The initial release for Rune Factory 5 was delayed late last year due to COVID complications but finally released a year later on the Nintendo Switch! The big farming simulator games – Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and Rune Factory – haven’t been doing so hot on the jump to the Nintendo Switch. Last year, Story of Season’s Pioneer of Olive Town was an unsatisfying dumpster fire while Harvest Moon’s attempt around the same time was similarly unenjoyable with equally horrible feedback and reviews. Rune Factory 5 has fallen in the same boat and it’s been made clear that the publishers for Story of Seasons and Rune Factory haven’t quite figured out their way around the Nintendo Switch’s hardware to produce an enjoyable game free of glitches and performance issues.
After Rune Factory 4 was such a letdown (relive my traumatic experience here) and Story of Season’s Pioneer of Olive Town turned out to be equally unenjoyable, I eagerly looked forward to the newest Rune Factory release. Surely the publishers (Marvelous and Xseed) would have their act together, right? I’ve spent 10 hours playing Rune Factory 5 and it has so many features I eagerly wanted in a new farming simulator game – fun characters, a rich story, various crafting and gathering, and some monster fighting on the side. However, it’s just downright unplayable and the game developers have said nothing to address this issue which is really shocking considering how some streamers had early access a week before release. To make this even worse, Japan received the release last year and players are still complaining about frame rate issues that have not been addressed. The graphics are far from flashy but they still seem to push the Nintendo Switch to its limits.
I’ve complained extensively about Pokémon Sword/Shield’s graphics but this really takes the cake. I guess the trees look a little bit better though? Games like Shin Megami Tensei 5 also had open-world exploration and it looks way better than this. My point is, there are several games on the Nintendo Switch that look far and away better than the graphics in this game and it feels like the developers had too many ideas stretched thin and couldn’t finish the game in time. If they had more time maybe this game would have been more visually appealing and more fun to play.
If you’re afraid of spoilers, stop here. ✋🏻 There are spoilers in this review.
Rune Factory 5’s abrupt opening drops a young amnesiac via a portal just outside of the little village of Rigbarth, where a community service-oriented organization called SEED takes them in as the newest ranger – you’re basically a hero with daily chores and duties involving farming, befriending the villagers, and keeping the village monster-free. As a SEED ranger for Rigbarth, you can cultivate a massive farmland and grow several different varieties of crops, capture and raise a wide array of stray monsters for resources and battle assistance, woo a neighborhood boy or gal of your choosing, and run errands for villagers to rack up points that you can spend on redeeming licenses for crafting recipes and enacting ordinances for festivals. Rigbarth quickly takes a cheesy turn into a winding mystery involving powerful creatures, more folks turning up with amnesia, dragons, and plenty more pleasantly extra anime protagonist fluff.
A Day in the Life
Between adventures outside of Rigbarth to defeat dangerous monsters with bounties and gather crafting materials, players spend their days farming, as well as befriending and fulfilling requests for the locals. All of the systems are beautifully complimentary of each other and encourage players to take part in everything the game has to offer – and the game has a lot to offer. There is an overwhelming amount of content in this game sure to keep you satisfied for several hours. Thankfully, the tutorials you’re given are detailed and straightforward, all you have to do is remember all of the controls!
Fulfilling requests for Rigbarth residents not only opens more options at stores and increases the types of seeds to grow on the farm, but raises the friendship level of the NPCs. Befriending the villagers of Rigbarth means you can take them into battle with you as allies and they will also participate in new joint cooking and crafting modes on top of opening up various town events that can be unlocked with SEED points. Farming goes beyond daily watering and provides a fresh supply of crops to sell, use in cooking recipes, or give as gifts to improve your relationship with the locals.
Characters and Story
I actually really loved most of the characters in this game and the voice acting was phenomenal! Some of the voice actors in this game worked on other notable titles such as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Catherine Full Body, and Tales of Arise. They really did not skimp on the voice acting or the character backgrounds and lore. Some of the characters really cracked me up, some of them made me tear up, while others made me so aggravated I would avoid them entirely. In my opinion, none of this is a bad thing. I really enjoyed this! Characters, especially love interests, have special heart events that can be viewed with dialogue options to choose from and this reminded me of Harvest Moon. Sometimes these events puzzled me because the character with the heart event would be walking around outside while the heart event would be activated as soon as you step into their home. I miss planning my days to catch villagers in their homes at a specific time to trigger an event but maybe that’s a minor nitpick. The events are really fun and sometimes will have additional follow-up events that are all linked together.
Progression through the story felt really nice and relaxing but at times it felt like it was moving along too quickly and I wanted it to slow down so I could enjoy it more. At the beginning of the game, a lot of stuff is unlocked all at once and you’re overwhelmed with a lot of information. I did find myself wishing it had been spread out over more time so I could savor what was happening around me and be excited about the next new thing.
