Having said that, you can give them items to equip; some of which can be seen on their character models which is always a nice touch.
The overworld is made up of a few large areas that can be explored freely once you unlock them and there's plenty to entertain you while you do such as various interesting landmarks, treasure chests, items, and monsters to fight. You will also unlock a long list of dungeons to enter with many of them involving puzzles to solve, hazards to dodge, and arenas to complete in order to progress. In total, I had unlocked 13 dungeons after completing the main story and I believe there's an additional one that I haven't got yet. Some are longer than others but I always enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny and befriending as many monsters as I could.
Speaking of which, befriending monsters adds them to your party for your current outing and you can have more than one join you at a time as well. Instead of befriending them, you can choose to simply capture a monster which is usually a little easier. However, if you choose to befriend them instead by giving them items that they enjoy then they will move into a barn on one of your dragons. You'll unlock 5 dragons in total with each containing a plot of land. On each of them, you can build 2 barns and then even expand those barns to be 3 times their original size; allowing you to house dozens of monsters at once.
Increasing a monster's relationship level will eventually allow you to command them to do farm work like in previous Rune Factory titles. This means you can choose how much time to spend tending your farms or fighting monsters as long as you keep your monsters happy.
The combat itself is pretty simple but when faced with many difficult enemies, it can become exceptionally challenging such as when I was stuck in a hallway with darts shooting out of the walls and bulls charging at me constantly. To tackle dungeons, you can level-up your character to increase their health and rune points, create better weapons, switch up your weapon type, craft better defensive equipment, and cook something to boost your protection against ailments. I often found myself swapping between fists, short swords, and magic depending on the enemies that I was fighting. Another enjoyable quality of life improvement is that you can equip a tool and a weapon at once which allows you to easily swap between them depending on what you're doing.
Additionally, you can also customize your "L pocket" which is basically your quick access menu. Pro tip: if you often use healing items and weapons in battle then it's a good idea to pin them and consider removing other item types so that cycling between them is easier.
After a hard day of fighting, you're free to spend your time with leisurely activities such as talking to villagers, completing quests, fishing, tending to crops, collecting wood and stone, and crafting items. Rune Factory 5 introduces the ability to automatically pick up items as you walk over them which is a game-changer for picking up chopped wood and grabbing all of the grass in an area by just running around. On top of that, you can place all on-hand lumber and stone in a special bin in one go while freeing up your inventory space immediately and saving you time. Accessing stored items is a breeze, too, since you can swap between multiple inventories easily when crafting.
Cooking and creating weapons, equipment, and health potions can be very rewarding because there's a solid amount of variety. I still get a kick out of eating a recipe bread and discovering what new recipe I've unlocked, especially when it comes to the cooking ones. Some ingredients can be found by visiting different shops in town and checking out their wares. Many of them have a pretty unique look to them such as the big ship outside Lackadaisy restaurant and the tall building of the Crystalabra shop. There's even a detective agency that has its own request board although it doesn't seem to actually give you investigations to complete which is a missed opportunity.
Getting around town and exploring dungeons is made fairly easy through fast-travel which allows you to get to key locations quickly although the overworld map could do with more fast-travel spots, especially sprinkled around the east.
One thing I should touch on before I wrap up is that I've read of people having major framerate and crashing issues with Rune Factory 5 after its initial release in Japan and for the most part, these issues seem to be fixed. I did suffer the occasional framerate problem when there was a lot going on but it was relatively rare and I never had the game crash on me once.
Rune Factory 5 delivers an addictive mix of farming and dungeon crawling. Although it doesn't leave a great first impression, if you stick with it then you'll spend hours exploring memorable dungeons, befriending lively villagers, and growing your crops all year round.
- + Some excellent quality of life improvements that I hope stay in the series
- + Enjoyable writing and lively characters
- + Solid variety of dungeons and items
- - Graphics mostly lack texture and detail
- - First few hours can be confusing