- Format: 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous Europe
- Developer: Neverland Co
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.runefactory4.com/
Rune Factory 4 is the fantasy spin off of Harvest Moon, which means it entails farming and fighting monsters. Given that it’s a title that isn’t full of ‘mature’ content, the beating the tar out of monsters involves you sending them to the farm forest rather than actually killing them. When you aren’t killing sending monsters back to the forest you spend some time around the castle farming, cooking, making weapons to kill send monsters back to the forest, and befriending and romancing various people and monsters (no monster romancing).
The game starts off with a simple question: Do you want to be a boy or a girl in this game? The actual written choices are “I’m flyin’ high, baby!” and “Goodness, I’m so high up!” with the first resulting in asking you if you’re happy playing as boy and the latter as a girl. Once you’ve made this monumental decision you truly begin your quest, where you get mugged, thrown off an airship and become a Princess/Prince of a Castle and rule over the townsfolk. Oh, and you also have amnesia.
Ruling over the townsfolk includes the aforementioned farming, cooking and defeating of monsters but also improving the Castle and life for those within it. Your royal duties of any sort will award you with Princess/Prince Points that help you afford all the improvements you’ll need; more farms, more stuff for shops to sell, every crafting apparatus, festivals and more.
The game is set out so you don’t get access to many of the features until a few hours into the game. The slow build-up of your farmstead – of which many of the later features are reliant upon – means you’ll have to often rest your head to the pillow (in game, it’s not Animal Crossing) before you can progress in your tasks.
One of the biggest factors behind this is the fact that many essential tools are earned through the request box, which is a sort of quest dispenser. The issue is that you can only have one quest at a time and only complete one a day at first. Eventually you can hold up to three quests, but it still slows the build-up of tools and facilities you need for crafting and adventuring in general. As weapons are rarely dropped and few decent ones arrive in the shops, you’ll soon be hitting the forge regularly to make newer, better weapons.
With gameplay being laid out like this you’ll quickly pick up a routine of tending your farm, harvesting crops for sale, perhaps even making items for sale as well, grabbing recipe bread (the way you learn new recipes for each crafting discipline) and then running out to whichever dungeon you need to complete or grab materials from. There are events that will either help relieve you from your schedule or maybe just ruin your carefully structured routine.
Festivals are there to reward you, and occasionally hinder your daily business. You can arrange some; such as the defluffing festival (which involves shearing sheep monsters) and some predefined festivals occur as well but they are mostly seasonal or harvest based. They give some hefty rewards, don’t take any time out of your day as a time freeze occurs while you take part, and can garner some tourists for your beloved Castle.
While a fair portion of the game involves the more mundane tasks, you will eventually need to do some serious dungeoneering. Dungeons are filled with monsters and the mostly tile-based nature of the rooms means that you’ll be shifting screen to screen, so when you return to anywhere you’ve just cleared, it’ll be full of monsters again. It’s good for grinding monster components and gaining experience with weapons and resistance, but towards the end of the game when there are deadly traps in many of the dungeons it gets a little irritating.
There are some interesting puzzles to work out in order to get certain hidden treasures but the best bits in dungeons are the bosses. Early bosses seem to be scaled to a more fair level and are challenging but not impossibly hard. Later ones seem to have more health than necessary, and deal damage that you’re presumably supposed to out-heal with potions/food/spells in typical ARPG fashion.
Courting monsters is one way to curb the stark increase in difficulty later on, as your once feral friends tend to be pretty good at hurting other monsters. After you get a monster barn (or expand your barn(s) later in the game) you can begin to befriend the wild ones. Bring them flowers, maybe some chocolate or a turnip; whatever you throw their way, they will assess and if they like it then you get to house them.
Aside from being able to bring them along to fight alongside you, you will occasionally get items from some of them like milk, fur or spider silk. And once they’re really friendly with you then you can put them to work in the fields, giving you the chance to have them automatically tend to the fields and plant stuff for you. That does require a fair amount of trust in their capabilities, as well as the spare cash and time to get them friendly enough though.
Rune Factory 4 is not without faults, but it does take two genres and mash them together very well. It does have a lot of grinding to do for resources, experience or just getting to know people – but it does it in a way where you can enjoy the steady pace of working towards a new goal. It’s also quite a funny and well written game so even running around town talking to its residents can garner some enjoyment. There is a vast array of things to do in Rune Factory 4 and they all have some degree of fun to them, so you’ll likely find something to enjoy here.