I remember receiving the first Rune Factory game as a gift, and I was eager and excited to cut my teeth on the hybrid dungeon-crawler/farming simulator. It became an immediately memorable experience. It managed to dabble in both genres effectively, proving that a more involved Harvest Moon (now Story of Seasons) was possible. Rune Factory 5 is the latest entry in the series, with the Nintendo Switch version arriving in North America and Europe in March 2022. However, its initial release was plagued with technical issues, and the PC version of the game isn’t exactly free of them.
Immediately, I noticed several visual errors that resulted in lighting dispersed over character models in large, triangular chunks that would flash in and out of existence. This became a source of pain some hours in, with the light flashing from this glitch proving to be more than just an annoyance. While there are several graphics options available that you can select before loading the game, none of these feel particularly significant. Not to mention textures for outfits on certain characters looking pixelated and extremely rough around the edges. Switching between these options and fiddling with the menus didn’t alleviate my initial issue.
With ports, I never expect anything to be significantly different from its original release – be it PC or console. And this illustrates a lot of issues Rune Factory 5 has. It goes beyond visual issues, but more or less with the structure of the game itself.
Areas feel over-large and populated by unusually large furniture. Most spaces remain empty, which leaves the village feeling barren compared to previous Rune Factory games. It feels like the transition to this new direction wasn’t given enough time to be fully realized. Even buildings in the village lack that certain kind of distinction and charm one might expect from Rune Factory. Everything feels infinitely less fantastical, lacking the soft pastel and painterly look of previous games and charming cottage-core designs. Even certain character designs don’t feel particularly interesting, which is a shame. Because they’re mostly just drawing from the same archetypes already experienced in previous Rune Factory games.
However, what I appreciated most about my time with Rune Factory 5 was the immediate availability of same-sex marriage options. I was glad to know I could pursue any of the bachelors and bachelorettes regardless of the gender of my player avatar. (I decided to marry Murakumo, because of course I did.) It’s genuinely hard to describe it as anything other than just feeling nice, as simple as that sounds. It’s just a good feeling knowing I can be myself in a series that I’ve enjoyed. The lack of this option honestly damped my interest in more recent farming simulators that incorporated a “family building” mechanic. I didn’t enjoy feeling like I had to engage with a system I wasn’t invested in to progress the game. I remember feeling a bit disappointed the Rune Factory 4 remaster didn’t incorporate this option. But I’m glad that Rune Factory 5 allows for it, going so far as to include additional animated cutscenes for same-sex marriages, which are honestly quite sweet.
Admittedly, this feels like the most significant step forward for the Rune Factory series. Yes, the gameplay and visuals don’t particularly stand-out. The gameplay is mostly the same, with players crafting weapons, adventuring, farming, and living out their provincial lives while helping out the locals. But all of these things can be improved with time or subsequent sequels. I suppose I’m someone that’s easy to please. But the same-sex options feel significant to me as a gay man that has been playing these titles since I was a pre-teen. While it may just be the developers catching up with titles like Stardew Valley, it’s an improvement I hope they will keep moving forward. Because this signals a great change for a cult classic.
Rune Factory 5 is available on Nintendo Switch and will release for the PC through Steam on July 13, 2022.