Farm sim games are rather difficult to mess up. Give players a welcoming town full of friendly residents, a field that they can till to make ridiculous sums of money, and a few side activities like fishing or mining to fill in any gaps, and you’ve pretty much got the basics covered. Rune Factory games have always nailed all these elements, but they’ve built their reputation on how they throw in other gameplay elements like exploration and combat to bring things more in line with a typical RPG. The good news is that Rune Factory 5 meets expectations and does everything its predecessors did. The bad news is that it pretty much only does what its predecessors did.
The story picks up with your nameless protagonist blowing into the town of Rigbarth and quickly joining the ranks of SEED, an elite military unit that maintains peace in the region. Trouble is brewing as people have begun disappearing and you’re told that the rune energy flowing from sacred places is weakening, so of course the local captain deems this mysterious stranger as the best person to solve the problem. Aided by supportive friends and allies, you thus set out on an adventure to get to the bottom of what’s been causing all the ruckus and maybe learn something about your veiled past. We appreciate the attempt to give Rune Factory 5 a little more of a story than is featured in the typical farm sim, but it must be said that a ‘fate of the world’ plot like this feels a little out of place.
You’re presented with some evidently very serious problems that threaten all life and wellbeing, yet you can simply ignore this crushing fate for as long as you want. As one would expect of this genre, the gameplay suggests a chill, at-your-own-speed pace of tending to your crops daily and flirting with the locals. Setting out on an epic quest to prove your heroic status is just another hobby of yours, then, and it’s one that you can engage with or not whenever you please. Luckily, this awkward merging of story and gameplay doesn’t get in the way of Rune Factory 5’s overall charm, it's just odd that the entire game’s plot feels like it’s treated more as if it were a side quest. But, let’s be real, who actually buys a Rune Factory game for its story? Gameplay and overall charm is the main draw of these releases, and Rune Factory 5 certainly doesn’t disappoint here.
If you want to, you can choose to play Rune Factory 5 almost as a straight farm sim. Day to day, there are fields that you can till with any crops of your choosing, and it only takes a few days for the harvest to come in so you can make a good chunk of change. When you’re running into town to buy new seeds, tools, or other materials, you’ll naturally run into fellow townsfolk who will greet and converse with you in their own unique ways. There’s quite a diverse cast on offer, and if you’ve taken a liking to any specific villager, you can eventually enter a romantic relationship with them after you’ve gotten to know them well enough. Every now and then, there’ll also be some fun festivals on display where you can participate in some rare minigames and win cool rewards based on your performance.
As you can see, that slow, but always rewarding gameplay loop the genre is known for is on full display here. Every day brings with it new goals, new interactions, and a gradually growing list of chores and activities you can choose to fill it with. Some days it's better to go fishing. Some days are spent tilling and watering a new wave of crops. It’s easy to fall into a nice rhythm with the activities here, and you increasingly feel like a valued member of the local community. But of course, this all only describes one portion of the full game.
Whenever you’re getting bored of the quiet farming life, you can easily swap out your hoe for a sword or an axe and dive into the nearest dungeon for some good ol’ fashioned swashbuckling. There are several different biomes to explore beyond the town limits, each featuring crisscrossing routes, voracious monsters, and plenty of worthwhile loot that you can make good use of back on the farm. Sometimes you’ll even come across a dungeon, offering a more linear and handcrafted experience as you descend through multiple floors of mystery.
We appreciate the openness offered by this more expansive part of Rune Factory 5’s design, but it needs to be said that the design of these environments often doesn’t hold up exceptionally well when compared to contemporary peers. We’re not expecting Hyrule from Breath of the Wild here, but it can be a little disappointing when you get to a new area and find that you can explore every inch of it in about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, there isn’t a ton of variety to find even when you do explore; biomes are mostly flat and dotted with the occasional monster gate or treasure chest, while dungeons are mostly loose collections of rooms with the occasional mandatory fight thrown in. There’s nothing to be awestruck over here, nothing that really grabs your attention and stirs your sense of wonder. Environments are fine in the sense that they manage to fulfill their purpose in the gameplay loop, but it feels like a missed opportunity that the jump to better hardware didn't come with a commensurate increase in the complexity these areas have to offer.
