Rune Factory – Staff Review

A young warrior wanders through the woods of the kingdom of Norad. He doesn’t know where he is, where he came from, or even who he is. All he knows is his name and that he needs to find civilization, food, and water. Luckily, he happens upon a farm in the outskirts of the village of Kardia. Meeting a kind woman, he makes his request for the much needed nourishment. He receives a watering can and a hoe.

Rune Factory is not a typical RPG. It mixes together an action RPG with a typical Harvest Moon game in order to create a unique experience, and it does a surprisingly good job of merging the gameplay styles, despite being the first of its kind. Stamina has been replaced by HP and RP, with RP decreasing when actions such as using tools or casing spells are taken. HP decreases when hit by attacks, as in other RPGs, but it will also begin to fall as the hero continues to work after RP is used up, so it’s still possible to work oneself into exhaustion as in the rest of the Harvest Moon series. Players can perform the usual actions such as farming, fishing, logging, and mining, but this time around, they can level these skills up in order to decrease the amount of energy they use. It’s also possible to use many of the materials gathered through these actions to create or forge numerous items that will help the hero tackle the game’s many dungeons. This time around, farm tools can serve as weapons too.

Of course, there are elemental spells, shields, and proper weapons to choose from in addition to the standard farming tools, and they will probably be needed as the hero explores dungeons, as amusing as fending off an army of orcs by slowly watering them to death may be. Then again, being a Harvest Moon game, nothing actually dies, they simply return to the world that they were summoned from. Being a light-hearted game, players can even make friends with them. In addition to being able to join the hero in battle, this will allow them to help out around the farm or produce materials such as wool, depending on the type of monster.


In addition to the gameplay, another surprisingly well-done element is the interface. Despite the large number of added menus and information to keep track of that came along with the RPG portion, everything is organized very nicely, not just the Harvest Moon elements that have had a decade of interface tweaking. Furthermore, Rune Factory makes full use of the DS’s touch screen in order to make things flow even more smoothly. Perhaps the only real problem is that monster feed has to be split up manually between each barn rather than having a master silo, which can cause problems for monster-loving players during Winter, especially since each can hold a mere 99 units of food.

Sadly, not all elements of the game are well-done. Rune Factory‘s story is simple and unextraordinary, with only bits and pieces showing up after clearing certain key dungeons. However, given the nature of the game, this isn’t really a problem, especially since interaction with the townspeople can fill the void some, though not as much as in other Harvest Moons. The main problem lies with the localization. While it isn’t all that bad, the number of typos can be a bit distracting at times, especially when paired with mixed up lines, such as a character thinking it’s the beach opening, a Summer event, when it’s the middle of Winter.

Due to the nature of the game and how the dungeons and story are set up, Rune Factory can be very long or somewhat short. Players will be able to finish the game in about twenty hours if they focus purely on the dungeons while neglecting the other elements of the game, sleeping until the weather becomes cold enough to unlock the Winter dungeon. Of course, those who do so will be missing out on a lot of what the game has to offer. Players who instead work hard to make friends, take care of their farm, and learn a myriad of skills aside from swordsmanship will likely end up somewhere between the fifty and one hundred hour mark, depending on how much of a perfectionist they are.


Another factor that will change with how much effort the player puts into activities other than dungeon crawling is the difficulty. It involves a lot of effort, but players that put in an awful lot of effort can make some extremely powerful equipment and healing items. The game isn’t especially difficult to begin with, but this can help even things out for those that are more familiar with the Harvest Moon elements than fighting monsters and eventually bosses in real-time combat.

Though Rune Factory can be a long game, its music rarely gets old. This is thanks to each season, dungeon, and many parts of the world having their own music. On top of that, most of it is pretty good. There is also a small amount of voice acting, though it’s mostly limited to short phrases. Even so, it’s a nice addition.

The visuals are also quite nice thanks to character portraits, an anime scene, and some nice 3D models. Common characters and enemies may not look especially fantastic, but there are several impressive bosses. On the downside, the portraits are half-hidden beneath text-boxes most of the time and there are occasionally minor graphical glitches and slowdown, particularly in Winter.

Rune Factory is a solid game overall, thanks to good gameplay and an excellent interface that makes good use of what the DS is capable of. Good music and visuals enhance the experience somewhat. The story is a bit weak and hurt by a few localization errors here and there, but it doesn’t detract too heavily from the game as a whole. Rune Factory is certainly not the deepest RPG, but the hybrid of genres is original, largely well-designed, and likely to be quite interesting to those looking for something light-hearted and different.


  1. randar23rhenn:

    I’m really interested in this game, but have never really gotten too much into a Harvest Moon game. Do you think this could change my mind?

  2. Derek "Roku" Cavin:

    It’s possible. You’ll still have to do a bit of farm-ish stuff, especially if you want certain people to like you, but you have a lot of freedom to schedule it out the way you want to. If you get bored, you can just go do something else like explore a dungeon, provided you’ve earned enough money to get some basic equipment.

    If you didn’t mind prior Harvest Moons and just never got around to playing them a whole lot, that kind of flexibility will help a lot there. I know it did for me. On the other hand, if you just can’t get into the gameplay style at all, you aren’t as likely to get into it here either.

    Hope that helps.

  3. randar23rhenn:

    I did enjoy them, I just got kinda bored after a while. I’ll think about this one when I have money.

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