Review: Rune Factory 4 (3DS)

Rune_Factory_4_Box_ArtDeveloper: Neverland
Publisher: Marvelous
Genre: Simulation, RPG
Rating: E
Price: $39.99

 

 

 

The Rune Factory franchise is a strange but enjoyable combination of Harvest Moon, dungeon adventure RPG’s,monster tamers, and dating simulators. Rune Factory 4 combines the best of these worlds, tones them down a little, and adds its own flavor. While not the most exciting or in-depth of games, the overarching story is an innocent, charming one. The farming and day to day task management isn’t as repetitive as most farming simulators as they are broken up with dungeon exploration, monster training, party grinding, and social interactions. It’s an ambitious idea, but Rune Factory has found success among fans of simulators and RPG’s alike.

Story

Venti

The guardian dragon of the city is revered as a goddess among her people.

An airship flying to Selphia is attacked by two men posing as soldiers. After a battle ensues, the protagonist is struck in the head and thrown from the air ship. Thankfully, a massive dragon breaks the protagonist’s fall. Unfortunately, the blow to the head robbed the protagonist of their memories. When the protagonist awakens, they are confronted by Ventuswill, the guardian dragon of Selphia. Ventuswill, or “Venti,” explains that Selphia was eagerly awaiting the arrival of their prince/princess (depending on whichever character the player chose in the beginning). Reluctantly, the protagonist agrees to at least pose as this figurehead until they arrive.
Arthur intro

Arthur, the true prince, arrives shortly after the protagonist. However, he is willing to assist in the facade in allowing the protagonist to take his place as the acting nobility.

Despite being royalty, or at least posing as royalty, the protagonist is still expected to work in order to earn their keep. They are assigned a plot of land where the protagonist can grow produce and keep beasts. Shortly after, the protagonist returns to Venti only to learn that the true prince of Selphia, Arthur, has returned to the town. Venti is furious at first but Arthur insists that he would rather assist in the maintenance of the town than to have a direct hand in it. Satisfied, Venti grants you the authority to act as the town’s prince/princess.
The protagonist is then left to accomplish small tasks requested of them. Eventually, the protagonist is able to explore the wooded area around Selphia. During their explorations, they discover a butterfly-like beast. After defeating the creature, it’s revealed that the creature was actually a young girl. Confused, the protagonist brings the girl back to Vinti. While the dragon implies knowing something of the matter, she remains oddly silent. The story progresses from here, uncovering multiple humans trapped in the forms of monsters and revealing their strange connection to Vinti and the town itself.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content:
rune-factory-4-halloween-4

The haunted mansion is a little unsettling, but it remains pretty mild.

Ventuswill, the guardian dragon of the city of Selphia, is revered by the locals as a goddess of sorts. She is, however, fallible and vulnerable. In fact, the majority of her divinity is shown through her authority, not through any truly divine works. Other than that, there’s very few religious implications within Rune Factory 4.
There are some darker visuals, but these are contained to the haunted manner and the boss within. They’re unsettling when compared to the otherwise sunny, cheery atmosphere of the game but they’re hardly enough to push the E 10 rating of the game.
Violence:
The combat is extremely mild. There’s no blood, no gore, and no gruesome imagery to see in the game.
Language/Crude Humor:
Rune Factory 4 is a very mild game. The humor is innocent, the language is pretty conservative, and any adult implications are so light that it’s hardly an issue.
Drug/Alcohol Use:
There is a tavern, but alcohol and drugs aren’t an issue in these games.
Positive Themes:
Wont give upThe major theme of Rune Factory 4 is responsibility. The protagonist has no idea who they are, but they are influenced with the massive responsibility of posing as a member of royalty and maintaining the economy and well-being of an entire community of perfect strangers. While reluctant at first, the protagonist falls into the role and does their best not to disappoint. Over time their efforts are noticed by the community and in turn the community does their part to assist the protagonist in their role.  Even when the protagonist is faced with the person who they were supposed to be imitating, they take responsibility for the fraud. Rather than humiliating the impostor, the true prince allows them to remain in their position to maintain the morale of the city and the integrity of the post, opting to assist as he can from the sidelines with his expertise and  council.
The power of community in Rune Factory is actually a lot stronger than it’s counterpart, Harvest Moon. Rather than allowing the main character to take full responsibility for the protection and prosperity of the town, the townsfolk play their own parts in growing their community. Many will join the main character in combat to help defend their town. They gain respect for the protagonist and eventually open up to their own unique personalities.

Gameplay

Farming

Farming can be a bit of a chore, but your monsters are willing to lend a helping hand if you care for them enough.

As aforementioned, there are several elements from a variety of genres included in Rune Factory 4. The first and most obvious element is that of a farming simulation. You are given a small plot of land that’s divided up into several workable areas: a field, a barn, a maker shed, and a shipping crate. The field can be tilled in order to grow a variety of crops. The seeds for these crops vary with the season and with the progress that has been made within the game. They are bought from one of the shops in town. The crops can be used for selling, production, cooking, or healing. Like in the Harvest Moon games, your character is equipped with a variety of farming tools such as a hoe, scythe, and a watering can. You can upgrade the quality of your crops by adding fertilizer that is available for purchase in town. The better your crops are, the better products they can be used for. Herbs, for example, are used in the production of potions. The potions are especially useful when exploring dungeons or taking the monsters out to train so it’s always a good idea to have some herb seeds in the ground with a good layer of fertilizer on top.
Riding

A good mount can make all the difference in the world during dungeon explorations.