One element that does feel like it got a bit more of a facelift for this new iteration is combat, which focuses on fast-paced, real-time action. There’s a wide array of weapons you can buy or forge back in town, and you can equip a couple of active skills or magic spells to round out your build. Practicing more with a weapon will slowly unlock more attacks with that weapon class, while there’s a nice dodge mechanic that rewards riskier playstyles. Most enemy encounters are simply a matter of mashing away at the attack button and occasionally dodging, but there are some occasional boss fights in dungeons to push you a little harder with their more complex attack patterns. Combat can feel a little clunky in some places, especially in how simplistic and stilted some animations look and play out, but it overall feels rewarding and worth the effort to engage in a fight when you can.
If you see a monster that you especially like, you can then attempt to catch it with a Poké Ball-like catch spell after you’ve worn it down a little, and you can add it to your farm if successful. From here, you can then build a relationship with the monster in a similar way to villagers, and it’ll become more useful to you as you build up your bond. Monsters can do menial chores around the farm to help cut down on your daily requirements, or you can choose to take them into battle with you as additional party members to level them up and give yourself more support for tougher fights. We liked the thrill of finding new monsters and seeing what they can do for you, although they do start to blur together more with time. Still, monster catching feels like a meaningful part of the gameplay here, and we’re happy that this feature made a return.
Nearly everything you do in Rune Factory 5 will contribute to at least one skill, but often several different skills will be affected. Obviously, doing things like fishing or farming will raise their expected levels, but we appreciate the cheeky addition of random skills that you don’t even know exist until you get a notification that you’ve leveled one up. Wake up in the morning and sometimes you’ll level up Sleeping. Open a treasure chest and you might level up Exploration. Get hit in battle enough times and your Defense will eventually go up. These aren’t just there for the memes, either — every skill will contribute some amount to your base stats and make your character more resilient and capable of taking on harder challenges.
What’s nice about this enormous skill system is that it means that there are no wrong answers about how you should spend your day. Sure, you’re technically supposed to focus on progressing the story, but spending a few weeks to work on completing requests and crafting will still net you some meaningful progress. We haven’t made it far enough into the endgame to see if there’s any challenges that really justify fully min-maxing your character, but it’s nice to know that you’re never really wasting your time on useless activities. Everything here serves a purpose; you can play Rune Factory 5 just about any way you want and still get a satisfying experience. That kind of genuine sandbox-like breadth in a game’s design is rare to see and difficult to pull off, but Rune Factory 5 nails it.
One aspect that we felt rather let down by was the presentation, which is disappointing to say the least. The visuals—though not without charm—are rather simplistic and flat. Textures are muddy, models are chunky, environments are flat and blocky, and animations sometimes feel unfinished. It’s not a hideous game by any means, but it’s also not one that we would say has a very fetching art style. The visuals are good enough for purpose, but we would’ve liked to have seen a little more effort put into this aspect of Rune Factory 5.
Unfortunately, the middling art style is then made to look even worse by the presence of serious performance issues that sometimes interrupt the gameplay. Every time you enter a building or step outside, there’s a period of several seconds where the FPS drops to the 10-15 range as the game finishes loading everything in. Even once you’ve passed that initial chugging, there are still frequent instances where dips will happen, sometimes for no discernible reason. Meanwhile, any larger items on the horizon are often subject to some pretty egregious pop in, where whole trees or groups of enemies will simply pop into existence. These performance issues may not be game breaking—you get used to them after a while—but it’s disappointing that Rune Factory 5 consistently feels like it could use a little more polish.
As for its sound design, the voice acting cast is sufficiently hammy and really leans into the quirks of each character’s personality, while the soundtrack is comprised of a relaxing series of chipper and friendly tunes. We would’ve liked to hear a little more variety, as hearing the same tracks ad infinitum while you go about your routines can become irritating with time, but it’s hard to find much to actively dislike about the music here.
One element that does become quite grating however, is how few voice lines your character uses when doing basic tasks. For example, when watering seeds your character only has a repertoire of three or four lines, and often one or two of these will be repeated a few times in a row as you water each seed. It’s the kind of thing that’s charming for the first hour or two, but soon has you going through the settings to turn off voices.
Rune Factory 5 feels in many ways like a Jack-of-all-trades kind of game. It’s an RPG, but it’s far from the best RPG you’ve ever played. It’s a farm sim, but middle-of-the-pack caliber. It does a lot of things well, but none of them exceptionally so. Sometimes that’s enough. Nowhere else will you find an RPG that goes into this much detail on its farming system, not will you find a farm sim that integrates RPG elements so foundationally in its design. Simply put, there’s nothing else out there quite like Rune Factory 5; it may have its flaws, but there’s something to be said about how distinctly it commits to its unique approach.
