Rune Factory Frontier Review

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I don’t know what it is about these kinds of games that always draws me in. When I actually get in to them, I find myself spending a lot of time playing. Rune Factory is basically Harvest Moon set in a fantasy setting with swords, magic, monsters, and the like. There are probably people out there who don’t even know what Harvest moon is, so let me break it down real quick. The Harvest Moon games are essentially simple farming sim/rpg’s. In theory, that sounds kind of lame and initially thought the same before I purchased my first Harvest Moon game: Harvest Moon 64. For some reason, the games are incredibly fun and addictive. Rune Factory takes that all a step further. Not only do you get to manage your farm but you get to gear up, go in to dungeons and fight monsters; craft in a system that revolves around alchemy, coking, weapon making; and instead of raising farm animals you get to tame monsters that can help you around your farm and even provide things like milk, wool, and eggs. Along with doing all of this, you can purchase various house upgrades. You can build a barn on your farm to store/upgrade monsters. You can also upgrade several aspects of your house including building a forge, upstairs bedroom, kitchen, and alchemy lab.

Farming
Farming

Along with the farming elements comes a more social aspect. You interact with the various people living in your town, make friends with them, give them gifts so they like you better, and you can also try and woo one of the various girls living in your village to eventually marry her. There are also various festivals that happen around town and events that unfold during the course of the game. It’s not just a straight forward lifeless town: things change, people move in, and it’s actually pretty dynamic.

The combat system in RFF is pretty much your standard fare action rpg. It’s not that in-depth because it’s just one aspect of the game, but while going through dungeons you can either equip one of the various weapons like swords, 2h swords, axes, lances, or you can equip a staff and use magic. There aren’t any “skills” or “abilities” or any other aspect to the combat system, but it’s a welcome diversion from just maintain a farm. So not only is it a good change of pace, but you can find lots of useful things in the dungeons such as various ores to upgrade your tools and other items that you must have in order to craft new pieces of armor and weapons.

So far I have put in about 50+ hours playing RFF and I’m only just getting to my first Winter. Along with all of this fun and interesting stuff there are some things I’ve found that I really don’t like. New in RFF is a “Runey” system that basically boils down to this: There are various earth spirits living all around the town area and you have to collect them and make sure that they’re balanced in all of the various areas around because there is a food chain involved. The water runeys eat rock runeys, rock runeys eat tree runeys, and tree runeys eat grass runeys. So if you don’t balance the population correctly then they’ll eventually die out. When they do, crops on your farm will be severely affected even to the point where they take extremely long to grow. I honestly don’t see the point to this system because it’s 1) Frustrating 2) time consuming and 3) difficult to take care of this along with finding time to fit time in the game days of taking care of your farm, your animals, trying to socialize with villagers, and eeking out some time to explore a dungeon.

Rune Factory Frontier is a great game, and probably one of my favorite Wii games now, but it’s probably not for everyone. You have to enjoy the Harvest Moon style of gameplay: farming and interacting. If you can’t enjoy managing a farm, and the slower pace it plays at, then you probably won’t enjoy RFF. But if you’ve never even given this style of game a try before I really believe that you should. While it may sound odd on paper, it somehow really works and it’s really enjoyable and definitely worth investing time in.

  • Rune Factory on the DS got a bit repetitive after the fourth dungeon, when the game pretty much forced you to clear cut and farm many many squares in order to get the next key to the next dungeon. But I’ll admit that I’d still be playing it sporadically if the L key hadn’t gone kaput and fubar’ed any semblance of UI control.

    As for an MMO version of Rune Factory, well, there’s the trial of A Tale in the Desert. While it’s ultimately more of a social dynamic/conflict sandbox, nothing stops you from rearing whole herds of camel and sheep and growing a ton of vegetables. 🙂

  • I bought the game because of this post. It’s pretty cool, although I admit I don’t have any context because I’ve never played a gardening game before. It reminds me of the original Zelda for some reason. Thanks for mentioning it.

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