Things just keep getting better!
Geeze-o-pete, has it already almost been a decade since a new Rune Factory has been released? For a while, there, we were getting a new game either every year or every other year—what the heck happened? Sadly, as much as I’d like to, I can’t tell you the answer to that question. What I can tell you, however (although I’m sure that you know based on the fact that you’re reading this), is that we’re finally getting a new Rune Factory game in the form of Rune Factory 5. While I’m not necessarily sure that it was worth a 10-year-wait, I can very confidently say that I have had a very enjoyable time in the 50+ hours that I’ve played! However, as much as I’d love to cover everything I’ve done so far, my hands are a little tied with this being a preview and all—so let’s just focus on the very begging for now, shall we?
Wait, I Remember This…
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before—you’re playing a Rune Factory game, and the beginning of the story features the main character waking up in a strange location and a really bad case of amnesia. What’s that? You have heard this one? Well, you’re about to hear it again, because that’s how Rune Factory 5 starts out as well! Of course, despite the tiny bit of poking fun, I’m not actually upset by this in the slightest. Amnesiac protags are just as central to Rune Factory games in the same way that inheriting your grandfather’s farm lies within the heart of just about every Story of Seasons game. Furthermore, things do get mixed around a bit, as your character, in spite of barely knowing how to function, immediately gets roped into being a member of SEED—an organization working toward the betterment of the world—and begins their life as a new resident in the town of Rigbarth.
Aside from the fact that the game begins with your entirely unqualified protagonist getting what essentially amounts to a flashy government job, the rest of Rune Factory 5 operates about how you’d expect it to in the beginning. You get to know more about Rigbarth—which is by far the biggest town in any RF game—its citizens, and your new job while also living life as you see fit. Sure, it does take more of a “baby-step approach” to including novel ideas, but I’d argue that providing some semblance of routine in a series like this is more important than throwing in a bunch of novel narrative ideas all at once.
By the Sweat of Your Brow
As I’ve already said, the main focus of Rune Factory 5, more than anything else, is to just do what you want. The trademark Rune Factory leveling system is in place, meaning that literally, everything you do in this game has its own skill level—so, whether you’re into chatting up the townsfolk, slaying monsters, or just sleeping your days away, you’re guaranteed to improve. In terms of actual mechanics, it doesn’t seem like too much has changed from previous iterations of the game—or at least from RF4—outside of Rigbarth actually feeling like a town in terms of size and scope, making it very easy to jump into this game if you have previous experience.
As fun as everything is, however, I can’t say that the game is perfect. The biggest issue that I’ve run into so far concerns the game’s framerate. Being someone who plays a lot of games on the Switch, I can’t say that I particularly care about everything running at a “silky smooth 60fps,” but I do expect the game to consistently maintain a decent framerate—which Rune Factory 5 does not always do. On top of this, the game has some noticeable issues with pop-in—this is especially bad when you change into a loading zone that’s right by your farm—but I’m trying to stay hopeful that that will get fixed in a future update.
A Dance of Dungeons
Another staple of the Rune Factory series is its dungeon-crawling aspect—which Rune Factory 5 does well with right off the bat. While the first dungeon in the game isn’t necessarily eye-poppingly different from any other RF dungeon, RF5‘s switch from a top-down perspective to a more traditional third-person one allowed them to really breathe life into the game’s surroundings. And, while the first dungeon feels very standard when compared to the rest of the series, I was cautious about immediately labeling RF5‘s dungeon-crawling as being “too same-y.” I mean, the world map is by far the best-looking one in the series thus far, so who’s to say that the dungeons won’t get better?
Growing Up Just Fine
So far, Rune Factory 5 feels like a very logical next step for the series overall. It’s made improvements where it saw fit—primarily in terms of Rigbarth and the world map—has offered me many an enjoyable hour, and is just as comfy to sit down with as any other Rune Factory game. While the issues with chugging and pop-in are a bit disheartening, they are by no means enough to deter me from enjoying the game are never bad or consistent enough to get in the way for too long.