Rune Factory 5 Eating HeroSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

Rune Factory shines for its seamless combination of farming, life simulation, and action combat — it's easy to get caught up in the everyday routine of waking up, watering plants, working on your relationships, and finding goblins to fight. The series started off with the subtitle "A Fantasy Harvest Moon" as a means of marrying the worlds of farm simulation and action games, and it works extremely well.

Rune Factory 5 is the first game in the series to make the transition to full 3D and follows the usual plotline of someone falling from the sky and losing all their memories, save for their name. The player, after being rescued by the residents of Rigbarth, joins the SEED organization as a ranger to help out in exchange for a roof over their head. To test their integrity, the player is urged to interact with the Soul Sphere, which shines relative to the purity of a person's soul. In place of a usual glow, however, the Soul Sphere emits a blinding light, suggesting that there may just be something special about the protagonist's backstory...

Rune Factory 5 Box Art

Rune Factory 5

Bottom line: Rune Factory fans will enjoy the game's switch to full 3D. However, it still has a lot of growing pains to get through.

The Good

  • Engaging characters
  • Intricate farming system
  • Wide variety of weapons

The Bad

  • Limited character customization
  • Poor performance
  • Lackluster storytelling

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Marvelous AQL. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

Rune Factory 5: What's good

Rune Factory 5 CharactersSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

What first struck me about Rune Factory 5 is the sheer variety in the NPCs and their personalities. Characters of all ages and backgrounds live in Rigbarth, making it feel like a real, lived-in town — well, as real as any town in a world where monsters and were-people could exist, anyway. Players are encouraged to talk to the town's residents each day, complete tasks for them, and give them gifts to deepen their relationship with them.

Category Rune Factory 5
Title Rune Factory 5
Developer Hakama
Publisher Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games
Genre Role-playing, Action, Simulation
Game Size 5.8 GB
Play Time 13 hours
Players Single player
Format Download/Game Card
Launch Price $60

Just like the Harvest Moon games that inspired the Rune Factory series, players can marry eligible bachelors or bachelorettes whom they've formed a deep enough bond with. And for the first time in series history, same-sex relationships and marriages are now an option in localized western versions of the game. This is a big step for a game with Japanese roots, and I'm certainly happy that I have options in whom I want to experience newlywed content with, instead of having to slug through relationship-building with characters I don't find as interesting, just because they're a different gender.

Rune Factory 5 Switch FarmingSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

The first thing players are tasked with doing is clearing up and planting on a small plot of farmland outside of SEED headquarters. As I progressed in the game, I enjoyed how deep the farming system was: being able to inquire about what crops are more likely to produce a high-level bountiful harvest, using fertilizer to keep soil healthy, and in turn, using the fruits of my labor in different kinds of cooked dishes.

If you're into farming simulators like Stardew Valley, there is a LOT here to enjoy. There are means to expand the amount of space you have to farm, methods of managing larger areas of farmland through automation, and ways to unlock new seeds so you always have something to look forward to.

Rune Factory 5 CombatSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

Don't worry, action fans, as there's tons for you to engage with as well. There are several different weapon types, like short swords, long swords, dual blades, staffs, axes, hammers, and more, all of which have ways to upgrade them and craft new weapons using the forge. Just like with any other skill, players can upgrade their weapon abilities, which unlocks new special attacks. You can even bond with and recruit different monsters to fight alongside you, which can be brought back to your monster barn to help out on the farm. Being able to craft and upgrade your own weapons gives them a personal touch, and I even ended up preferring homemade weapons to ones I found out in the field.

Rune Factory 5: What's not good

Rune Factory 5 Main CharacterSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

On the surface, the farming and combat systems are thorough and really commendable. However, I couldn't help but be disappointed with the role-playing and simulation aspects of the game. In games where I'm encouraged to name my character and build relationships with others, I prefer to play as myself.

Unfortunately, there were no options to at least choose from a list of pre-set character models with varying hair and skin tones. It hindered me from connecting to characters I was supposed to be befriending, as it wasn't me getting to know these people, but this blonde-haired, green-eyed girl. I would have even taken straight hair if it meant that it would be dark, similarly to how I was able to choose my appearance in Harvest Moon: One World. I'd rather just play as a named protagonist and have no choice in my name, than only be able to halfway personalize my character with a name.

Rune Factory 5 StorySource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

This is my first real attempt at a Rune Factory game, as I previously had a short stint with Rune Factory 4 Special on the Nintendo Switch through Game Trials offered to subscribers to Nintendo Switch Online. I'm familiar with the notion of falling from the sky and losing your memory — it's a tale as old as inheriting your deceased grandfather's dilapidated farm. But after all the insinuation that I was a special type of human called an Earthmate, (who managed to almost blind everyone in close proximity to the Soul Sphere I touched), that has a deep and personal connection with dragons and the earth, I barely saw any development of the story.

Every couple of days, new mechanics were introduced to me, like clearing up farmland, buying seeds and food at the store, and cooking, but the actual story I was interested to learn about — that of my heavenly descent and Earthmate identity — was too slow-moving for my liking. Games like Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Stardew Valley each have minimal story, instead asking the player to focus on their farms, but I was disappointed to get so little of a story I was ready to be invested in during the time I played. Perhaps the story will come eventually, but the slow nature of it made me uninterested in even finding out.

Rune Factory 5 Befriend MonsterSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

Every game that makes a transition to full 3D ends up having some growing pains, and Rune Factory 5 is no exception. There were multiple instances where features a mere 3 feet away suffered from pop-in, and I encountered multiple disturbing scenes where multiple characters' heads tremble and swivel on their necks. The game stutters a lot on Switch too, and overall I found that it took away from my enjoyment of the game.

The game's handling of the camera was also troubling, as the default "Farm Camera" setting has the camera abruptly swing up to a bird's eye view when you walk over farmland, presumably so you can better see your crop tiles. Until I finally figured out how to disable it, the default Farm Camera gave me extreme motion sickness, to the point where I could not play for multiple days at a time. I am grateful that there is an option to disable it, though.

Rune Factory 5: Should you play it?

Rune Factory 5 Sad ConclusionSource: Marvelous AQL/Xseed Games

3.5 out of 5

Rune Factory 5 has a lot of potential, and I'll be the first to admit that it may not be the series for me. I don't think it's a bad game at all, but I am disappointed in how it falls short in areas that similar games have managed to handle. I did enjoy the story concept, and the level of depth in the farming and combat mechanics alone would make me recommend this game to fans of the Rune Factory series. The inclusion of same-sex relationships is also commendable, and I will always applaud representation.

For everyone else, though, I'm not so sure. There are better games on the Switch that incorporate both farming and combat, that aren't plagued by the performance issues or the lacking customization options that I found to be disappointing. As much as I wanted to reach the story development, it slugged on too much for my liking.

Rune Factory 5 Box Art

Rune Factory 5

Bottom line: Rune Factory's intricate farming and combat systems really show potential. However, performance and story hold it back.

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