I recall a period of time when I was younger, where every day I’d rush into my room after a long Summer day, jumping onto my bed and whipping out my Nintendo 3DS to play Rune Factory 4. As a die-hard fan of the Rune Factory series, I would always sing praises and recommend it to anyone who’d listen; it had the farming and relationships of Harvest Moon, but it also had combat! I couldn’t get enough of it, and when I initially heard that the company who owned the series went out of business I was heartbroken. Fortunately, though without any knowledge of it until it was officially announced in Japan, another company had picked up the rights and made Rune Factory 5, the game I’ve been waiting nearly a decade for.
Rune Factory 5’s initial release on the Nintendo Switch back in March of this year was… not great, to say the least. If you’re like me, part of that was because it had 10 years’ worth of excitement by fans who were patiently waiting for the next installment only to be disappointed once they opened the game for the first time. Riddled with performance problems (constant frame dipping, objects just suddenly popping in randomly), it certainly wasn’t the worst experience in the world but clearly, the jump to the Switch did not do it any favors. Did the game at its core feel like Rune Factory? Sure, but it was a slog to go through due to the aforementioned issues, and definitely isn’t something fans would want a newcomer to the series to experience. Fortunately, there now exists another way to play this wonderful title without the performance issues of the Nintendo Switch version: it’s on PC. Though not without its own issues (there have been reports of crashes randomly, though I’ve personally yet to have this happen), it’s an extreme improvement to the Nintendo Switch version.
While it still does admittedly look like it came out of the Wii-era of games, there’s almost a certain charm to that. The jump to 3D rather than over-the-top camera probably was new to the team so things like backgrounds, character models, and textures generally aren’t much to look at, but in a way that’s fine. You still have the lovely 2D sprites that appear constantly, and the ability to also crank up the visuals at start-up does help elevate the visuals, but there’s only so much. With the game’s graphics being rather minimal, lower-end rigs could run it at ease as well. Ultimately it is still a significant step up from the Nintendo Switch version.
Rune Factory was originally a spin-off of the Harvest Moon series of games, so the gameplay is about what you’d expect; you can make a farm, you can craft items, and you can romance (same-sex marriage is finally in the series!), befriend, and do quests for townsfolk. The difference between the two and what I mentioned earlier is that you are also able to delve into dungeons and fight, and also tame some of the monsters along the way. By doing this, you can make barns full of monsters and make them do some chores, come with you, or even ride them as a mount. Along with all of that, Rune Factory features a robust time system; weeks are periods of six days, seasons consist of four of those weeks, and during all that there are different weather cycles that make NPCs do different things and determine how well crops grow. The farming itself is also as hard and rich as you make it, as anything can be grown year-round. However, if you really pay attention and get to the nitty-gritty of things, you’ll see that crops thrive under specific conditions such as soil usage, seasons, and more. Crafting is its own beast as well, it also includes cooking, and trying to master every recipe will be a doozy for players but very rewarding for those who go the extra mile.
PC-specific controls are a bit lacking as it’s mostly a straight port of the Nintendo Switch version, sadly. While there is full keyboard and mouse support, that’s about it; there’s no real consideration towards keyboard players in general. For example, if you have an item you constantly have to pull out you need to manually go into the menu, select the item, and then you’re able to use it. While this was always the case in the series, it being ported to PC should allow for specific changes such as a hotbar of sorts to press with your F keys or something and doesn’t excuse the lack of options for keyboard players.
The soundtrack definitely elevates the menial tasks you find yourself doing throughout every in-game day, be it a Summertime melancholy or the sound of an entire region that makes you instantly know what you’re getting into. The English voice actors also do a wonderful job making every character sound unique and like how they should. I was actually disappointed with the Japanese voice acting because while good, the direction given made a lot of the girl characters sound very samey cutesy. Both are wonderful and should be given the chance to see which you prefer.