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February 2023

Rune Factory 5

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Marvelous (EU), XSEED Games (US)
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: March 22, 2022


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Switch Preview - 'Rune Factory 5'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 4, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Set off on a grand adventure in a fantasy world with the latest entry in the Rune Factory simulation RPG series.

It's hard to believe that Rune Factory 4 originally released in 2012. It's been a remarkably long time since we've gotten a true new entry in the franchise. Yes, we recently got the upgraded Rune Factory 4 Special, but as wonderful as that game is, it doesn't compare to having a fresh new experience. Rune Factory is effectively Story of Seasons set in a JRPG world, where you mix farming and social interactions with dungeons and magic. It's an intriguing twist on the formula, and Rune Factory 5 looks to hold to the standard.

Rune Factory 5 opens in a rather familiar way. Your protagonist (gender of your choice) wakes up in a forest with amnesia. No sooner do they awaken do they discover a young girl being attacked my monsters. A quick rescue later, and you are invited to the small village of Rigbarth. You're inducted into SEED, an organization dedicated to helping the village with everything, including finding lost glasses, slaying giant monsters, and farming. From there, your adventure starts!

Rune Factory 5 quickly sets up the tried-and-true formula. Your amnesiac protagonist ingratiates themselves into the community through a combination of farming, side-quests, and monster slaying. Just like the other games in the franchise, all of these things are interconnected. People may request specific crops or specific tasks, which in turn reward you with useful items. Harvesting crops, mining, and chopping wood can be used to enhance weapons. Exploring dungeons and slaying monsters can unearth rare material that you can use to create better farming tools or new items.

Characters give you these tasks by the request board located outside of your lodgings. Completing these tasks earns SEED points, which are this game's version of royalty bonuses in Rune Factory 4. You can spend points to enact festivals, upgrade inventory space, or steal the hats of every person in town (if that's your thing). Nobody said your demands had to be logical. We only saw a handful in our preview.

If you've played Rune Factory 4 Special, Rune Factory 5 doesn't change the formula very much, so this is going to feel similar, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Rune Factory 4 was one of the best games in the entire franchise, and Rune Factory 5 seems to be a shinier and gussied-up version of the game. It's nice to have a Rune Factory that isn't a fancier 3D game.

The area that stands out most is in the combat. It isn't night and day, but the swap to a more 3D style makes combat feel more engaging. Movement, dodging, and attacking all feel like they have more impact and weight. Even in the short period of time we had with the combat, it felt better, with rewards for narrow dodges and special moves feeling more naturally integrated into combos. You can still equip a variety of weapons ranging from swords to spears to bare-handed gloves that let you body-slam monsters. As in the previous games, you'll also unlock new moves by leveling up your skill with a weapon or by finding special spells to unleash special attacks.

Our preview build ended with the game's first boss fight, a battle against a giant nine-tailed fox monster. It wasn't particularly challenging, but it was a nice showcase of what combat is like, with the creature darting all over the place and unleashing potentially devastating attacks. I'm hopeful for a harder refight of this boss — it wasn't too hard — but it was still an enjoyable way to round out the demo.

Rune Factory 5 is best defined as more Rune Factory. It doesn't break the mold or change up the formula much, but it's a new and fresh experience. Considering the last game came out a decade ago, that's really all it needs to be. Farm, fight monsters, and possibly find love. It's Story of Seasons in a nutshell. I look forward to getting more hands-on time with the final version when it comes out on Mar. 22, 2022, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

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