Rune Factory 5 Review – An Addictive Leisure Adventure
Title: Rune Factory 5
Release Date: March 22, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: XSEED Games
Genre: Simulation, Action
Despite being a complete newcomer to the Rune Factory franchise, Rune Factory 5 has shown me the joys of leisurely playing through an adventure at my own pace. It’s an approachable title possessing monumental charm in nearly every avenue possible, even with noticeable performance drawbacks and other potential issues that vary depending on the crowd.
When starting, players choose their character’s gender before saving a girl from monsters, who we later come to know as Hina. Afterward, the main character reveals that they are suffering from amnesia, they’re invited to the town of Rigbarth. Additionally, they become a new member of an organization known as SEED, essentially a group that betters the townspeople’s lives by fulfilling requests, slaying monsters, and the like—standard JRPG directives.
From then on, the world becomes your oyster. The slice-of-life of day-to-day life becomes apparent, and how you spend those days falls on you and you alone. Rune Factory 5 ultimately encourages player agency at its core, with a myriad of mechanics available such as farming, fishing, cooking, and crafting.
The game does a fantastic job explaining everything you can do, and it’s easily digestible. However, the ease of these tasks and their lack of depth can be a turning-off point for players seeking more complexity within their systems.
The general gameplay loop can be perceived as valuing quantity, which isn’t an inherent negative since there’s always plenty to do. Mechanics like cooking, crafting, and even fishing barely require much input from the player. This accessibility makes the title approachable to all types of crowds, including those who have no background with the series.
Farming is arguably the most intricate of the mechanics, though it too is fairly elementary. First, the soil must be tilled, with crops planted afterward. Then, assuming it isn’t raining, you water said crops and provide fertilizer if desired. Soil quality also instills more thought into the otherwise effortless task. Still, it’s superbly addicting. Farming and fishing ate up countless hours of my time since they provided a continual sense of accomplishment.
The gameplay map of Rune Factory 5 can be viewed as a web, where every task impacts the efficacy of each other. For instance, catching fish and farming provide avenues for healing, easing the burdens of adventuring and combat, while exploring the world grants materials for crafting that serve to forge enhanced tools for daily tasks.
The melding of consequence and collision across every facet of gameplay encouraged me to pursue errands that didn’t initially appeal to me. Additionally, the skills for the more mundane actions, such as Walking, seemed meaningless at first before I realized the consistent sense of achievement their increased levels imparted.
Unfortunately, the quantity and ease of mechanics can lead to dullness after lengthier hours of playtime. This realization hit me during the later stages of combat, where it all felt nearly identical to how I was approaching fights from the start. Sure, new tools called Runes aid you in casting spells and other abilities, but they’re more akin to getting toppings on a pizza rather than receiving a whole new pie.
Since combat is one of the more focused aspects of gameplay, I was hoping for more thought to be required for progression, but it mainly felt superficial. The world has varied setpieces and environments, which include dungeons, yet the cosmetic differences did little to mask the hollowness of combat. I did enjoy the agency of journeying on my own; I just wish that there were more stakes in what I encountered other than obvious pathways of enemies way beyond my level.
The town of Rigbarth is where players will be spending most of their time as it contains shops, your initial farming area, and a boatload of NPCs. Story and character events become commonplace and are the heart of the experience since the writing is genuine and delightful. Each cast member is uniquely endearing, with clear personalities and tropes that effectively communicate their relationships with one another.
I gradually grew so invested in some characters that I’d look forward to seeing them interact with other NPCs instead of just with me. I had a blast experiencing these scenes and I believe that the town-life alone is worth playing this title for. Moreover, the romance events are marvelous, and choosing between the bachelorettes is somewhat tricky since they’re all charming. The addition of same-gender romance is also appreciated for greater crowd enjoyability.
During my dozens of hours with this game, the one major issue I had with it was its performance. I’m typically someone who can stomach extensive load times and frame rate drops, but the severity of the latter in Rune Factory 5 bordered on unacceptable far too often. When initially loading into Rigbarth, the game becomes a tad of a slide-show before becoming relatively normal. Additionally, exploring the other regions inconsistently results in brief frame drops that honestly grow frustrating to deal with.
The most troubling of these frame drops happened during a boss battle against an octopus within an ice dungeon, where its projectile attack caused some of the most grievous lag I’ve ever experienced. If you find yourself easily detracted by a game’s performance, you’re likely better off avoiding Rune Factory 5. Performance on handheld mode is smoother than when docked, though the more distinct instances of frame drops still occur.
The soundtrack is an unexpected treat as it manages to be simultaneously upbeat, catchy, and atmospheric. Few tracks are memorable, yet they come together nicely as a package. The voice acting, at least the English dub, is cheesy, but every character’s voice felt undeniably fitting. The graphical presentation is noticeably underwhelming, with character models and environments being lackluster in detail. I never found myself turned off by this meager caliber, but if you’re someone who highly values that trait, the execution here will be wholly disappointing.
Rune Factory 5 is a thrilling, addicting experience boasting countless events and mechanics that will hook you for hours on end. It excels at making players feel accomplished and satisfied with their feats while also providing recurring goals to pursue. Further, its likable, extensive cast aids in the pleasant friendliness of the simulation genre. The over-simplicity of its gameplay ideas and its deficient performance and graphical presentation can disenchant some players. However, if you manage to look past those factors, Rune Factory 5 is a standout Switch release.
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