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Review: Rune Factory 5 Does the Series a Disservice

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Review: Rune Factory 5 Does the Series a Disservice

Rune Factory 5 is a perfect example of a game that, at a glance, has everything you’d expect from an installment in the series. There’s an amnesiac hero with a connection to nature. You have dragons. People from different fantasy races appear, some of whom you can even smooch and seduce. There’s farming and fighting. However, it’s also unfortunately a bit hollow and marred by technical issues. It’s like the developers at Hakama were told what the game needed to be and shown videos of Rune Factory 4, but didn’t really grasp what makes the series special.

Like Rune Factory 4, the fifth entry begins with a person who seems to be someone notable and influential. However, circumstances result in them losing their memory almost immediately. They’re taken in by an authority figure of the town where they wind up and placed in a position of power in the community. In this case, players end up being a member of Rigbarth’s SEED force. They’re essentially an organization that helps people around by dealing with dangerous situations and monsters. However, because you’re special, you also can manage this division’s farm and issue Directives that result in festivals being held, storage increases, and getting licenses to craft. This means when you don’t have a case that will send you to a dungeon, you’ll be talking to people in town, running errands, and growing crops.

Review: Rune Factory 5 Does the Series a Disservice

Right off the bat, Rune Factory 5 is going to give people a sense of deja vu. In the past, every mainline Rune Factory game had its own gimmick. The original set the pace. The second entry focused on the generational aspect. The third involved transforming into a monster. Tides of Destiny had two characters sharing a single body. The fourth involved being “royalty” while accomplishing your goals. I’m not going to get into any spoilers here! However, there are a number of story beats and elements that are very similar to Rune Factory 4. If other elements were executed better, this might have been forgivable. But unfortunately, they’re not.

One such flaw is how imprecise Rune Factory 5 can feel. Which is weird, given the amount of control it does offer a player. You can fast travel to set points in town, certain points on the world map, dragons you’ve unlocked, and to floors you’ve reached in dungeons. Which is great! It really helps you engage in activities and progress at your own pace. You can use the L button to pop into your pockets to immediately access farming tools, weapons, items, or other useful things you’ve designated. Everything is immediately on-hand. It’s convenient! You can quickly pick up or harvest items.

But the game is also very floaty. Moving around can feel awkward, and you can overshoot your targets when running, attacking, or performing actions. Upgrading farm tools aside from the watering can or fishing rod doesn’t always feel necessary. I found I could sometimes button-mash to till, water, chop, or hammer faster than the time needed to charge up upgraded tools’ actions for early stages. Not to mention your free axe and hammer can handle any tree stump or rock you’ll find on the farm and tackle mining ore. It meant I really didn’t feel a need to invest in Recipe Bread for farming too often initially.

RF5

This extends to combat. Rune Factory 5 is an action-RPG, like past installments. Normal enemies spawn from gates. Which means defeating them stops the flow of foes. You have magic, provided you stumble upon, buy, or earn spells. But the amount of time to cast and reach enemies and their power means they aren’t very viable. Standard weapons are better. And the strongest “fast” weapon you have tends to be the best. (Even if it is tied to an element.) Which means investing in Weapon Recipe Bread for those crafting recipes is an easy way to break the game. There are no “walled off” areas. You can explore any part of the huge map from the beginning. However, you’ll quickly hit barriers in the form of enemies you won’t deal any damage to who are about ten steps away from ones you can wipe out in one or two hits.

But what really got to me about Rune Factory 5 is how cumbersome the little things can be. When you leave your room every morning, it will take a few minutes for things like crops and your health/RP bar to “load up.” Especially on festival days, when confetti is raining down. The initial load makes it feel like you literally drag yourself out of bed. You get outside. Then, you have to wait 10 to 15 seconds for items in your field to “pop in” and populate. There are also frame rate issues.

I felt like I would overshoot targets because the game perhaps was trying to catch up to what I was attempting to do. This becomes a problem when trying to dodge opponents’ — in particular bosses’ — various attacks. Dashing can feel like you’re trudging through mud. It seems like there’s no collision detection sometimes, which means your avatar could play hide-and-seek by literally standing inside of another character like Palmo. (Which I mean means you won’t get trapped somewhere, I suppose.) You can lock onto enemies, but I’d find it would switch my target to whichever foe would be closer to me without my input. It’s not great if you’re trying to take out the gate first so additional monsters don’t spawn!

Palmo

It can also be extraordinarily time-consuming to get things done. I’d attribute this to it being “too” big, too empty, and having terrible monster drop rates. The dungeons are generally fine, though a bit boring since there’s no real puzzle-solving or thought to them. The town and world map, on the other hand, are overly large and empty. It feels like you’re running forever across dull, empty expanses to get anything done. Once you finally reach a destination to perhaps fight monsters for materials, good luck getting them! I’d need to typically fight at least ten of one kind of creature if I wanted to get one of their typical drops. With bosses, I would maybe get their item once every five times after I’d return.

Which made me feel discouraged from casually following a daily routine. Especially when I hit the endgame and post-game. Let’s say there are quite a few reused assets throughout Rune Factory 5. Not to mention that the bosses aren’t terribly challenging, so the prospect of returning to them isn’t exactly thrilling. If you don’t really need their materials for crafting, there isn’t much of a reason to repeat cleared encounters.

As for the love interests? Some can come across as bland, one-note characters. Martin is a workaholic, and one of his first encounters involves berating Ryker for being a halfling. Reinhard is the knight devoted to his liege. If you spend enough time with them, there can be a bit more nuance. However, I feel they aren’t as well actualized as the Rune Factory 4 romance options. This made it more difficult for me to connect to them.

But hey, at least now you see map markers letting you know when an event with one of them is available. That helps you romance them faster! Though heart events do play out over multiple days and locations in this entry. So if you accidentally start one for a character you aren’t fond of, you have to spend a few days clearing it until you can pursue someone you do like. Say you finish Reinhard’s first event, which ends in the restaurant. But you don’t notice Fuuka’s first heart event opened up the second it was done and is a few steps away. You could unintentionally walk into it, locking you into needing to complete that over the course of the next in-game week before you could continue a love affair with someone else.

Review: Rune Factory 5 Does the Series a Disservice

If you need a farming-and-fighting fix, Rune Factory 5 is an option. It just isn’t the best one out there. It’s living in the shadow of its far superior siblings. Even if patches fix all of the technical issues, it would still feel uneven. I do think that, if we get a Rune Factory 6, it could be better and build off of this entry’s missteps. There were times when I enjoyed myself while playing, but going back to Rune Factory 4 Special for another run would be a wiser choice.

Rune Factory 5 is available for the Nintendo Switch.

Rune Factory 5

5

If you need a farming-and-fighting fix, Rune Factory 5 is an option. It just isn’t the best one out there. It’s living in the shadow of its far superior siblings.

Food for Thought
  • There are no season-specific fields, from what I can tell. Every one you have will correspond to the current season. All crops grow in all seasons, though they have their own specialized ones.
  • Move your wardrobe once you get to your room, otherwise Palmo can’t send furniture directly there.
  • Fleecy is the cutest variety of Wooly.
  • Always load up on as many quests as you can take from the board, as you'll likely accomplish some without thinking about it.
    If you want to know more, check out Siliconera's review guide.
    Jenni Lada
    Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.