With Rune Factory 4 we see a return of the popular farming/dating sim/ dungeon crawler RPG hybrid from the makers of the Harvest Moon series. The Rune Factory series is similar to Harvest Moon in the respect that a lot of the game is involves farming, giving gifts to NPCs and looking for a spouse. Unlike Harvest Moon Rune Factory also includes dungeons which you can enter to fight monsters which can be tamed and used to do farm work etc. Unfortunately this is likely to be the last installment of the popular series due to the closure of the studio who made it.
The game begins on an airship and you are giving the option of saying whether you are enjoying your time flying ‘I’m flying high buddy’ or if you are scared. Choose the former and you are assigned a male character, and a girl for the latter. This was an annoying start to the game as to play as a girl I had to choose the scared of flying option which felt like an unnecessary reinforcement of gender stereotypes. You fall off the airship and land in a town in which you are mistaken for roylaty and asked to take on the role of a princess and take charge of the town to help improve its tourism. This monarchy system is new to Rune Factory but didn’t really add anything to the story. Being a monarch allows you to make various changes to the town, or your own property and s limited to this. Unfortunatley you cannot use your royal status to get help with your farmyard chores or errands. The storyline is pretty weak and unravels through various cutscenes throughout the game. This is not a massive problem though as the addictive gameplay more than makes up for the lack of story.
Just like in Harvest Moon, or games like Animal Crossing, everyday chores, like running errands and weeding, are made addictive. Growing crops, fishing, cooking are so much more fun than in real life, and harvesting a crop that you have carefully tended and watered is very satisfying. Like in the previous games doing tasks uses up Rune Points so you have to use your time wisely each day and prioritise what you want to achieve.
The title has been out for several years in Japan so we were pleased to find that it hadn’t dated. Like all Rune Factory games it is beautiful to look at with characters and scenery that look like they are hand drawn. We also found ourselves using the 3D option on our 3DS quite a bit which we not bothered using on games for quite a while.
Rune Factory 4 is essentially like all the other Rune Factory games but with the added monarch system. The gameplay is still as addictive as ever and the visual style just as beautiful. For anyone who has not played a Rune Factory game I would recommend this most recent version due to the improved graphics. For fans of the series the same mechanics that made the first 3 completely addictive are all here and if you want more of the experience than you should pick up this title.