Rune Factory 5 Review – Long-Lasting Rough Edges for Great Payoffs

Some games, like The Sims and Animal Crossing, draw you in with the comforts of everyday life, allowing you to easily fit into the mechanics and allowing you to have your own experience. The Rune Factory series embodies this playstyle, blending farming, socializing, and dungeon crawling.

As someone who’s been playing the series since the Seasons Tale spinoff debuted 15 years ago, I’ve always loved how the action/RPG captures a sense of discovery. Whether it’s discovering a new location that offers fresh items and monsters to raise, or learning more about the eccentric people in town, there’s a satisfying sense of progress in the nearly endless options for how to spend your days . Rune Factory 5 succeeds in that regard, and in many ways, it’s one of the better entries in the series. Unfortunately, some technical issues, like poor framerates, and a poorly designed combat and level-up system crippled the experience.

Rune Factory 5 continues the tradition of amnesia plots to drive the narrative. You have mysteriously arrived in the town of Rigbarth and don’t remember how you got there. All you know is that something is wrong because monsters are invading the land. To find out, you take a job as a ranger. This allows you to accept requests from citizens and continue to investigate suspicious places in hopes of finding the next clue to the larger mystery. Of course, to make ends meet, you need to farm along the way.

The role of the plot is to get you into the world and provide twists and turns to keep you exploring, but it’s the citizens who create the experience. The cast is one of the strongest in the series, with lots of cute and funny characters. They’re not as exaggerated as some of the past entries, but I’m drawn to their personal struggles, like Lucy missing her father, except for more ridiculous situations, like Lake always trying to nap. Character-focused quests provide an extra layer to their everyday personalities.

As an action/RPG and relationship/farming sim, Rune Factory offers a variety of ways to pass the time. Focusing on Sims can unlock side adventures and ultimately lead you to love. Catering to farming can quickly boost your profits, allowing you to upgrade everything from the size of your house to the inventory available in your town store. Entering dungeons and defeating their bosses usually advances the plot, but you can also level up, learn new weapon combinations, pick up crafting items, and tame some monsters to work on your farm or fight you. The game has an engaging loop, and I never felt like my days were empty, but I quickly realized that many of these systems were just average or subpar in design.

For starters, combat, while an improvement over previous entries, is clunky, and the clunky multi-button combo ability doesn’t help. You hit R to sprint, but holding it will bring your magic. Small differences in input are the recipe for disaster you’d expect. My magic menu came up when I tried to dodge more times than I wanted to admit. That being said, I like the number of different weapons available and how they all feel unique, from melee-focused boxing gloves to heavy punching longswords. Using a variety of weapons has changed the way I fight. For example, with the faster, less stamina-intensive dual knives, I can withstand spam attacks and combos, while heavier weapons make me step back and wait for a chance to whine at the enemy.

Unfortunately, Rune Factory 5 discourages a lot of experimentation with its different weapons. Players must level up the proficiency of each weapon to learn combos and new attacks. Starting from the first grid doesn’t seem worth the effort to me, and if I wasn’t trying to get a panoramic view of the game for the purposes of this review, I’d only be using one or two weapons throughout the game.

I love seeing the cool designs of the bosses (personal favorite is the colorful octopus), but fighting them is very monotonous. Bosses are a mode to watch enemies, but I never felt challenged, especially when I brought tamed monsters into battle. You can also bring villagers you befriend with you to fight alongside you. They provide powerful team attacks for your character, but they all start low-level and must gain combat experience before they can become useful. All my village fighters die too quickly and I don’t like torture like this, so I often leave them behind in favor of the monsters I tame.

Rune Factory 5 is just that. Everything is driven by raising the level. On the one hand, this can be satisfying; on the other hand, it can require tedious grinding. It’s not just about your level of combat; your level of cooking, blacksmithing, crafting, and chemistry is also centered around this progression system, and trying new recipes can create better items, weapons, and armor.

The only way to unlock a recipe is to experiment blindly, buy recipe bread (limited supply per day), hope the NPC finds one in a random dialogue, or receive bread as a quest or holiday reward. Once you reach a higher level, it becomes very interesting to see what you can create. I made a stuffed monkey shield that can do anything from chocolate sponge cake to star hash browns. Upgrading weapons, armor, or farming implements is too much trial and error for me, though.

Since you can craft, harvest, forge, cook, and mix potions, you can pick up many items on any given day. Unfortunately, inventory management is a mess, which makes this a pain. You can only carry a certain amount of items in your backpack, and I often run out of space. I wasted a lot of time moving items to the warehouse, and I had to keep expanding the warehouse. To make matters worse, when you move items to storage, the game doesn’t automatically group them together, forcing you to find matching items to save space.

As annoyed as I was with my inventory space, it never diminished my love for the joy of exploring and finding new things. From scouring bandit hideouts, crystal caves, lava caves and more, every new area is an opportunity – whether it’s finding rare items and ores to craft, finding powerful monsters to tame, or getting new fruits that can be used in cooking recipes . Every trip you take feels rewarding – even if it’s just walking around town and discovering new things about the villagers.

Holidays and special events help split the calendar, and I love how interactive they are, allowing me to complete small tasks like hiding the beans and creating my own monster team for tournaments. Sadly, these events were short-lived and the rest of the day was lost as villagers just continued to stand around the festival grounds. For them, there is a long way to go beyond a major, short-lived event to make these celebrations worthwhile and impactful.

Rune Factory 5 has rough edges, but I still love my time. Something about how all the parts work together has always fascinated me. Even after finishing the main story, I’m still playing because I have recipes that haven’t been unlocked, I’m starting a romantic journey, and I can still make many upgrades to the town. It has its flaws, but Rune Factory 5’s fascinating cycle of continuous improvement and discovery helps alleviate a lot of those annoyances so they don’t sting as much.