Even so, it’s hard to say that Rune Factory 5 feels like much of an improvement over its predecessor. Aside from the jump to full 3D graphics—which wasn’t much of a jump and brought with it some noticeable performance problems—this is essentially the same Rune Factory experience that you could get on the 3DS nearly a decade ago. And while we can understand not wanting to fix something that isn’t broken, the lack of innovation here feels like an enormous missed opportunity. The addition of things like same-sex marriage or improved catching mechanics are nice and all, but those shouldn't be the only fruits of such a long wait. Plus, it feels like the cracks in this gameplay loop are becoming more apparent. Rune Factory 5 feels more like a re-release of a game that came out several years ago than it does an exciting new release.
Is Rune Factory 5 for you? Well, that depends. Do you like RPGs or farm sims? If you answered yes to either or both, then you’re sure to find something you’ll love in this release. Even so, it might be worth waiting for a modest sale before you take the plunge. The relaxing pace, RPG elements, and charming aesthetic make this a compelling experience, but issues with poor performance, disappointing visuals, and sometimes clunky gameplay hold Rune Factory 5 back from greatness. If 3D visuals aren’t a dealbreaker for you, we’d recommend you pick up Rune Factory 4 Special first, as it’s cheaper and oddly feels more modern in some respects. Despite flawed execution, we’d still give Rune Factory 5 a recommendation — if its precise and unique genre blend really clicks with you, you'll forgive many a flaw. Just know that it doesn’t truly excel in any area.
I just can't get excited about this game, the trailers that I kept seeing clogging my timeline with pretty woeful animation have fixed my mind that this is a letdown. This genre depends so much on charm, and I found the look of it anything but charming. But I'm sure plenty will get a lot of joy from it and one day I'll find myself having second thoughts and pick it up. But that day is not yet.
Here is hoping marvelous puts out a few patches now that Olive Town is done.
That's about what I would have expected. I love Rune Factory 4 and I'll be picking this up because I want more of the series but I'm not super excited and don't expect to enjoy it as much as RF4. Hopefully they can do a bit more with the next entry if they make one.
@gcunit I gotta say, I was kinda disappointed by this one. I definitely liked it, but it felt rather anticlimactic after such a long wait. With all the behind the scenes issues, I guess we're lucky we got anything at all, though. I'm just hoping that despite its flaws, it finds an audience so they can justify making a follow up that feels like a more proper evolution.
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@BloodyMurder I believe there is, you can find the toggle under the 'stop being a bleeding homophobe and don't date a bloke if you don't want to date a bloke' setting in your brain.
@BloodyMurder That's a loaded statement if I've ever seen it.
@Fizza Previous games made a distinction between "Friendship Points" and "Love Points". I don't think you've ever played these games if you don't know that.
@BloodyMurder Pack it in and take your homophobia somewhere else, dude - preferably back to the 1940s, where it belongs.
That said, I have around £12 in gold points burning a hole in my account, so I think I’ll take the plunge and preorder it digitally. Could not come out at a better time - my partner just came down with the plague, which means in a couple of days I’ll most likely also be ill and need to take a few days off sick. What better game to play through a bout of illness than RF?
this game drops on the same day as kirby here so i'm probably gonna grab this game first and buy this sometime in the summer, still looking forward to eventually playing it tho!
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I bought RF4 two years ago on Switch, and I loved the gameplay loop so much, but hated the lack of gay romance options. So it seems this game has fixed my sole issue that prevented it from scratching all the itches. I will buy it, just not sure when since I got sucked in by Triangle Strategy and have basically neglected all my chores in the meantime. (Unfortunately, unlike in RF, that does matter in the real world lol).
How does this stack up against Rune Factory Frontier? That was the last RF I sunk serious time into and loved it, except the spirit balancing mechanic which eventually put me off playing more. Are there any similar annoying gameplay elements in this one? Are the soundtrack and graphics on a par with RFF too?
Hoping some patches will help some of the performace issues. Still grabbing this while I can as it's likely one of those physical editions that will likely be super expensive and rare down the line.
@BloodyMurder Who hurt you dude? Its the same as real life, you are, are you aren't. I mean are you hearing yourself, skipping the game because you can, not have to, can have a gay relationship, even tho you can date whoever the heck you want, is pretty homophopic.