Battle and Crafting
There are a few ways to learn new crafting recipes. You can experiment on your own after purchasing a Crafting License and a Crafting Table from Palmo, receive recipes from the locals once you befriend them, or purchase Recipe Bread from the local bakery. Sometimes your skill level will not be high enough to learn anything by eating the Recipe Bread, so you’ll have to raise the skill level first. Raising the skill level is pretty easy though if you’re consistent about gathering materials to use for crafting. Monsters will drop crafting materials often and you can pick up a few things from the general store in town.
I haven’t upgraded any tools yet but I’ve discovered you can break your own crafting tables or delete tools if you’re not careful. Thankfully, if you do accidently delete a tool early on in the game, it’s easy to replace. Unlike my playthrough of Rune Factory 4, I did not throw another Hoe into the void, and even if I did, you can craft one yourself or purchase another Cheap Hoe from the Blacksmith in town. If you do accidentally delete a furniture item or crafting table, those can be purchased from Palmo’s too. Making currency in this game isn’t too hard if you keep up with farming. At the end of spring, I found myself with 25,000 Gold with nothing to spend it on.
The other central pillar of Rune Factory 5 is its combat which you can partake in from the beginning of the game. There are a lot of weapon options to choose from: short swords, magic staves to cast spells, and a physical weapon skill requiring just your bare fists. Like farming, combat is something you can engage with or completely ignore depending on your interest and what you want to do. With all of that being said though, the game is still experiencing severe frame rate issues even a year after its release in Japan. While I thought the combat was really fun, the performance issues cause the game to not respond in time and I’d end up with a depleted health bar pretty quickly before realizing what was going on.
Rune Factory 5 Lag Issues
Even though this game quickly shaped up to everything I wanted it to be (the graphics are very “meh” though), the frame rate lag issues in this game has made me set my Nintendo Switch down several times in frustration and has stopped me from making considerable progress in the game. Due to these lag issues, the controls are slippery and imprecise, an issue exacerbated further when playing docked, where significant input lag causes actions to take longer than you’d expect or hitting a button doesn’t activate anything at all. These lag issues often made me overshoot the plot of ground I was trying to hoe up or it would make me miss the monster I was attacking and could sometimes lead to my death. The lag is really frustrating during combat, with input lag making it challenging to dodge enemy attacks.
These issues are not limited to movement either, as Rune Factory 5 has aesthetic problems too. The town of Rigbarth and its surrounding countryside feel big and empty, with objects suddenly coming in to view irregularly and frequent framerate issues whenever there are a too many things being displayed. The art style and character models reminds of a few games I played on the Nintendo GameCube years ago and it’s shocking to see a game released 10 years after its predecessor still look like it belongs on older consoles. The characters portraits and art style is really cute but the game isn’t as visually appealing as it could be – it really could be so much better.
This game runs terribly on the Nintendo Switch which is a huge issue right now because Rune Factory 5 is only available on the Nintendo Switch. However, I have discovered a fix that reduces the performance issues slightly. It’s far from perfect but it helps a lot. You’ll still encounter frame rate drops when entering and leaving buildings, battling monsters, and running through a congested area (like in the middle of town). To check out that guide, click here.
The Good: The voice acting is great. The farm and battle mechanics are balanced really well and it’s great! There’s so much to do and you could potentially spend several hours in this game easily after being swept up in all of the optional content. Similar to games like Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley, you can play however you like and come back to different parts of the game later if you focus on something else.
The Bad: This game runs terribly on the Nintendo Switch and currently, Rune Factory 5 is only available on the Nintendo Switch. Nothing has been said from the developer team whether or not this issue will be resolved. Additionally, the graphics are atrocious for a $60 game and I just cannot justify the price tag. I can’t believe the release wasn’t delayed further to fix the subpar graphics and performance issues.
Conclusion: It’s a really fun game with lots to do and lovely characters to interact with but the price tag isn’t worth the frustrating gameplay experience that will be inevitably hindered by the frame rate performance issues. If more time had been spent on the game, it really would have been something wonderful! It’s a shame more time wasn’t spent on what was broken. Its bad performance didn’t necessarily stop me from enjoying the time I spent on the game, but it did make that time far more frustrating.
You can purchase the Rune Factory 5 Standard Edition for $59.99 on the Nintendo Switch Store. The Rune Factory 5 Digital Deluxe Edition is $69.99 and comes with several PC costumes and a Ranger Care Package that includes several health recovery items, tomato seeds to play in the spring, and Cooking Bread that will teach your PC new Cooking recipes.