Rune Factory 5 combines classic mechanics from previous games with an interesting story and characters but suffers from rough visuals and animations.
Rune Factory 5 is a fantasy simulation and JRPG that combines slice-of-life farming and social structures similar to Story of Seasons with real-time combat systems. Developed by Hakama and published by Marvelous Inc and XSEED Games, the narrative and character backstories make unraveling the mysteries in Rune Factory 5 exciting and rewarding. However, a mixture of poor graphic quality and glitchy character animations give the game a dated feel that doesn’t seem to fit the power and capabilities of the Nintendo Switch console.
The narrative of Rune Factory 5 brings back a classic trope seen in previous Rune Factory games. The main character, who can either be male or female with no LGBTQA Inclusive character customization options, appears outside the town of Rigbarth in time to save a young girl being attacked by monsters. After passing out and being rescued by town residents, it is discovered the main character is suffering from amnesia and must help around the town until their memories are restored. During this time, the main character builds relationships with the town residents, assists the town task force known as SEED, and explores the many strange locations in and around Rigbarth.
Farming in Rune Factory 5 takes more effort and planning than what is required in many farming simulation titles. Players will start with a plot of land behind the SEED building and will need to complete tasks posted on the quest board to obtain needed farming tools and seeds. While a handful of basic seeds will be available for purchase at the General Store, players are encouraged to start reaping what they grow for seeds right from the start of their farming venture, with high-earning seeds like Tomatoes and Toyherb a grind to amass in early gameplay. Players will also gain access to a Farm Dragon early in the story. This dragon houses additional crop fields and locations to store tamed monsters.
Players will spend a good deal of the day battling monsters in areas outside of Rigbarth, and in dungeons found in ruins within the town. Combat is set in real-time, offering numerous weapon options to master. The combat mechanics are simple and reminiscent of older Kingdom Hearts games, with the “B” button used for general attacks, and the “X” button offering a more powerful attack. Players can also hold the “B” button once reaching the required skill level with a weapon to perform a charged attack. While the difficulty levels of the enemies vary depending on the location they spawn, players will often find themselves battling several opponents at once. Despite Rune Factory 5 offering a lock-0n feature, it doesn’t work as well as other combat-driven JRPG games, making it easier to button mash through a swam of enemies, rather than risk attempting combos or more powerful moves.
Building relationships with the romantic candidates living in Rigbarth is an important part of gameplay progression and includes both the romanceable characters and general NPCs. Rune Factory 5 offers LGBTQA-inclusive romance options, allowing players to date any of the romanceable candidates, regardless of the main character’s gender. While this is an important step for AAA farming simulation games, Rune Factory 5 does have an issue with the age range of romanceable characters. While ages are never explicitly stated, the main character and numerous dating candidates appear to be very young. While there are a few characters that appear older, they seem to be substantially above the dating age of the main character. Because the player can date, marry, and have children with these potential partners, the age ranges and gaps create awkward progression which could leave many players uncomfortable.
However, the biggest setback for the English release of Rune Factory 5 is the graphics and animations. While the 3D character models are detailed and crisp, players don’t often get to see them outside of walk-cycles, as Rune Factory 5 replaces animated cutscenes with 2D static images of characters during interactions. Additionally, the animations of the main character are often glitchy, with the character model sliding along the grass if they equip a farm tool while running, or clipping through objects scattered around the town and in buildings. Because the game has already been out for a year in Japan, it is frustrating these types of glitches have made it through to the English release.
The landscapes of Rune Factory 5 are also problematic, with distant mountains seen as lumpy, textureless shapes in the background, and water appearing as a flat blue with minimal animation. While these areas likely wouldn’t have been as noticeable on the Nintendo 3DS console, they are glaring on the large OLED Nintendo Switch screen, and are even worse when put up on the TV. The lack of textures and detail is especially noticeable when exploring outside the town of Rigbarth, with areas blending together regardless of where the player is traveling. These visuals will likely be a disappointment for those looking forward to the same graphic quality seen in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.
Despite this, Rune Factory 5 offers a surprising amount of detail in its level building, farming progression, and combat systems. Players who enjoy simulation games with in-depth mechanics will likely find the complex system of upgrades and growing requirements in the game satisfying. Rune Factory 5 also offers some of the best character backstories in a Marvelous/XSEED game since Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, with each character possessing an intriguing and rewarding story. Because of this, fans of social sims and visual novel-style narrative progression may find each story rewarding and fulfilling. Rune Factory 5 is a good fit for longtime fans of the Rune Factory series and could be a fun way for slice-of-life gamers to combine enjoyable combat with the relaxation of farming.
Rune Factory 5 releases for the Nintendo Switch in North America on March 22, 2022. Screen Rant was provided with a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.
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