Rune Factory 5 Preview: Signs of New Life

Rune Factory 5's transition to 3D is a bit shaky, but the characters and setting are stronger than ever.

Most farm games let you rest after a hard day’s work, but Rune Factory isn’t most farming games. After tending the fields and helping the local smith source some materials, I ventured into the forest and fought a mystical wolf – who then turned into the missing woman villagers had been so worried about for a week. 

I’ve spent a few hours in Marvelous’ latest, and while the soil still needs some tending to produce a high-quality crop, the early signs are promising.

Rune Factory 5 Preview: Signs of New Life

After a stylish opening sequence, you wake up in the woods outside Rigbarth village as Alice or Ares. Rune Factory 5 introduces same-sex marriage for the first time in the series, though the main character gender binary remains the same. Our hero lost their memories, though some early signs – and an overwhelming reaction from Rigbarth’s Soulsphere, a mystical item that helps protect the village – point to a secret past and special destiny. 

Which is fine. If the Fates insist on afflicting Rune Factory heroes with memory loss every time, at least we’ll get something interesting from it 30 or so hours later.

The opening feels a bit slow and stilted compared to Rune Factory 4, but thus far at least, I’ve grown attached to Rigbarth. There’s a rugged, close-knit feel to this frontier community that you don’t quite get from Selphia and its fairytale doesn’t quite have polish.

You join SEED, a ranger squad dedicated to keeping the village safe from monsters, and that includes providing farm goods and handling requests for the inhabitants.

Rigbarth’s citizens and fellow SEED members initially seem subdued compared to the likes of Dolce, Clorica, and Dylas, but that’s potentially a good thing.

I knew what to expect from Selphia’s residents immediately, but most of Rigbarth’s folk have me wondering what makes them tick – the grumpy carpenter’s apprentice, the timid SEED assistant, the pint-sized commander. They slot less easily into caricatures, which ideally means there’s more room for growth and surprises, and the writing continues to sparkle in every instance.

The preview period covers the first two hours of the game, and it seems most of the traditional Rune Factory mechanics are here in much the same form as always. It’s a relatively simple action-RPG, where you can customize your style using Rune Powers, specialize in different weapon types, and face off against gigantic monsters when you’re not tilling the fields. 

The biggest difference is the world in which you’re doing all this. Rune Factory 5 is the first fully-3D Rune Factory game, and I’m not convinced it was a good or necessary change. Environments are sparse, character movements are loose and imprecise in the field, and it seems poorly optimized as well. 

Exiting a building drops the frame rate exponentially for a few seconds, and it even struggles to keep up with camera movements in busier parts of Rigbarth. Whether it’s by design or accident, even enemy movements seem off. There’s a good five or more seconds between a foe telegraphing its attacks and you being able to flee from them. I don’t think Rune Factory has to be challenging, but half of it is focused on combat. That level of looseness removes any semblance of tension from an important part of the experience.

The voice acting is implemented more haphazardly than usual as well. A few lines in a conversation will randomly be voiced – sometimes in the middle of what’s being said – before it reverts back to silence or sound bytes.

Minus the environments and oddly paced voicing, I’m sure the other issues can and will be addressed before launch on March 22. And that’s enough for me. I’m much more interested in getting closer to the good people of Rigbarth and seeing how their stories unfold, even if the world looks a bit sparse. We’ll have full review impressions in the coming weeks, so stick around.

Contributor

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.

Published Feb. 7th 2022

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