Rune Factory is a fantasy farming simulation/role playing game series. They take the fun farming, socializing, mining, and fishing aspects of village life that make the Harvest Moon games so popular, and add deeper role-playing elements. You craft weapons and armor, dungeon delve, tame monsters, fight bosses, and solve mysteries.
Titles in this series have appeared on the Nintendo DS and Wii. Here is my review of the original to appear on the Wii, Rune Factory Frontier:
In Rune Factory Frontier, your character arrives in a new village, looking for a girl who had helped him when he lost his memory, then left her home without explanation. Still unable to remember your past, you are given a place to stay with land to farm, and left to your own will. Do you follow the storyline clues and try to solve the mystery of what’s going on with this girl? Become a part of this new village and take up a new life? Farm, fish, craft, or dungeon delve? All of the above?
You’ll soon find your new home has mysteries and troubles of its own, and the clues seem to lead ever deeper into the dungeons.
Players of Harvest Moon, or casual farming games such as Alice Greenfingers or FarmVille, will find the farming portion of this game comfortably familiar. You hoe, you plant, you water, you harvest, you sell your crop.
The farm animals, however, you must tame from dungeons, and are not your typical cows and chickens. Instead we have Buffamoo, a buffalo-cow hybrid, as the first milk producers you can get, and Cluckies, which are exploding egg -throwing creatures somewhat like overgrown chickens, as egg producers, and they’re just the beginning. There are the Spring, Summer, and Autumn family that are energy-ball-spitting plants that, when tamed, give you seeds for your farm, the tamable man-eating treasure boxes that provide jewels and ore, and the plant-elephant hybrids that can be ridden or assigned to water your crops.
Later in the game you can tame unicorns to ride, fairies to harvest your wild plants, and other typical fantasy creatures, as well. The creatures are a good mix of beautiful/cute and mutant baddies, providing ample choice for all tastes, aesthetically. Even so, there’s nothing particularly scary.
Another major difference is the fantasy storyline and the dungeons. There’s hack and slash, there’s loot, and there’s a well developed crafting and forging system to make your own gear. You can even farm and fish inside the dungeons. Fans of traditional rpgs and farming games may just love this mix. I did.
It’s a very relaxed game. If you don’t feel like focusing on farming for a while, there’s little penalty for that: your crops just don’t grow. Or you can tame monsters to water and harvest for you, leaving you free to dungeon delve, fish, socialize, or work on your other skills while still generating farming income. The storyline can be left indefinitely without penalty, and the dungeons aren’t going anywhere.
One thing that ordinarily would have put me off the game was that your character is male, with no choice whatsoever in that. However, the game itself is so engaging, and the art so beautiful, that this did not bother me at all. Even my young daughter is so drawn in by the cute pet monsters she doesn’t care, either, and is also playing.
There’s a lot to do here, well beyond the primary storyline. The dungeon monsters and dungeon bosses reset when you leave, with the bosses coming back stronger after their initial defeat, offering more fighting and more challenge if you want to come back for it.
The farming and fishing can go on forever. In fact, you can finish the main storyline long before you’ve fully explored two of the dungeon areas, and then you will likely still have side quests left undone and social aspects you might like to tend to, as well as the ongoing farming, fishing, pet taming, or even monster breeding.
In terms of value, this is a great game, easily 100+ hours of play before you finish the primary storyline and then open-ended for countless hours more.