In the real world, those days where outstanding duties outstrip daylight hours can be exasperating. In the Rune Factory franchise, the onus of being overburdened cultivates a completely contrasting sentiment. Deciding whether to nurture crops, explore dungeons, romance potential spouses, or improve the local municipality feels unexpectedly liberating, thanks to the game’s steady stream of indulging rewards. Unlike reality, in Rune’s cheerful realm, most unfinished tasks wait enduringly and when errors are inevitably made- they’re easily remedied. Mercifully, the series is built around fifteen-minute bursts, ensuring that these tasks won’t interfere with those nagging real-world responsibilities.
Although the recent release of Rune Factory 4 for the Nintendo 3DS doesn’t depart wildly from the broad blueprint forged by previous installments, this iteration includes a number of notable tweaks and additions. Publishing duties have passed from longtime Harvest Moon/Rune Factory collaborators Natsume to XSEED. In the process, the localization is a bit livelier, incorporating the sporadic double entendre and making the townsfolk a little more interesting. For greenhorns who aspire to have green thumbs, Rune Factory 4‘s improved tutelage means the game offers an ideal inroad to the series.
Following the trajectory of other light role-playing games, the amnesiac protagonist is literally dropped from the sky. Cushioning the fall is a benevolent dragon, who mistakes the fallen character for a prince. When the real heir shows up the next day, all parties agree that the player should take on this Prince’s duties, as the t royal needs a reprieve from his leadership duties. As with previous Rune Factory entries, the town hosts a roster of affable characters which players will eventually befriend. Although most of the personalities lean toward the one-dimensional, a few conversations disrupt the trend. The player’s relationship with Ventuswill the dragon is one of the best examples- with your level of rapport fluctuating with each ongoing day.
Compassionately, Rune Factory 4’s doesn’t bombard players with its complete agenda of activities; instead the game gradually reveals its facets. Working the soil is the preliminary enterprise given to players, which begins by clearing and tilling the ground, before scattering seeds. Given three days of time and regular watering, gamers can harvests a mature vegetable can be gathered and deposited in an adjacent postal box- the next day money is automatically deposited in the player’s account. Of course, the perennial turnip is just an introductory lesson.
Before long, players will be cultivating all kinds of vegetation, which form the foundation for Rune Factory 4’s cooking system. Naturally, more exotic fruits, vegetables, flowers, grasses, and staples don’t develop as effortlessly- with most requiring to be planted during particular seasons or needing a catalyst to grow. Enjoyment stems from learning the nuances of the game’s biosystem, from techniques which ensure a bountiful harvest to absorbing how some crops yield renewable resources. Rune Factory 4 continues the control enhancements made to the series, allowing players to stack similar items over their heads or water substantial areas without interruption. The one setback comes when players are followed by an AI assistant. Although helpers can be ordered to give space, too often you’ll find yourself inadvertently giving your subordinate possessions when you just trying to interact with an item on the ground.
For gamers seeking adventure, the game’s dungeons provide pre-made labyrinthines filled with underlings, loot, and the intermittent boss. Here, players are given a surprising amount of autonomy; not only do customary weapons and magic items, but players can even tackle beasts (or signposts) with their gardening tools. Every action in these boroughs and throughout the rest of game increases both weapon and character level- giving access to new techniques and helping to offset tedium. Although items and monsters are randomized, locations aren’t. Ideally Rune Factory would have provided a procedurally generated venue to explore.
Raw ingredients and unprocessed materials grown in the gardens and mined from dungeons become the rudiments for Rune Factory’s additional gameplay components. Once stone and lumber is gathered, players can commission forges and crafting tables to create even more advanced hardware. Accumulating Rune Points through actions allows players to hold festivals, destined to increase tourism. Cooking and item synthesis also vie for a players free time, as do increasing social unions with each town member. Pleasingly, elementary levels of relationship no longer rely on vigilant gifting, now players can boost their bonds with frequent conversation. Ties aren’t just with your fellow humans- domesticated animals can provide fur, eggs, as well as perform basic agricultural functions.
After about six hours of playtime, most of the major mechanics of Rune Factory 4 are made available, giving gamers access to a wide swath of activities. Once this occurs, the title’s virtues will have become evident, as players scurry around the landscape trying to fulfill as many tasks as they can in the course of a virtual day. As a whole, it’s an oddly fulfilling undertaking and much like the procession of tasks which define each Animal Crossing game, proves to be quite addictive. Pleasingly, the level of difficulty is quite scalable as well. Beyond setting the adversity level for combat, players can also opt to receive missions from Eliza, a sentient request box, which nimbly lead players through the game’s minutia. Veteran Harvest Moon/Rune Factory followers, can elect to skip the errands altogether, depending on their own ripened skill set to succeed.
Rune Factory 4 makes the jump to the third dimension smoothly, offering a subtle use of stereoscopic gameplay. Habitually, the game is attractive- offering brief anime clips, well-drawn portraits, and attractive, if smallish polygonal characters. Much like its predecessor, the game can slow down when the screen gets too busy, although it’s largely confined to the bustling center of the city. Sonically, the game mixes contemporary tunes (and a catchy J-Pop opener) with the intermittent retro chip tune, which might fan the flames of nostalgia for Rune Factory vets.
Much like Animal Crossing, Rune Factory 4’s collection of pursuits gel together, forming an addictive combination of mechanics ideal for portable play. Although the fourth entry adheres a little too close to franchise formula, returning players should appreciate the numerous small changes which all add to the title’s enjoyment. For those unacquainted with the series, Rune Factory 4 is a seamless starting point, apt to convert the curious into series stalwarts.