It’ll probably still be better than Rocky V
There was a brief period of time where it looked as though the world might never see another Rune Factory game. Neverland, the developer of the popular spinoff series, declared bankruptcy in 2013 following the release of Rune Factory 4 for the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, it would be nearly six years before we got any news on a continuation of the franchise when developer Marvelous announced Rune Factory 5 was in development for Nintendo Switch. Three years and some change later, the game is about ready to hit store shelves in North America, but you may want to temper your expectations.
Rune Factory 5 takes place in the town of Rigbarth, where your amnesiac hero is welcomed to join the team known as SEED until they get their memory back. SEED is responsible for the town’s protection, and as a soldier of SEED, it’ll be up to you to defeat monsters and complete quests for townsfolk while also growing crops and making friends with the locals. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from the Rune Factory series, just with more were-people and the curious feeling that Marvelous and Xseed Games are about to release another farming game with slipshod production values.
Last year, the developer released Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town as part of the 25th-anniversary celebration of the Bokujō Monogatari franchise. While it was extensively patched following its release, the game at launch was something of a letdown in a variety of ways. Two hours with Rune Factory 5, and I can’t help but shake the feeling we have another game that’ll be a lot better after it’s seen a couple of updates, even if I know not everything can or will be fixed.
And let me just make something clear: I am well aware that the worst part of any Rune Factory or Story of Seasons game is its opening two hours. Nothing exciting happens in these games in that timeframe. For the most part, that’s the amount of time it takes for the game to teach players the basics while also having them complete menial tasks like “put a turnip in the shipping box” or “introduce yourself to everyone in town.” Rune Factory 5 doesn’t rock the boat in this regard, as the opening two hours are as slow and monotonous as any prior game in the series.
Because I’m restricted to talking about these opening hours only, I don’t really have a lot of nice things to say about it. Character movement is pretty loose, villagers haven’t had a chance to make any sort of an impact beyond their opening introductions, the farming is still in its elementary stages, and I’m still getting used to the controls and menus, which unfortunately are not as intuitive as they should be. Switching between your different farming tools requires too many button presses, though maybe I just haven’t figured out a shortcut for everything yet.
Combat is, at the moment, nothing more than a simple one-button hack’n’slash. It works fine for what it is, especially given the ease of the game’s first dungeon, but far more interesting is the potential of the rune actions. These are special abilities that can supplement your standard attacks. Unfortunately, I only gained access to one of these rune actions in the first two hours and it was for a style of sword I chose not to equip. If you have played any past Rune Factory game–or paid attention to the trailers issued by Xseed in the build-up to this game–you know there is much more to the combat. Unfortunately, that’s all beyond what I’m allowed to talk about here.
What I can talk about, however, is just how chintzy everything feels here. The first Rune Factory for consoles, Rune Factory: Frontier for the Nintendo Wii, had its issues, but it also had a world that felt authentic with little details that added to its charm and warmth. Rigbarth lacks any sense of warmth or charm. Despite its bright colors and heavy strokes of pink, it feels more like a set than a place that’s lived in. Looking beyond the low-quality textures that are found all over the place, I’m just not vibing with how everything was put together here. It feels very first draft in its design. There are framerate issues, but they’re not as bad as what I’ve seen made out on social media with the original Japanese release.
But that’s just my feeling after the first two hours, which, as I stated above, I am already aware are the worst hours of any Rune Factory game. There is a great deal left ahead of me with more monsters to defeat, more crops to grow, and more guys to pursue romantically. Plus, there’s the whole mystery of what my character’s deal is. Hopefully, the next several dozen hours I’ll be spending with it will have me looking at the game in a better light. And if you need some sort of positivity to take from this impression, know that I’m really digging the music I’ve heard so far.
Rune Factory 5 releases in North America on March 22, 2022, exclusively for Nintendo Switch.