All roads lead to the rich and bountiful fields of PC gaming these days. There was a time where farming games like Harvest Moon and its high fantasy spinoff Rune Factory were the sole domain of consoles. Thanks to Stardew Valley the genre is now in full bloom on PC, and green-thumbed adventurers can play Rune Factory 5 starting Wednesday, about a year after it first hit the Switch in Japan. This is the second Rune Factory game on PC, but the first one that feels like it actually takes advantage of the hardware.
What Is It?: A hybrid action-JRPG and farming sim.
Expect To Pay: $59.99/£49.99
Release Date: July 13th, 2022
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Reviewed On: Windows 11, Nvidia 2080 Ti, Intel i9-9900k @ 4.9ghz, 32gb RAM
Link: Official Site
Rune Factory 5 launched to middling reviews on the Switch, with janky performance and poor graphics dragging down scores. It was a reasonable critique—real-time combat tends to fall apart when chugging along at 20 fps. After a dozen or so hours I’ve barely scratched the surface of the PC version (it’s an absolutely massive game), but I’ve not seen a single performance dip. Rune Factory 5 can even run at an uncapped framerate, and most gaming-spec PCs shouldn’t have any trouble running it at max settings at 4K, 120fps or higher.
This is clearly a game better enjoyed on PC, but it still isn’t the most technically impressive port. There’s no changing graphics options in-game, only through the rather stiff launcher panel. There’s a decent range of graphical options but no support for ultrawide monitors, leaving me to play windowed or pillarboxed on my screen.
The UI on the PC version has a few quirks too. There’s no control rebinding, and some of the keybind choices are bizarre. The quick-equip buttons are bound to the arrow keys while movement and other actions are centered around WASD—almost unusably far apart. At the time of writing (a few days before launch), the mouse camera controls did not respond to the axis invert options in the menu, a minor bug that will hopefully be ironed out quickly.
Beyond that, the interface on PC is good enough, but clearly not designed first and foremost with PC in mind. All the major menus are fully clickable with a mouse, but a gamepad still feels more natural. It still has the distinctly chunky feel of a Switch port. They’ve clearly made some effort here, but it falls short of the bar for a modern PC game.
While at maximum settings Rune Factory 5 certainly looks nicer on PC, it was hardly the prettiest Switch game to begin with. In fact, it looks like a late PS2-era game—and while I do mean that as a criticism, the chunky aesthetic isn’t without charm. I like the bright and vivid palette, which is complemented by light cel-shading effects. It looks far more at home on PC than Rune Factory 4, which was clunkily ported from the 3DS.
Rune Factory 5 is leaning more on charm than technical flair, but charm is what’s kept me playing so far. The setup is pure JRPG: your character begins the story with amnesia, waking up outside a high-fantasy frontier town. Before long you’re pressed into service in the local adventurer’s guild and then discover your true nature as an Earthmate; a mystical warrior-farmer of legend, master of sword and hoe.
You even befriend a dragon that lets you set up a farm on its back—the first of several such big lizards that you’ll be growing crops on.
After a relatively linear opening segment, Rune Factory 5 is happy to let you take your time and play at your own pace. The small town is full of cozy vibes. Its colorful inhabitants each have their own problems, but they're all happy to be your friend. Rune Factory 5 is a largely gentle, easygoing experience with few penalties for mistakes beyond losing a little gold if you get knocked out by monsters.
And there will be fighting. When you’re not planting crops or chatting with the locals, you’re picking up quests from the noticeboard, fighting monsters (non-lethally—you’re just banishing them back to their home dimension) and exploring dungeons for loot and to progress the main story.
This is as much a JRPG as a farming game, which is what separates it from Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. Combat is still mostly simple hack n’ slash stuff, but with a decent range of moves per weapon type and some combat magic options to spice things up.
Rune Factory 5 puts a major focus on working with others, both on the farm and in combat. As well as recruiting an assortment of heroes from the local townsfolk, you can alternatively fill your party with monsters (including several major bosses) that you can tame with your mystical farmer powers. Better yet, when your monsters aren’t fighting for you, you can ride them or task them with simple farm chores like watering, harvesting and selling your crops, in exchange for regular grooming and snacks. While I’ve only caught a couple so far, I can see myself losing many hours hoarding and petting these Pokemon-like critters.
While it's purely optional, Rune Factory 5 has a lot of opportunities for romance, too. There’s 12 characters that you can ask out on dates, marry and have kids with. The original Japanese version of the game didn’t support same-sex pairings, but the English version does, even providing the option of adopting if you want children. There are six guys and six gals to woo, or awoo, if that’s your thing.
The developer has even thrown a bone to the furries in the form of a hirsute himbo and werebeast-girl, if your idea of romance includes ear-scritches and tummy rubs.
After a dozen hours, I’m still not very far into Rune Factory 5, but I can see myself losing a few more afternoons to it. While not the most polished or refined farming game or JRPG, the intersecting mechanics and social focus give me a taste of what I’ve never been able to get from Animal Crossing. As someone who lost way too many days to mid-tier PS2 JRPGs as a teen, there’s something deeply nostalgic about this game. It’s not going to win any game of the year awards, but I suspect some will lose ungodly amounts of time in Rigbarth.