If there’s one noticeable improvement Neverland Co. made to Rune Factory Frontier, it’s the pacing. It isn’t very noticeable at first, and initially it even makes you feel like there’s less to do in Frontier than there was in the original, but it’s there and it’s for the better.
Take the fishing rod from Rune Factory for instance. The first game gave you fishing rod early on. Once I had the rod, I quickly learnt that fishing was a fast and convenient way to make money. Farming and dungeon-crawling took a backseat to my fishing activities. I made a schedule for myself by which I would water all my plants by 10 AM, then fish until my Rune Points were deleted. Then, I would go to the bathhouse, recharge, dungeon-crawl till my RP was down to zero, and then fish some more until my HP was a few pixels short of dry. Same thing over and over, every single day.
It was an extremely tight schedule and one that I took seriously for about a year’s worth of in game time, until I finally managed to snap out of it and see what else the game had to offer. Unfortunately, I was used to spending most of my money on buying health potions and weapons, so I never quite spent as much time with the cooking or forging elements of the game due to the lack of a kitchen and forge until much later.
Actually, I don’t think I got any cooking done at all.
Rune Factory Frontier, on the other hand, doesn’t give you the fishing rod early on. Or doesn’t make it easy to find because 20 hours into the game, I still don’t have one. And I’m actually kind of glad I don’t, because I have a forge, a kitchen, a full barn and lots of crops growing in the Green Ruins in its place. Instead of spending all day fishing like I did in Rune Factory, I find myself tending to my crops, doing lots of cooking and dungeon-crawling, and forging new items all the time to upgrade my stats.
This past weekend, I crafted a straw hat, a neat-looking bracelet and a staff with fire magic. I think I’m going to play the magic route this time, instead of focusing more on a melee setup. It really is a lot more fun being able to experience different aspects of the game.
And then there’s the size of Trampoli as compared to Kardia. There are less people to interact with in Trampoli and the village is smaller than the town from the first game. Again, initially, it feels like a bit of a cop-out, but as you get further into the game, you realize that this is very deliberate. Unlike in Rune Factory, I find myself making frequent visits to the library in Frontier to learn more about the game. The letter system also helps you further your relationships with the various townspeople and the holiday events are lots of fun to participate in.
More people move into town as the game goes on and you start to discover more that you can do with them. The game doesn’t overwhelm you with a gigantic list of activities to pursue all at once. It introduces them to you the more you invest in the game. It’s a smart design choice because it makes for constant discovery.
Combat in Rune Factory Frontier has been improved, too. Since the game encourages you to forge new items, you’ll find yourself having a slightly easier time here than in the first game because your equipment will be better and you gain levels pretty quickly at the start of the game. Oh, and it’s nice being able to see changes in armour and equipment clearly reflected on Raguna.
Monsters are better balanced, too. For example; the bugs in the first dungeon don’t take away a large chunk of your HP like the insects from RF1. The only complaint I have is that the camera doesn’t make it very easy to aim ranged attacks like fireballs. I once stepped into a dungeon and wasted more than half my Rune Points just mis-firing fireballs.
I’m having an absolute blast with Rune Factory Frontier. Emphasizing what I said in my previous feature, story is a bigger focus this time around and alongside the sense of discovery, it completely makes up for the non-portable nature of the game. RFF is extremely addicting and so hard to tear myself away from. My goals for this weekend are:
1. Upgrading my forge
2. Getting rid of all the tree stumps in my field
3. Crafting new armour to help me get through the Green Ruins