In place of livestock, you can keep and care for a variety of monsters that you tame out in the wilderness. Some monsters like the buffamoo will produce products such as milk. Bonding with the monsters is very important as an increase in loyalty means an increase in the quality of the products that they produce. Monsters who are loyal to their owner are also willing to help around the farm by performing chores. The chores cost HP for the monsters and overworking them can lead to fatigue, so it’s important to keep a large barn full of willing and able beasties to run an efficient farm. Monsters are also able to accompany you into combat as additional party members. Some monsters can even be used as mounts to make exploration a little less timely. Flying monsters are wonderful for long trips away from town, especially if you hope to be back before night fall.
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Along with farming goods and produce, you can forge and equip a variety of weapons and armor.

Dungeon exploration takes the place of simple gathering from other farm simulation games and adds an rpg twist on it. For party members you can recruit friends and romantic interests from around town, each with their own array of skills and abilities, in addition to your monsters. On top of this, the player can choose from a variety of weapons, magic spells, and armor. Dungeon exploration is made a little more personal as everything about your party is affected by your own personal effort from the quality of your potions to the strength of your party. Your monsters will fight harder for you if their loyalty is high enough and characters that are more friendly towards you will generally be of more assistance during combat. Your potions will either buy you a few seconds or be complete life-savers depending on how well you created them and the quality of the produce that you put into it.
maxresdefault

Taming bosses is not the easiest of tasks but it’s well worth the effort.

The dungeons themselves aren’t too difficult to navigate or get through. The areas with higher level monsters and bosses unlock as the story progresses and you gain allies that can assist you further in your quest. It is also possible to return to past dungeons to fight bosses  as often as you’d like as an additional way to level up your party and gain their drops. As you travel through dungeons, more monsters are made available for you to tame. Even bosses can be tamed and used as party members and farming assistants, but it takes a good deal of trial and error to figure out the best way to tame an enemy. Monsters are tamed by presenting them with an item. If the monster accepts it, they become friendly towards you. If they reject it, they’ll attack and you’ll have to try again another time. As you tame more monsters, you’ll have to make room for them. This means releasing your previous monsters back into the wild.
Some of the monsters will actually transform into characters that you can later befriend or court. They’re a little more difficult to warm up to than the standard citizens of the community, but they are a little stronger in combat and in my opinion they’re a little more interesting as characters.
U jelly

We just went out for coffee, okay!?

The dating sim aspect of Rune Factory 4 is pretty straight forward. Every day the player can take time to wander through town and socialize with the locals. Just talking to the citizens of the town slowly increases their friendship level towards the player. Giving gifts can either greatly assist you or damage your relationship with another character. Every character likes or dislikes certain goods and their friendship levels will increase or decline based on what you give them. Friendships prove very useful in party situations, so it’s always good to make a lot of friends so your options are open during more difficult dungeons and bosses.
MarriageCourting starts off with an increase of friendship. Available characters of the opposite gender can grow their affection level beyond friendship and when their affection is high enough, you can confess your feelings to them. If you confess too early, the characters will brush your advances off in one way or another. An acceptance will reward you with an animated cut scene and you will enter into a relationship. From there, you can work towards a marriage and a child. Of course, if you’re too friendly with too many other bachelors or bachelorettes during the courting process, the characters quickly become jealous and relationships can be affected.

Presentation

Rune-Factory-4-Screenshot-02The visuals in Rune Factory 4 are actually very impressive. The game comes with several short animated cut-scenes and while the animation is pretty standard for an anime style, it still is visually appealing and adds a bit of charm to the characters they present. The in game graphics are pretty decent for a 3DS game. The style is akin to chibi anime and while it’s not for everyone, it suits the genre and the overall feel of the game very well. The backgrounds are colorful and while there’s very little to explore off the roads provided, there’s plenty to look at.
dylas__past__part_1__rune_factory_4_by_schoenes_elend-d6zr31wThe character designs are diverse and interesting. Their outfits are actually very detailed and add a little more depth and character to the individuals within the town. For example, the beast-characters still hold elements of their feral selves in their humanoid incarnations. Dylas has his beast-like ears and has a horse-like tail.
The music isn’t anything spectacular but it’s hardly an earsore. It provides decent enough background sound while not overwhelming the player with a repetitive tune. However, if asked to recall one track in particular that stood out I simply would not be able to. There are plenty of other background sounds to add to the atmosphere, such as chirping birds or the sound of waves on the beach, so I think that overall the sound works with the subtle, casual flow of the game.
The voice acting is pretty decent as well. The voices suite the characters well and while the majority of the spoken dialogue is limited to a few words, it ties into the game well. The animated cut scenes are short and sweet, but they’re fun enough to serve as a decent reward for interacting with a character or achieving a new level in your romantic relationship.

Conclusion

It’s not the most in-depth of stories, nor is it horribly challenging, but Rune Factory 4 is an easy game to indulge in. The characters are interesting, the interactions are comedic, romantic, and even heart felt at times. The story is pretty basic, but the world is interesting enough to get the player invested in the struggles that the characters face. Monster taming and battling appeals well to the RPG fandom and the farming aspect poses a challenge to those that are hardcore completionists.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Kelly

I was born and raised in a traditional Christian household, educated privately, and brought up with a passion for Christ. The works of CS Lewis and Tolkien were my greatest influences. I aspire to become a published fictional author, hopefully illustrating my own work as well. Christ is the center of my universe and my faith is the lens in which I look through in regards to everything. As far as games go I am swayed best towards fantasy/action/rpg's.

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