Game Review

Rune Factory: Frontier Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Everyone could use a good plough

If there’s one thing guaranteed to liven up a good hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, it’s a bit of farming. There’s many a Zelda game that could have been saved with a bit of ploughing, yet the combination has been mostly ignored by cultivators of digital goods, with only the snack-sized Rune Factory on DS reaching fruition. Now European gamers may chow down on the finally ripened Rune Factory Frontier for Wii, and what a delicious feast of vegetables and animal slaughter it is.

Okay, no animals get slaughtered. Whenever you defeat one with your weapon or farming implement – yes, really – they get returned to the First Forest where they live happily ever after. You’re doing them a favour, see? If you don’t want to return them you can enslave them on your farm instead, as the critters replace the cutesy livestock from previous titles in producing eggs, wool, milk and more.

Despite the addition of combat, plenty of the traditional Harvest Moon elements survive: seasons come and go, crops need watering, animals need tending to and you have to find yourself a wife. Series veterans will feel right at home, but the addition of more exploration and combat elements helps to reignite the recently flagging series.

Other under-developed areas of recent titles get a much-needed boost here, too. The script is noticeably smarter and sharper than, say, Tree of Tranquillity – although that’s damning with faint praise – and there’s far less of the awkwardness about character movements. It’s also worth saying that Rune Factory is one of the more beautiful games on Wii, with a great palette and fantastic design, not to mention the well-drawn animated cutscenes and portraits. There’s a lot of the traditional Harvest Moon character to the game’s design, but it also feels authentic to the fantasy leanings of its combat system. The audio is of a similarly high quality, with some amusing voice acting and soothing yet catchy tunes accompanying you wherever you go.

Although they may seem disparate gameplay types, the farming and combat dovetail beautifully. Growing crops not only earns you money to spend on new weapons, harvesting them in the dungeons lets you restore your stamina, letting you explore further. Defeating – sorry, returning – enemies also earns you materials you can use to improve your tools and weapons. Stack onto that plenty of skills to improve, from cooking to chemistry, special attacks and magic weapons and you’ve got a streamlined battle system that’s surprisingly enjoyable.

There’s no combat above ground, meaning you always have the option to remain on your farm and relax a bit, but due to good map design you’re never more than a few minutes from the next slice of action. The two disciplines are so well integrated that although you may start out with the mindset of playing only one of the two halves, you find yourself more and more drawn to the other side until you wonder why farming and fighting haven’t been merged before.

It’s not all delicious and healthy, though: within the first couple of seasons you’re introduced to Runeys, one of the game’s major new introductions, and it’s likely you’ll be completely thrown off by them. Essentially, Runeys are magical floating spirits that influence the prosperity of your land: the more of them you have, generally the quicker your crops will grow and the more productive your animals will be.

So far, so fair, but the problem lies in the amount of time you’ll spend organising your Runeys: to maximise one area takes days of game time you’d much rather be spending bashing enemies or dutifully tending to your turnips. It isn’t absolutely essential to your progression to understand Runeys, but their addition is off-putting and does detract from what is otherwise an exceptionally accomplished package.

Conclusion

Rune Factory Frontier is both the best Harvest Moon game of this generation and an enjoyable dungeon-crawler too. It may not have the battle depths of its competitors but the two elements blend seamlessly to create one of the most addictive games on Wii to date. Fans of farming and fighting may not have much to choose from, but it’ll be a long time until something comes along to match Rune Factory Frontier’s quality.

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Game Trailer

MARVELLOUS bring Rune Factory to Wii with Frontier, coming to Europe later this year.

User Comments (21)

Machu

#3

Machu said:

I need to get this, should keep me out of trouble for a while. :)

One thing though... no romance? :(

CanisWolfred

#4

CanisWolfred said:

I've been meaning to get this one for a while now. Not sure what's stopping me...oh yeah, my wallet.T_T

MrWout

#5

MrWout said:

I would really love to go out and buy this game this instant, but something is telling me I better save up some cash because there is quite alot of awesomeness coming this way the next few months :p

Yanagi

#6

Yanagi said:

I'm glad I picked up this game, though I had to travel 45 miles to get it. It's hard to find in my area.

@Machu: Don't worry, there's plenty of the fairer sex to court, even marry. Sadly, all the really hot ones are taken. I so wanted to have an affair with the innkeeper's wife.

cyrus_zuo

#8

cyrus_zuo said:

Cannot help but comment whenever I see RF:F mentioned. I'm in the US, so we got it last year, but it remains one of my favorite Wii games (and I just happened to play it last night!).