I have never played a rune factory game before, this will probably be my first at some point. But one thing I can't understand is why the style of the game still looks a lot closer to the 3ds?
Like I get it, its 3d open world looking, instead of its top down camera, but I would have thought after this wait, it would have looked a lot different, even tho I made it sound like its this big issue to me, its not at all, i'm starting to love these sims games, and if the gameplay is good, couldn't care how the graphics look, and the game does indeed, look fun (:
Seem a solid if unspectacular outing for the series. I agree about the visuals in relation to the element of charm. Also the other slight issues.May actually wait for deep discount rather than insta-buy now. Cheers for the review.
Some of the frustrations mentioned in this review are often elements that are common in the same series of games across many genres. I wonder how someone new to the Rune Factory series would rate Rune Factory 5. I will rent the game first and see how it is before purchasing. The art style reminded me a little bit of Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, which is my favorite Wii game (I wish there were more games like this on the Switch)
I preordered the Earthmate Edition months ago, knowing that the game got a lukewarm reception in Japan. I'm hoping patches can help somewhat. Pioneers of Olive Town got a lot better after a few patches.
But even if it doesn't, they had me at "non-gender-restricted romance". Having this option in the last few SoS games has made a world of difference to me. As in, I finally actually care about the whole relationship/lifesim portion of the games.
Welp, think I'll wait and hope there will be a PC port like 4 got.
Game felt like a step down from RF4
I’m a big Rune Factory fan but I don’t know if I’m interested in this one. While it is a graphical upgrade to RF4, it doesn’t seem like it’s better in any way. Does anyone know if characters repeat the same dialogue every day? In RF4, characters would have something new to say almost every day and would have their own non-plot related gossip like an NPC winning an award and so on. This review doesn’t mention if the characters are any fun to interact with.
Those graphics and performance issues are putting me off, I may have to wait for the inevitable playstation 4/5 version. Il watch some YouTube videos on Friday and see if it's bad enough to ruin the fun
This is good enough review for me, both 3 and 4 are among my all time favourites, shame that 80% of new releases have performance issues though.
Will wait for a sale on this one, it doesn't look good compare to Rune Factory 4.
Tempted to wait to see if it gets ported somewhere else tbh.
I ordered it last week, and since I had RF4 Special save data, I got all the bonuses. I'm enjoying it so far, but since it unlocked only a few hours ago, I'm still kinda in the dreadfully slow tutorial. First thing I did was disable the auto-camera. Some real bad lag during some of the early cutscenes, so hope they'll have a patch.
@moodycat If you haven't tried Stardew Valley yet, it is easily the best of the genre. Although I have been playing Olive Town recently, its its not too bad either.
I am not a huge fan of farming games, but I am a huge fan of being gay. I might have to pick this one up to add to my collection of virtual boyfriends.
I wish I could get over the visuals, but I just can't. The last I played was RF4 and every one before it (except for Tides of Destiny), but I don't have much hope for the series anymore. There have been some rough spots in most of the games in the series (you couldn't even make almost any dungeon progress in RF2 until you married and had a kid), but I thought RF3 and RF4 were great games. The pseudo top down look allowed for the environment to look good despite not being in 3D or with a 3D camera. I want to love it, I really do, but unless there's a patch or I hear about some big plot twist or feature that changes my mind, I won't be picking this up.
The state this game is in came after around a year of patches on the Japanese version. From what I have heard the Japanese version was a buggy mess with miserable performance at launch. The English version has all those patches out of the gate and the game is still not quite in a perfect state. I still intend to play the game but I wouldn't be expecting any further patches. From what I have heard the team has already moved on to developing RF6.
Disappointed to hear the performance issues are still present, but excited for this release nonetheless. RF4 was one of those, "fine, I guess I'll try it..." games for me and I ended up sinking well over 100 hours into it. The sandboxy and unique do anything you want (and rarely get penalized for it) gameplay seems to be duplicated in this, and I can't wait to experience that again. The art looks just fine to me and 3D will hopefully be a nice change. Bring on the bachelors!
Well, this review actually solved my problem. Never played RF. But seem like getting 4 is better and cheaper as an entry point. So that'll be what I do!
Bit of a shame since I actually really like the aesthetic of this over 4.
