I’ve played a lot of Harvest Moon games (more than I care to count), but Rune Factory 4 was only the second Rune Factory game I’ve played (the first being Tides of Destiny). Overall, I really enjoyed the game (and I’m still enjoying it), and found it hard to put down.

You start off as a boy or a girl who has lost their memory and ends up becoming the prince/princess of the town of Selphia. You’re given a farm and the task of developing the town through prince/princess points. As well as farming, there is also forging, crafting, fishing, chemistry and cooking for you to do, as well as many dungeons to explore and townspeople to befriend. The story is quite long, and is composed of three arcs (so after the credits role after you finish the first part there’s still a lot more to do). The game generally is fairly easy, and it’s usually pretty obvious what you should do next, though the difficulty does ramp up a bit in the final dungeon.

You start off the game only able to do 1 request a day. The requests during the first few days (and after you’re already familiar with the game) work really well at introducing you to all the things you can do in Rune Factory 4, a game which could otherwise  be quite overwhelming. After a few days you start being able to do the maximum of 3 requests a day, plus any additional requests the townspeople give you. If you’ve played any Harvest Moon games before, Rune Factory 4 starts much quicker than they usually do, and by the end of the first week you should be able to proceed with the game as fast or as slow as you like. There’s no time limit so if you want to relax and take it easy you can.

The farming in Rune Factory 4 is fairly similar to that in Harvest Moon games, and quite different to the farming in Tides of Destiny, which mainly had your monsters doing everything. Like in Harvest Moon, you can plant vegetables, trees and flowers and increase their quality with fertilizer. Unlike Harvest Moon you can you grow things out of season, though they don’t grow as well. You can also grow dungeons, speed up the growth of your plants, grow giant crops and increase their defense against bad weather. You can also get wool, milk and eggs from monsters you tame (as well as some other items), or ask your monsters to help you farm or accompany you into battle. You can tame pretty much any monster you fight in the game, including many boss monsters.

As well as taking care of your farm there is also a long storyline to finish. This requires you to explore many dungeons and fight monsters. You can fight with several different weapon types, as well as magic. You can also equip abilities. The combat is fairly fast-paced and simple, though its fun to explore new areas to get access to new materials to upgrade your equipment. I wasn’t particularly fond of Ventuswill the dragon, so I wasn’t overly interested in the story, but I had no trouble completing it as the process of finding new things and upgrading was engaging enough that the story didn’t really matter. The world outside the town of Selphia also changes depending on what day it is and what the weather is like, which made exploring interesting as even if you’d already been to an area many time the monsters and the paths available might change the next time you went back.

As well as farming and fighting, there are also townspeople to befriend and 6 bachelors/ bachelorettes to marry. You can also invite the townspeople into dungeons with you and equip them with stuff you make/buy. They also give you presents sometimes and assign you tasks. As well as the many festivals you can attend, there are also many town events. These, and the dialogue of the townspeople changing depending on events that are occurring in the plot, festivals and birthdays that are coming up, and on skills you’ve increased, made the the town feel lively. The non-marriage candidates have a good amount of dialogue as well and town events, and I was surprised at how fond I became of Porcoline the chef.

There are also a number of  features in the game that make it easy to explore and play. You can get access to an airship later in the game which will take you to any dungeon, as well as many other important points in the field. There’s also an ‘escape’ spell you can use at any point to return to save points, as well as the town. That, and the airship, make exploration easy. Many of the items you sell will also be offered for sale by merchants after you unlock that ability, which means after you’ve found a really rare item once, most likely you’ll be able to buy it again instead of grinding for it.

There were a few things in the game that I had issues with however. The town events are random, which means starting the 3rd arc of the story can be a bit annoying. Town events tend to occur every couple of days, so you’ll get them all eventually, you might just see a whole lot of other events before you get the one you’re looking for. The end of the 3rd arc was also oddly anti-climatic, and I had to check online to make sure I’d actually finished the storyline. I was also disappointed with the prince/princess point system. I didn’t really feel like you were developing the town, it was more like you were improving your own farm and many of the things you can do with the prince/princess points you could do in previous games with money. The things you can do with the points do get more interesting after you go up in rank, but I still thought a lot more could have been done with the system.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this game and there’s heaps to do. Even after you finish the main storyline there’s another dungeon you can unlock. If you enjoy Harvest Moon, you should give Rune Factory 4 a go. It’s not the sort of game that will appeal to everyone, but even if you don’t like the Harvest Moon games you might still like Rune Factory as there’s a lot more variety in it.

-On an unrelated note, once again I will not be updating next week due to exams.