When Rune Factory 5 was announced, I was ecstatic. After Neverland went bankrupt shortly after the fourth game’s release, I figured the series was done. But then we had to wait over a year after the game’s Japanese launch to even get it here, plus additional months for the PC port. Unfortunately, the response to the Switch version was less than warm. I prayed that was more due to the game’s many performance issues, which are fairly common with Switch games. Soon I was able to find out for myself. Rune Factory 5 isn’t as good as its predecessor, even if I found plenty to enjoy about what is — undoubtedly — a Rune Factory game through and through.
To say that Rune Factory 5‘s visuals are dated is a giant understatement. The game looks archaic, like a GameCube release from 2003 that has somewhat upgraded textures and draw distance. Sort of. The textures, character models, and geometry are all insanely basic and unimpressive. The amount of pop-in is astounding. You’ll enter a building and watch as character models take a couple of seconds to fade into existence. There could have been some unfamiliarity with the Unity engine.
Character animations are of similar quality. When observing NPCs, it’s jarring to see that they don’t have a full suite of animations. If a shopkeeper goes to stand behind a counter, their model vanishes and then reappears in a different pose. Hair clips through everything, and the wooden way it animates while characters are walking is jarring. None of the NPCs have collision detection, either, so you can just walk straight through them. Even when considering Rune Factory 5 was originally a Switch game, that can’t come remotely close to explaining the way it performs. It’s almost stunning that Rune Factory 4 looks so much more polished when that was a 3DS game from over a decade ago.
Bump it up
As is standard with publisher Marvelous’ PC ports, most graphics options are set in a launcher. Starting Rune Factory 5 on Steam presents you with a prompt to choose between launching the game directly or going through said launcher. However, every time I picked the former, the launcher still showed up anyway. Granted, the game is still superior to how it was on Switch. Textures, shadows, and draw distance are all markedly improved. The most welcome difference, of course, is the framerate. Since the game uses the Unity engine, you can run it uncapped.
Naturally, since the game is so visually dated, that means it’s a cinch to get high framerates than that of the Switch — which struggled to get to 30 fps. I did notice a good deal of stuttering at 120 fps, though. Technologically, Rune Factory 5 is a bit of a mess. To add insult to injury, it loves to crash for me. I haven’t played a PC game in recent memory that randomly crashes more than this one.
The game doesn’t autosave either, so prepare to take steps to mitigate this. Every time I made it to a new floor in a dungeon, I warped back home to save. Each time I moved on to take care of a different field, I saved. I’ve had the game crash during transitions, fighting monsters in the field, or just doing whatever. It was necessary, but it did make the game a lot harder to enjoy. Granted, the crashing isn’t constant, at least. But I’d say that it at least happens once for every couple of hours of play. I’m hoping a patch sorts this out soon. But the Switch version is still a mess months later, so who knows?
No harm in a farm
But the thing is, despite all of the aforementioned issues, I can’t help but mostly have a lot of fun with Rune Factory 5. Many series hallmarks return, from having a room full of containers and workbenches to carrying hilariously tall stacks of items. Pretty much everything I loved from previous games is here. There are quality-of-life improvements, too, that make certain things a breeze. You can teleport damn near everywhere for nothing. You’ll also find crystals and flowers that refill your energy all over the place. Due to this, you can get a hell of a lot done in one day.
On the flipside, there are zero PC-specific adjustments for gameplay. You can’t have a hotbar, so every time you want to change your equipped items or do anything, you need to jump into a menu to do it. It’s not a huge deal and, yes, Rune Factory 4 is the same way, but that certainly hurts the game compared to its modern contemporaries. Days are also too long, if anything, which can make the game’s pacing feel glacial, even if it picks up considerably in the second chapter with more frequent dungeon visits.
But the dungeons are simpler than they were in RF4, which I wasn’t crazy about. They’re also all mostly tiny, typically with you clearing a floor or two at a time followed by a boss battle. There isn’t much in the way of enemy variety, as Rune Factory 5‘s bestiary is absolutely dominated by palette swaps.
The typical series gameplay is all here, though. You’ll farm on multiple fields, befriend townsfolk, fight monsters, craft tons of new items, and take in monsters. Farming even takes less time due to a strange oversight that lets you mash a button and rapidly chain square after square on your fields, which makes upgrading your tools almost entirely pointless.
Rune Factory 5 isn’t one of the best titles in the series, but did enjoy it overall. It’s disconcertingly ugly and crashes on me far more than I’d prefer, but it’s a fully 3D Rune Factory game that’s easy to dump hour after hour into — even if the endgame can’t compare to the one in the previous title. This is an infinitely better version of the game, and there’s still a lot to love despite the blemishes. Here’s to hoping the friggin’ thing crashes less often in the next couple of weeks.