[Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher]
I look up at the clock and see that it is now two in the morning. “But, it was just 9 p.m.,” I think to myself, hastily saving my game of Rune Factory 4 before making my way to bed. “I’m sure it was just 9. And all I did was a little bit of farming. Oh, and then I went running around that one dungeon for a little while looking for more loot. Oh, and then we had that fishing festival. And that was followed by some serious crafting. And then that was followed by a few more bits of story and my trip to the next dungeon. Okay, so, maybe I lost myself for a little bit there.”
Rune Factory 4 is a game of interlocking systems that, taken separately, offer their own entertaining loops of time, effort and reward. Once you staple all of those systems together and offer them as a single game, however, you’ve got yourself a gaming experience that perfectly elicits that “just one more thing” mentality. Thankfully, Rune Factory 4 is more than just addictive. It’s also a lot of fun to play.
For the record, this latest offering from the localization team at XSEED is my first foray into the Rune Factory series. Only jumping onto the 3DS bandwagon a few months ago, it has remained, up until this point, a series that I was always interested in but never able to play. I am, however, a huge fan of Harvest Moon, a spiritual predecessor to the Rune Factory series.
Harvest Moon’s influences can be seen all over Rune Factory 4, complete with a plot of land to clean, maintain and garden, a barn full of critters to take care of, birthdays and festivals to keep track of and loads of neighbors to get to know. Where it strays from those rural roots, however, is in the RPG and questing elements that have been bolted on, turning Rune Factory 4 into a farming sim/adventure game hybrid.
The game opens with the main character unexpectedly being ousted from an airship, only to crash land into the city of Selphia. After bouncing head-first off of an unsuspecting dragon, the player then finds themselves inadvertently named the prince or princess of the land. It’s a bit of an odd way to select a governing official, but in a kingdom ruled by an adorable talking dragon, I find it’s better to not question these things and just go with the flow.
As the new prince or princess, your job is to bring prosperity to the city of Selphia. To do that, you’ll need to get your hands dirty, taking part in everything from farming to dungeon diving in order to stock stores with new items, craft your own goods, draw tourists and, well, just live a happy life.
There’s a staggering amount of stuff to do in Rune Factory 4, yet none of it demands so much of your time that you’ll feel rushed or unable to just sit back and, say, cook fish for an entire day. For someone who tends to stress over the silliest of things, this was an utterly delightful discovery upon wading into the game’s rich buffet of content. There’s loads to do, but none of it is on a timer, like in other life simulation games. Sure, a daily cycle unwinds as you move along, but it’s up to the player what pace they want to set to achieve their goals. The story will continue when I feel like heading to Dungeon X. If I’m low on supplies, I can take a day to grind resources and another day to craft, never once feeling like I’m missing out on anything important due to my more casual pace.
In a given day, there’s was more than enough time for me to work my way through the game’s abundance of activities. The farm is small enough to keep me busy for a few minutes in the morning; tilling, watering, planting and picking to my heart’s content.
After I tended to my animals, it was off to take on some requests from citizens, small missions which, along with experience and supplies, also rewarded me with Prince Points. Those Prince Points could then be spent on making orders, allowing me to do everything from expanding my backpack or room, to getting new supplies in the shops, opening up air travel or hosting additional festivals.
After that, I’d usually interact with some of the town’s citizens, each offering a unique personality and loads of dialogue to be shared. This is also when I’d usually chat up or bring gifts to my love interests in hopes of one day finding true love. The town offers a handful of ladies for me to court (or guys for you ladies in the audience), each with their own likes, dislikes, etc.
Once noon rolls around, it’s time for me to take on whatever big project I’ve decided to dive into for the day, whether it be fishing, crafting, exploring or tackling a dungeon. There’s enough time to do multiple things every day, I just tend to focus on one since, again, the game never pressured me to work as hard, fast and efficiently as humanly possible.
Basically, Rune Factory 4 respects your time as a player, making available numerous activities for you to enjoy and several ways to make said enjoyment more convenient. I mentioned air travel earlier, which allows you to go directly from the town to any destination you’ve previously discovered. Thanks to a handy teleportation spell, getting back home is equally simplified.
None of this would be worth a hill of beans (farming joke),though, if Rune Factory 4 wasn’t fun to play, and I found myself having a blast from start to finish. The combat in the game is surprisingly deep, offering a boatload of weapons, each with their own special abilities to unlock through use. Couple that with a dash and additional abilities like uppercuts, shockwaves and magical spells, and your arsenal is surprisingly fleshed out. You’ll need that variety, too, as enemies come in a wide variety. If I’m being honest, I went in expecting a combat engine that would be little more than mashing on an attack button while running from monster to monster. What I got instead was an experience that goes toe-to-toe with pretty much any action RPG on the market, offering plenty of fun combat and tough boss battles.
br> Even after all of that, I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what Rune Factory 4 has to offer. There’s a lot going on here, and it all blends together quite nicely. The graphics aren’t the best, the 3D effects are useless and I wouldn’t have minded the ability to play some online co-op (though you can party up with up to two in-game characters or monsters), but those gripes don’t exactly stack up in comparison to the bountiful harvest that the rest of the game provides.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted RPG with enough content to sink your teeth into for weeks to come, then Rune Factory 4 is an adventure worth going on.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Neverland Co.
Publisher: XSeed Games