Rune Factory 4 Review
Sometimes I wonder what is so appealing about Farmville that so many people waste their time at work, home, etc, growing crops and annoying their Facebook friends with requests daily. Then I play a Harvest Moon or its more action-focused cousin, Rune Factory, and remember why I would waste hours tilling, watering, and harvesting a various assortments of crops. Now, the fourth installment in the Rune Factory series has been released and how good is it? Well, the short version is, it’s the best Rune Factory to date. But I’m sure that’s not all you want to hear, so let’s dive right in.
Rune Factory‘s first title for the 3DS has arrived with a bunch of new features and improvements that enhance the overall experience of the game and honestly greatly changes the way you play it. I have always loved the Harvest Moon series for its perfect balance of farming, building relationships, fishing, and raising animals. However, Rune Factory has always seemed like it has never truly reached its potential, mostly due to the fact that its addition of dungeons and combat have been wacky and not fun.
Going into Rune Factory 4, I expected no better and was surprised to find a revamped and much more refined combat system. With your equipped weapon mapped to the B button and skills/magic mapped to the X and Y buttons, there is the ability to create simple and effective combos in a much more engaging and fun system. Each weapon and magic feels unique, having certain monsters they are more effective against and others they aren’t. It also helps that the dungeons are varied and increasingly complex as your progress, culminating in rather difficult boss battles that can sometimes take upwards around 15 to 20 minutes to beat.
The classic farming that you know and love from this series is back and just as good as you remember. Without spoiling the story too much (yes, there is actually a story this time around), you are an amnesiac prince/princess of the town, Selphia. As the leader, instead of just a citizen, you have many more responsibilities than just keeping up the local farm. The citizens that you will be building relationships with are all interesting and have their own unique personalities, giving you tasks from time to time that they want you to complete for them. There is a mailbox that gives you daily quests to complete that at first acts as a tutorial and then becomes increasingly harder to complete, like raising everyone’s love for you to a certain level or harvesting three different types of flowers. These tasks will be your bread and butter as they give you many useful items and Points need to give royal orders for the city. These orders are also a new addition to the franchise. From creating festivals to further developing the city, these orders give you more control over everything that happens in your game. Sure this may sound like a lot of the changes that came to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but Rune Factory 4 feels so much more like a game that you can pick up and play anytime without the guilt of coming back to resentful, neglected citizens.
Visually, the game is very similar to the previous installments. Actually, when you jump from the first game to Rune Factory 4, it was hard to tell that 6 years has passed and there was a switch between handhelds. Technically speaking however, there is no noticeable issues or loading that the player will be aware of. When each character is introduced for the first time, they get their own anime-style short cutscene which you can replay at anytime in the castle. Speaking of the characters, I’m sure you’re interested in your potential lover. Like previous games, you have the option to settle down and raise a family with one of several pristine and perhaps too good-looking bachelors and bachelorettes. From the cliche tropes of nerd to ditzy to cute yet possibly underage, each character is unique and players might even find it hard to choose. But even once you find your perfect match, all the rest of the wonderful cast will continue to shine as each person plays an integral part in this story of regaining your memory.
From a totally revitalized combat system to the additions of orders and tasks, Rune Factory 4 is an almost complete improvement over previous games in the series. Despite the downgrade of fishing and no noticeable visual improvements, this still is the premier Rune Factory game for veterans and newcomers alike. For those strictly going into this game for the farming mechanics and not interested in a story or Zelda-lite dungeons, the Harvest Moon series is still the best farming sim out there. But if you’re looking for a more action-oriented alternative to games like Animal Crossing and Farmville, Rune Factory 4 will give you hundreds of hours of addictive, play-when-you-want gameplay.
Rune Factory 4 was reviewed with a digital copy of the game provided by XSEED Games. The team and I appreciate XSEED allowing us to review this game and are thankful for their amazing support.