The complexity of this game is wonderful and insane. (UPDATED with off-screen video.)
Rune Factory 4 is a beast of a game. Hidden under the smiling faces and pastel colors is an insanely complex experience that features something for just about everyone.
I’ve never played a Rune Factory title before, but after playing the extensive demo at E3, I am definitely looking forward to its 3DS North American release this summer. Besides following the main story, players can focus on different elements they’d like to master. Social interactions, dungeon crawling, farming, managing a shop, running the town, attracting tourists, and skill building can sure take up a lot of time; in fact, our XSEED representative claimed to have logged over 300 hours in the game.
Starting on the outskirts of town, we explored forest with our amnesiac main character, a princess who fell from an airship and landed on a dragon. Luckily, this was a nice dragon who was the guardian of the town she ruled over. Rune Factory 4 is actually the first title in the series to allow players to choose a boy or girl from the beginning, so the princess could actually be a prince instead. While exploring, we encountered large ants and beetles that would respawn every time we exited the area and even stumbled upon a boss battle.
To help you fight, townsfolk can be recruited if their relationship level has reached three or higher, but there is a knight character who will always agree to accompany you regardless of your relationship level with him.
To fight monsters, players can choose from a wide variety of weapons: wands, hammers, axes, and more were available from the princess' inventory accessed by pressing the L button. We used a short sword during the demo, and other items can be purchased, gifted, or even synthesized.
Back in the town square, tourists and residents alike were milling about holding fishing poles for the day's big fishing competition. Holidays can created by the player by making official orders from the castle. A calendar helps keep track of special days, which do pass by very quickly, 30 minutes equals one day in Rune Factory 4. Seasons change every 30 in-game days which affects daily activities, weather, and citizens’ outfits.
All of the people we interacted with had humorous dialogue and distinct personalities, and dialogue changes often to keep characters from stagnating. You can improve your relationship with characters by giving gifts based on their tastes, remembering birthdays, and having conversations. You can even date, marry, and have kids with an eligible member of the opposite sex.
The castle is a good hub for decreeing royal orders and working on skills. A menu shows all the actions of the Order System, which is a new feature for the series. The main character can do many actions as a royal, each costing prince/princess points which are earned depending on how well you run the town and gain the people’s admiration when you complete tasks. Festivals can be created or cancelled and new shops can be constructed. Even less obvious options are listed like changing the game’s background music, the weather, and our favorite: destroying all the castle’s furniture.
Certain items trigger skill building options, like cooking which requires ingredients and recipes, as well as RP, which is used for most actions in the game. If too much RP is used up, HP will be drained instead; Items or sleeping recover RP.
As this game is a spinoff of Harvest Moon, farming works basically the same. The farm is located behind the castle and requires occasional tending and weed pulling to prosper. Animals are also kept nearby and can be interacted with. The shop option works differently, as the prince/princess serve as a mobile shop, directly showing off items for sale by talking to people. If someone is interested in an item, they’ll suggest a price and players can choose to haggle if they wish.
Three save file options means you are free to try out different paths for your character and experiment. There is a lot to keep track of as the game progresses, which is something we really enjoyed. Rune Factory 4 has really gone above and beyond normal RPGs to create a game that is charming, fun, and extremely thorough.