It's always frustrating to see a game with so much potential get held back with technical issues and lackluster visuals. With how much time this game had, it should have ended up better than this. Still looks worth playing, but I'll wait on a sale.
Thanks for the review Mitch!
I am really looking forward to the game as it is my hyped game this year so far.
Think I'll stick with 4 to scratch my RF itch. Nothing about this one looks/sounds appealing tbh :/
@BloodyMurder You're either a vocal supporter or a mortal enemy of the gay community.
"The good news is that Rune Factory 5 meets expectations and does everything its predecessors did. The bad news is that it pretty much only does what its predecessors did."
If a sequel does everything its predecessors did but with updated 3D graphics, I wouldn't say this is bad news at all, especially for a farming sim. I'm not looking for them to re-invent what was already pretty much perfect in Rune Factory 4.
I'm sorta glad I cancelled my preorder for this in favor for Kirby after hearing about the performance issues. I'm definitely excited about the game and still plan of buying it, but here's hoping for some patches (or maybe even a PC release like the recent RF and SoS entries?) before I do.
Really excited to play this game! Visuals and "performance issues" are not really concerns for me. I grew up on NES games where sprites would flicker out of existence and the game would slow down if too much was happening ^_^ So, (almost) everything looks beyond amazing these days lol.
@Snatcher These graphics are way more advanced than the last one though, which actually was on the 3DS. It looks like late Wii games or early PS3 games such as Tales Of Graces, Atelier Rorona, or Xenoblade Chronicles.
@SwitchVogel sounds like you've played the game. or are you just taking nintendo life on their word?
@Retrogamindaddy I wrote this review
@Kainbrightside they made three games for the switch already how much more of a transition do they need
@SwitchVogel so that means you only played it for 10 minutes
@jack3ww Different teams for each game.
@SwitchVogel As someone who's never played a RF game, would you recommend jumping in on this, or should I go for RF4S?
@Andee I'd go for RF4S. Graphics are simpler, but the art style is more consistent and appealing. Plus, all the gameplay is there, and it's a really good introduction to what RF is all about.
This wasn't a bad game at all, but I don't think it surpassed 4; I'd put it just a little bit lower. And considering that it's twice as much for this, I'd say get 4. By the time you're through with 4, and if you still want more, 5 will probably be available much cheaper.
@SwitchVogel yeah I was gonna mention the price point! £28 is not a bad gamble (although it does look right up my alley, I'm sure I'm gonna like it) — I played the hell out of Fantasy Life, and I really dig the variety of genres it offers.
Got the game two days ago for full price, I was SO excited to finally sink my teeth into this series, but I'm gonna ask for a refund.
It's unplayable, frame rate and input lag combined with clunky controls and frustrating ui choices makes it a torture to play and I'm not even the type of guy who usually cares about this stuff (YS IX on switch was one of my favourite games of 2021)
I'm gonna stick to playing Kirby for the time being, but I'm extremely disappointed, I should have trusted the reviews this time around.
@SwitchVogel *****. Sry haha. I got confused didn't realize that. well done. always enjoy you guys' reviews.
I've been waiting for this part for a long time. Farming camera angles interspersed with normal cameras make me nauseous. Bad combat system, animation does not match the environment, like there is no technical art in the team. Some items are immersed in the environment until they can't be found. The model is very low.
The model sinks and jerks, the frame rate drops, the L.O.D. is like having only 1 and 2.
Organizing a house is very difficult. I bought the premium pack and I regret it. It shouldn't be a 2022 game more like 5 years ago, many systems havestmoos ps1 is still better. If I were the developer of this game I wouldn't put this game in my port.
I’ve put in about 80 hours and aside from the crashing (which seems to have stopped after the last system update) I am having a good time. There is a ton to do and craft and the expensive upgrades to shops means you will be in the game play or save scum loop for a while. The technical hiccups aren’t that bad (at least now that the crashing has stopped) and have not hindered my enjoyment of the game. Sure I would like to see it more polished but it’s a step in the right direction to me.
I purchased this game on your recommendation. I loved Rune Factory 4 to death. Here though, I am unable to play the game. It gives me anxiety and nausea. Every time the framerate drops, I shudder a bit. I tried to ignore it and had to take a day off from work because of the headaches it gave me.
This game runs horribly. I am giving emulation a shot, but if it's not salvageable, that's 79.99$ and a sick day down the drain.
I cannot believe this really was released in this state. I won't be buying from Marvelous or Xceed again any time soon.
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