A Hidden Gem

The Harvest Sim genre is one that has been around for some time and one that has progressed over the years. As a huge fan of Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley I was aware of the series that is Rune Factory but I never got into it straight away and considering I have had Rune Factory 4 Special in my collection for the longest time it’s unusual as to why. Years after its release on Switch I have newfound love in the game that has passed me by for all this time.

After picking your preferred male or female character you find yourself on an airship heading for the town of Selphia to deliver a gift to the god that resides there, unfortunately the ship is invaded and after suffering a head blow the main character develops amnesia and is thrust into the town of Selphia where they find themselves mistakenly in the role of Prince or Princess.

Now for a farming sim the story is not very coherent of one. There is no escaping a dead end job or escaping the city life to work on a farm, however if you are familiar with Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley you will find plenty of familiarity with Rune Factory 4. Every morning you will wake up at 6am to tend to your farm, growing crops, looking after animals and selling produce to further expand the farm. You will also spend much of your time interacting with the local villagers and raising your reputation as you do so. There are events that take place every month which you may or may not want to partake in. The characters themselves are portrayed very well, on top of being a JRPG with a constantly progressing story, Rune Factory 4 delivers on a brilliant narrative.

While most of what Rune Factory does well, there are some differences compared to more familiar games. For example animals can be kept in the same barn and animals are befriended out in the wild by giving them something they like and not buying them from a store and you’re not limited to Cows and Chickens either. Most hostiles can be tamed from Goblins, Wolves and giant Beetles. If there’s a particular item you need then it’s always good to have the associated monster to keep and keep happy in your farm, they can even help you on your farm by watering crops and even collecting a harvest and planting seeds. Better yet they can even be your companion and help you out in battle.

Animals aren’t the only thing that can help you as Residents will also help in battle if you have a good enough reputation with them.

As a fake member of royalty it is your duty to request certain things to happen in Selphia and this is all done by the Order board in the castle. By spending a resource known as PP you can upgrade your farm, gain new licences and even organise new festivals throughout the year. This resource is gained naturally by defeating monsters, shipping crops etc. 

As already mentioned Rune Factory 4 is an RPG as much as it is a farming sim so on top of the story is a world waiting to be explored. This is done by navigating areas with an easy to follow map and you can explore new dungeons, castles which all tie in with the story. The story is a pretty standard affair but as farming sims go it is one of the best, the characters you befriend are all very unique and are fantastically bought to life, there is no shortage of well-written dialogue in Rune Factory 4.

As far as graphics go Rune Factory 4 does well in portraying a cosy and vibrant land. My only slight criticism is how blocky characters look in contrast to the backgrounds. This is far more noticeable during areas where the camera pans in more, characters also have a wierd habbit of sleeping with their eyes open. I can’t be too critical as this is an upgraded Nintendo 3DS game.

Other quality life features are that fodder is kept in one basket, there’s no need to individually feed animals, making sure you have enough fodder is simply enough to feed them all, you still have to brush them daily though to keep them happy, I just wish they would stay still while I try to do so. There is a request mailbox which allows you to do a request a day but this can be increased, the amazing thing is that as long as you are unlocking something in game you can complete the request even if you didn’t pick it up straight away as the game registers you as having done it, if for any reason you missed a day or two checking the mailbox, it isn’t the end of the world.

There is a lot to do in Rune Factory 4, you never feel pressured as there are no deadlines, and you can progress the story at your own pace, the more you progress the easier it is to keep on top of of chores to the point it becomes mostly automated. The abundance of skills mean that you are constantly making progress even just by walking and sleeping but there is always something to do, even after 40 hours into playing I am still nowhere the end of the first year and still unlocking new features. Rune Factory 4 also comes with a seemingly endless level cap although most reports with 50000 being the level cap with not many people actually reaching it, also possibly pointless with enemies not scaling with the levels but if you want an endless adventure with over the top never-ending grinds then Rune Factory 4 may be for you.