Rune Factory 4 Special
Developer: Marvelous Inc., Neverland, Hakama Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous Inc.
Genre(s): Farming Simulator, Dungeon Crawler
Platform: Reviewed on PS5 via Backwatds Compatibility (also available on Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 7/12/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Farming, Fishing, Dungeon Crawling, Relationship Simulator 2021
I have a strange attraction to farming video games, well, the good ones anyway. Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon and all that Jazz. It seems strange to a lot of people that someone who adores Monster Hunter, Dark Souls and Battlefield, can appreciate a finely grown turnip, but there you go
I had previously played Rune Factory on the Nintendo Wii and remember loving its strange mix of farming, dungeon crawling and animal husbandry. What I remember hating though was the Runey system and the chore of keeping the whole thing running and it eventually grew tiresome.
Fast forward to 2021 and a review code for Rune Factory 4 for the PlayStation lands in my lap. Is it still something I would like today? Has the port from the 3DS been a good one? All these questions and more will be answered in the next few hundred words. I do like these types of games, they relax me. I can play them while watching footie and I adore seeing my farm evolve over time.
Dragons, Secrets and Turnips, Oh My!
So, Rune Factory 4, initially released on the 3DS in 2014 and on the Nintendo Switch last year, is a farming, dungeon crawling and relationship building hybrid. Plant stuff, tend to its growth, cook, build armour and weapons, take part in festivals, fight and capture monsters. What I think really sets this game apart from the last one I played is the weird setup and its associated narrative.
You are on an airship, making a journey to deliver a valuable item when you are jumped by some scallywags. You get bumped on the head and fall off the airship, landing in your new home. Sounds standard so far, right? Well, you end up in a palace talking to a dragon and tending to the royal veggie patch, which is far removed from games like this I have played before. It does give Rune Factory 4 a slightly different feel, to the tried and tested, ‘inherited a dilapidated farm from your grandad’ trope.
It is also a bit weird not having your own land. It’s good weird though, not bad weird, if you know what I mean, it’s just different. The story that follows from the opening scenes is pretty much standard. There are some funny moments and a few twists in the path but eventually, an enemy reveals themselves and you go on a quest to gather the Rune Spheres and save the day. While the narrative was entertaining throughout, it was the mundane (in a good way) day to day gameplay that kept me coming back.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm…….
As with all these games, you start with a small plot of land and have to make money by growing and selling crops, flowers and animal produce. In Rune Factory 4 this starts off slow and new items and systems are taught to you by a weird talking mailbox. I quite liked this feature as you could only complete a certain of these requests each day. It was nice seeing your skills improve and your farm get more beneficial every day.
After you have got into the routine of daily watering your plants, harvesting them and reaping the sweet sweet dollar, you get introduced to looking after animals on your farm. These animals and sometimes even creatures or monsters can be tamed by giving them an item they like. After that, they can fight by your side, produce goods in your barn and if you look after them especially well, they can be trained to take over some of the more mundane tasks on your land. Be careful though they need to be fed and groomed to keep them happy.
Alongside your farming and animal shenanigans, Rune Factory 4, as with all games of this ilk also has a relationship simulator system to work on. Every person in town has a friendship level and will respond to conversations and gifts. Get people to certain thresholds and you can unlock further, nudge nudge, wink wink, relationship options. This is not my favourite part of Rune Factory personally but it is nice to see your bonds grow stronger with your neighbours over time.
Basic Dungeon Delving
In between your relationship building, farming and animal rearing, if you have time, you can also do a bit of dungeon crawling and further your quest to find the Rune Spheres. You have weapons, skills, armour and magic to take into account and all these can be found, crafted or gained from levelling up. After typing all the stuff you can get stuck into in Rune Factory 4, I wonder to myself how I manage to fit it all into each day.
If you are new to these types of games you have a day/night cycle, weather and a pesky stamina meter to take into account when going about your daily tasks. Choosing what to do, how much energy to dedicate to it and what to miss each day is paramount. You never have enough time to do everything you want. It is always good to have a plan and try to stick to it. I always did my farming each morning but the rest of the day was malleable. I tailored my day depending on what my current task or objective was.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
Now as much as I enjoyed the day to day running of Rune Factory 4 there were a few things I disliked. Firstly the graphics, I am by no means a graphics snob and love pixel art and older graphical styles but some of Rune Factory 4’s textures were unforgivable. They look like they have been ripped from the 3DS version and had no further work done to them. The characters and some other assets look fine but the backgrounds, items and certain areas need more work. They look blurry, washed out and very low resolution. I got used to it eventually but it was jarring, especially early on.
I also found some of the sound work quite harsh and I could not find an option to turn it off. The voice work was fine, as was the soundtrack. Some of the sounds that the characters made while talking, while you read the onscreen text were incredibly annoying. A toggle button to disable it would have been great. I got used to it but I did find it slightly irksome. Rune Factory 4 performed very well, as I would expect for such a low-intensity mobile port. I do, however, appreciate a game that just works. This is sometimes overlooked these days and it shouldn’t be.
An Entertaining Romp, If A Little Rough In Places.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Rune Factory 4. I loved the farming, the fishing and the day to day running of my little plot of happiness. The dungeon crawling and combat was serviceable and the relationship stuff was a nice distraction now and again. I wish more work was put into the sound and graphics department but you can look and listen past that eventually.
Rune Factory 4 has a lot of game contained within and a lot of things to do. Just be prepared to forgive some of the presentation missteps. I can recommend this title to anyone who enjoys these chilled simulation types of games, farming games or games where you have to look after your friends. Just don’t expect a fantastic looking title because this certainly isn’t that. Right, I’m off to water my potatoes, got to keep the cash rolling in!
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Rune Factory 4 Special on the Playstation Store for £24.99
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.