I have always loved the idea of farm simulation games. Raising crops and animals from the comfort of your own home – just enjoying the good life, without the actual work. It’s the height of relaxation. But, after trying so many different games, I become so relaxed I get bored! The simple satisfaction of growing a rare fruit, or crafting an awesome weapon grows dull, and I yearn for something more exciting or challenging to do. So, when Rune Factory 4: Special was released in February, I didn’t think much of it. I thought of it as just another (to me) bland farming sim. But through some convoluted grape vine, I heard whispers of a great story and super fun RPG element. So I decided to give the game a shot. That was perhaps a week or two ago, and now I’m over fifty hours into a game that I may never let go of.
Rune Factory 4: Special is a remastered edition of a 2013 game of the same name. In the game you play as a young boy or girl who is on an important mission to the town of Selphia. High in the skies on an airship, your character is attacked, and thrown overboard. Thankfully, your landing is a soft one! You crash down into the palace of Ventuswill, one of the world’s four divine dragons. Ventuswill is pretty much a god, but there’s no shock or awe on your part as you’ve lost your memory. You can’t even remember your own name, let alone a divine being! Ventuswill, just as fickle as a god would be, decides to name you Prince/Princess of Selphia, citing that there must be a reason your arrival was so legendary. And from there the story unfolds.
The story behind Rune Factory takes place over three arcs, during which you learn more about the town’s residents, undercover political tensions and the lore of the world. It’s a heart warming story based within the idea of love and support from those around you. As you progress through the story, you explore the lands around Selphia, fighting monsters in a ‘hack and slash’ way and even taming them to put in your barn. I loved exploring the seasonal themed areas, and had even more fun using my various weapons and spells to conquer dungeons. This was my absolute favourite aspect of the game!
In saying that, the game itself isn’t always serious. Just like many farming simulations daily life is structured around seasons. With each season comes events that you may participate in such as fishing competitions or Valentine’s day. There’s also a randomly generate town event system that feature a short character based event. For example, in one town event I helped Arthur look for his lost glasses and another was what being a knight meant to Forte. I found all of these happenings around town really made for an immersive experience. I got to learn about all the character’s quirks, in a light hearted break from the often tense story arc.
The chockfull calendar of events also made the farming, and crafting aspects of the game not as draining me for me. There’s a variety of fruits and vegetables you can grow in the various fields in the game, and weapons you can craft for your battles. On top of this there’s so many different skills to level up from mining to something as simple as sleeping. For some, this could be a draw to the game but I wasn’t super enamoured by all these different skills. I ended up finding some quite tedious to raise such as forging. I will say I did enjoy cooking, there were so many tools to master (knife, frying pan, steamer, etc.) and I had fun going on little (self-created) missions to acquire ingredients to make a character’s favourite food on their birthdays.
However, I do have two criticisms for the game. The first is, I’m sure you can guess, the visuals. While each character’s portrait looks super cute and has so many fun facial expressions, the actual avatar needs some work. Monsters, in particular, can be poorly animated and look very dated. I do wish some effort had been made to update them.
My second issue is probably the biggest downfall of the game – the town events mechanism. As mentioned before, these events are randomly drawn from a pool of all the game’s events. Now, thankfully this isn’t as awful as it could have been. In the original 3DS game to trigger the game’s third arc, you needed to trigger a random event. I’ve seen comments online of people waiting an in-game year for it! Now the arc is automatically triggered shortly after you finish arc 2. Which honestly, I’m so glad for. As much as I enjoyed the set town events and random town events between each arc, I don’t think the game could sustain my attention with just that for more than an in-game month. They also ensured that character’s marriage events trigger as soon as you meet all the requirements, but meeting these requirements is a whole other story.
To marry a character, you need to get their love points up to 10 and see all the town events relating to them. When I started the game I really wanted to marry Dylas but after waiting around so long for his town event to trigger, I decided to start dating Arthur and Vishnal as back ups. I think a much better system would be for these town events to trigger randomly AND when you go on dates with the character. Just to make sure you’re not waiting around for one character’s town event to happens so you can finally marry them!
Overall, I definitely have had a lot of fun with Rune Factory 4: Special. I never played the original game back in 2013, so I can’t say whether there’s new content or it’s worth re-visiting for old players. But for new players, I can definitely recommend checking this game out. The characters and in-depth plot make this an exciting game to play through with time to spend doing the finer things in life. There’s so many different skills to build up, crops to grow and crafts to create. If that’s your cup of tea, I can’t see you running out of anything to do. However, the graphics and town events mechanism need updating, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything game breaking.
In summary – Rune Factory 4; Special is a perfect balance between relaxing farm simulation and an overarching immersive plot where the RPG elements shine.
Article Updated 21/4 – I found out that the marriage and third arc mechanics are triggered differently in RF4 Special and the 3DS RF4, article updated to be more accurate.