Rune Factory 5 (Nintendo Switch)

Rune Factory 5 is a game that’s potentially so big I didn’t feel like I could cover it alone. So, much of this review is based on my wife’s observations (she sunk over 200 hours into Rune Factory 4 Special). Join us “on a journey never-ending” as we take a look at the latest from Marvelous (XSEED).

The game grabbed us early with its jazzy (think Runbow) intro. It’s filled with lyrics (subtitled) that are simultaneously encouraging and trite—”Trust that your heart will always guide you true.” But enough of that, let’s dive into the game. It won’t be a quick dive.

Rune Factory 5 is the variety of game you can be a dozen hours into and feel like you’ve just scratched the surface. This slow start was a common observation with the Story of Seasons games from which this series spun off. Again, its predecessor claimed over 200 hours in the Gould household! Will this latest entry be similar? Maybe. But first, you’ll want to shake off the feeling of familiarity if you’re experienced with the series.

Once again, you wake up with amnesia. Sound familiar? Unless you also have amnesia or are unfamiliar with the last game, it should. There’s a lot of familiar stuff (for better and worse). You’re given a place to live and a farm to grow. The latter is quickly overgrown, so you’ve been warned. You’ll cook, fish, and help people around town in scout fashion.

As for the people, you’ll talk to them a lot in an effort to earn their friendship and, potentially, their hand in marriage if you can make them fall in love with you. You can have them fight alongside you outside of town (more on that in a bit). But they’ll be so busy early on that you’ll be better off using domesticated animals. 

Of course, there are many tasks the busy townsfolk want to get done. Regardless of the number on any given day, you can, in essence, choose whatever you want to do. Collect, craft, visit shops, join special events like tournaments, and more.

We should note that many of the characters are light on clothing. Rune Factory 5 certainly earns its teen rating with “mild suggestive themes,” something parents will wanna keep in mind. Additional outfits are available as DLC.

Outside of town are dungeons to explore, things to collect, and monsters to fight. Even regular animals can attack, so you’ll need to decide how to handle them. Do you defend yourself for part upgrades or try to domesticate them, potentially having them fight at your side? They are cute, which may tip some players’ balance to the latter.

The battles aren’t particularly difficult at the start, but the dungeon bosses, as expected, up the challenge. We’ve found the controls a bit sensitive, so lining up attacks consistently may present a challenge in and of themselves. There’s a tendency to move too far in any given direction. But having CPU-controlled friends by your side lessens these gripes.

We must repeat, Rune Factory 5 isn’t a short game. It’s a process, and you’ll have to dedicate yourself to the tasks that’ll keep you busy. So, the game certainly lives up to its claim that you can “spend hundreds of hours living and adventuring in the world of this fantasy RPG.” But, at least if you get into it, you’re unlikely to be bored.

We’re slightly mixed on how approachable this game is. We’re slightly mixed on how approachable this game is. Being new to the series (Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale aside), the amount to take warrants paying extra attention. Sizable gaps between plays are also inadvisable. However, my wife feels that even if you haven’t played a previous Rune Factory game, you’ll still be able to figure it out as you go. There is an online manual you can access in-game.

Aesthetically, Rune Factory 5 is a bit underwhelming. It forgoes the top-down perspective of its predecessor for a third-person view. This style looks somewhat dated and vanilla compared to its contemporaries while also making the game quite choppy. This choppiness could be a mild or a major annoyance, depending on your sensitivities. The music is alright, though the town tune sounds a little too close to Kakariko Village from Ocarina of Time.

Rune Factory 5 is a good game for series fans, but we’d recommend the last entry over it. We found that game was easier to control and preferred the top-down view. But, of course, you can still pass all manner of fun time with this sometimes slow (often choppy) installment.

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