If you are trying to figure out what to buy, I highly, highly recommend this game. There is a huge amount of gameplay in the game, but really you can take it at your own pace. I love running through the dungeons with my Golem or a steady wolf at my side, exploring, and of course raising some crops here and there.

The NPCs are some of the most enduring of any game I can remember. I love Mist, the girl next door. Her slightly off-beat and out of touch, but very earnest character is one of many that you can try to woo in the game. The voice work for most of the characters is great, and I found the music to be fantastic.

From crafting weapons, food, and armor, to fishing, farming, and tending farm animals, there is a seemingly endless array of things you can do each day, and that doesn't start to mention the dungeons, which are large and will challenge the best of players.

There were some great Wii games last year, but I said throughout the year that this one was my favorite. If you have the chance to get it, I highly recommend it. Great game that has been lovingly made and is easy to love.

Darkmire

#11

Darkmire said:

This game is at LEAST a 9.5. :p Just kidding, 8 is an awesome score, but for me personally, it's one of the best games of 2009. I love it. I haven't gotten to the second year (yet I'm over 22 hours into it). But I knew about the runeys and basically already have them under control. At least I think so. Zaphod is making me second guess that. But if you ever liked Harvest Moon, this is my favorite game related to the franchise.

RogueTwo

#12

RogueTwo said:

I was enjoying the game a lot until the runey system kick in. It's sooooo slow to pick runeys and distribute them.

Also, I'm amazed how almost all reviews don't mention the loading times. They aren't that long, but they are everywhere. Enter the house, 6-7second, exit the house, 6-7 second, go to the next zone, 6-7 seconds, enter a house in that zone, 6-7 second AGH!!
You end getting used to, but still is very annoying >_<

Highlar

#14

Highlar said:

I've read several reviews on this game, all positive. I finally had a chance to pick it up today. I was in Gamestop, and their New Game sales are still going on. I was idly browsing through the Wii games, and happened to see ONE copy of this game on sale for $20. With a price like that I couldn't pass it up any longer (not to mention this was the first time I had seen a copy in months) and picked it up. I haven't played it yet, but now I am really looking forward to. :)

shake_zula

#16

shake_zula said:

Magical Melody reeeaaally did a lot to put me off these games, but this one looks good. I've always preferred Rune Factory to Harvest Moon anyway, the visual style is a lot nicer. I doubt I'll get this anyway, too time consuming, but you never know

JackMack

#17

JackMack said:

I was literally looking for a review of this 2 days ago! I wound up buying it and I'm glad I did!

Bankai

#18

Bankai said:

The only bad thing about this review is it has a go at Tree of Tranquility, which is actually an awesome game :(

Shiryu

#19

Shiryu said:

The review sealed the deal for me. I'm always on the lookout for the next "Little King's Story", amazon package on the way.

ChaosValentine

#20

ChaosValentine said:

I absolutly love this game, and the ones for DS. But I too have issues with the runey's. I've had this game since the day it came out last year, But I got really busy and didnt really pick up on playing it till recently....Everything was fine till I learned about the Runey's I had been ignoring. Luckly I caught it at the end of Summer Year 1, But I sitll have LOTS of repair work to do.

The game woulda been a 10/10 for me if it wasnt for the runey's. Sadly they drop it to a 9.5 for me, But still thats really good

CaptainDingo

#21

CaptainDingo said:

Rune Factory Frontier is a surprisingly good game.

I've always liked Harvest Moon games, and really, Rune Factory isn't far behind Harvest Moon DS in longevity (I loved how Harvest Moon DS let you level up everything and anything, and let you build and place any buildings you wanted, etc. I still think it's better than Harvest Moon 64, even...).

As for Runeys, I know a lot of people have been struggling with the system.

I've done so much research about them that it's a bit embarrassing, but I can tell you all these few quicktips:

Runeys always grow and don't eat each other at Homestead. When a sector is in prosperity (35+ of all types), the food chain halts and 2 grass Runeys are lost each day. "Grass farms" can be made by having some grass runeys alone with a massive amount of water runeys. Skim grass runeys off, and feed your prosperity zones. Skim water runeys off your prosperous zones to feed the grass farm. If you don't have enough grass to feed every area in prosperity, don't. I have 2 "dead" areas and my crops still grow very fast. I only have to manage my runeys maybe once or twice a week.

Best way to start (in my opinion, some may agree) is to go around and suck up every runey (effectively killing every sector). Redistribute them (if you have enough) to pick and choose a few prosperous areas. Feed them, skim runeys off the top as well as from Homestead, and gradually add more prosperous areas.

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