It can be difficult to review games, and Rune Factory 5 is certainly one of those cases. Almost everything is flawed: the troublesome combat system, uninspired graphics, poor framerate, annoying music, and a subpar farming system. BUT someway, somehow, it’s hooked me, and it will likely swallow you up as well.
So is Rune Factory 5 worth your hard-earned cash? Well, I will let you decide, but these are my thoughts.
A swell cast of characters to meet
Rune Factory 5 is a mix of an action RPG and a farming simulator. One day, you’ll be fighting a bunch and the next, you’ll be planting and watering plants and vegetables. As a SEED officer, you are a defender of the small and sweet town of Rigbarth. The residents that you’ll get to know along the way are charming and have wonderful personalities. You’ll gravitate to a select few, but overall, Rigbarth is bustling with each town member carrying out their day-to-day life. It’s honestly neat how they go about their own lives.
As you keep talking to town members and finishing quests for them, you’ll increase your friendship to the point of a possible relationship. But, the journey is far too slow for its own good. There aren’t many long scenes to get to know each character like in the Persona series, and it’s not very in-depth. There are some moments that the character shows their passions and asks you a few questions, but other than that, nothing truly stood out in my experience of the game.
What I do like, however, is the amount of attention XSEED Games added to the same-sex relationships in the game. As a bisexual man, it’s neat to me that we have the option to have a partner of either gender. It helps create stories between your protagonist and the character that anyone can be engaged with, whether they’re gay, lesbian, or straight. XSEED added a new scene and changed up the dialogue to make it sound more gender-neutral. It’s an option many have asked for, and Rune Factory 5 delivers.
The disappointing combat
However, that’s one of the very few positives I can give. Let’s start off with the combat. In a third-person perspective, you are dealing damage with a basic combo, some special moves, and spells. There are quite a few weapons to utilize throughout the game and you can craft your own if you feel adventorous, but repetitiveness comes close behind. When you fight, you can lock on (which is a great new feature for the series), but it still feels incredibly stiff.
Swings of your sword can easily miss foes, and it’s not as smooth as the action RPGs you’re used to like the Kingdom Hearts series, The Witcher, or Dragon Age. It feels very loose and not refined enough to be a satisfying combat experience. The bosses are also incredibly easy more often than not.
What makes bosses and field enemies somewhat harder to deal with (in an unintentional manner) is the poor frame rate. When many enemies gang up on you, it chugs badly. It’s playable but only just. It gets even more hectic if you have a full party of four with the townsfolk by your side. The combat needed more time in the oven and way more polish to be an enjoyable experience on the Nintendo Switch. You may want to wait for a possible PC port if that ever becomes a thing.
Unfortunately, the farming segments also feel unpolished. Placing seeds and watering them is a downright chore. Switching between equipment like the rake and water bottle is a clunky experience, and you’ll need to boot up the menu time and time and time again.
Here’s a scenario you’ll be faced with. You see an empty plot of land, you need to rake it, and then place seeds (that you’ve likely bought from the store) into the ground. Next, you’ll have to water them. You’ll also want to pick up random items off the ground like stones, weeds, and branches, so your farm stays immaculate. Rather than an enjoyable experience, it becomes a chore.
Part of what makes Rune Factory‘s rival series Animal Crossing so much better is that you can see the changes you’ve made and look back fondly at the work. In Rune Factory 5, you’ll see all manner of annoying items on the ground every day. It doesn’t account for your beautiful garden staying tidy, and the controls aren’t as snappy as Nintendo’s mega-successful franchise.
Your input with Rune Factory 5 is super iffy in parts when it comes to farming. In quite a lot of instances, I was stuck in four squares of farming spots. Usually, it goes from one place to another in a snap, but the game does get stuck in certain moments, creating mild frustrations that lead to you wanting to put the game down.
You’ll also need to head over to a water tank to refill your pot over and over again, which can be a nuisance. Managing your bag, which feels way too small for this type of game at the beginning, is also a pain to work around.
It’s time to update your graphics engine
Let’s put it bluntly: Rune Factory 5‘s graphics look like they’re from the PS2 era. For $60, you would expect much more. The textures on the ground are plain, the characters lack animation while speaking in cutscenes, and the overall world has some generic art design. The cherry blossom trees look like cardboard cutouts in Rigbirth, and it’s disappointing. And as we mentioned before, the game suffers from lag, which makes no sense from how the game looks.
However, some elements in the game look great, For example, each building is immaculately designed for its purpose in the town of Rigbirth. Every shop and house look unique and true to the characters that inhabit it. I also love the design of each character featured in Rune Factory 5.
The game will also pierce you with its music. It’s charming at first, but the soundtrack’s lack of variety will make you want to mute the music and put on another JRPG’s score.
The best 5/10 game ever
But, with all of these issues, I still like Rune Factory 5. It’s probably the best 55 out of 100 game I’ve ever played. It’s a relaxing change of pace from all of the “save the world from evil” plots that the genre is filled with. The characters have awesome designs and they’re exceedingly likable. It hits you with missions that are fun to complete. And the lore is intriguing enough to keep you going. Rune Factory 5 is a very cute game, and fans of the series will likely enjoy it thoroughly.
The seedlings of a great game are within; it just needs way more water and fertilizer to grow into a massive hit for XSEED and Marvelous. The addition of a multiplayer mode would be awesome too. Hopefully, Rune Factory 6 will be the title that has great production values and awesome action RPG gameplay that the series longingly needs. The potential is there, Marvelous just needs to grab it.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
Rune Factory 5 Switch Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: March 22, 2022
Price: $59.99, £49.99, €59,99
Game Size: 5.8GB
A charming cast of characters to meet with gay and lesbian representation.
Fun side missions and intriguing lore.
Laggy and disappointing combat.
Farming controls are not refined.
One of the ugliest $60 games on the market right now.
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An experienced freelance writer, Chris has a vast knowledge of the gaming medium. With a Bachelor of Communications degree, he hopes to elevate his writing further. His favorite games are Kingdom Hearts, Beyond Good & Evil, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.