Rune Factory Frontier is something else. I’ve already logged over 20 hours. To put that into a little more perspective, that’s longer than most games from start to finish. To make that wide angle, let me put it this way: I think I beat the first dungeon, but I’m not sure. I didn’t consult the internet to make sure, but there was certainly a “Boss encounter” with a life bar and everything. And it was pretty exciting, albeit straightforward.
I was not ready for it, but to be fair, the game did ask if I was ready for it. Being overconfident, I went ahead anyway. I came out on top but the life meter was flashing red. Furiously. There may have been a pixel of green in there somewhere, but I’m surprised that my character didn’t just wake up in the hospital with Sister Lara tending to his wounds.
It’s very open ended, so I’m not sure I’m doing it the right order. Not that there is a “right” order. I’m convinced I could spend the rest of Laguna’s life being a farmer. Planting turnips in the Spring, and then growing grass for fodder for the buffamoos and the indentured servants befriended monsters that work the farm. Maybe working enough nerve to ask Rosetta to marry him. Spending summers on the beach, playing lazy beach games with the townsfolk.
But let me start with a summary. Rune Factory Frontier is a game about farming. And about dungeon crawling. And dating. And time management. And monster raising.
Think of farming. Clearing the land. Tilling it. Sowing seeds. Watering those seeds daily until they bear fruit. Harvesting that fruit and then selling it so you can buy better tools and seeds. Watching the days turn into seasons and changing your crops appropriately. Hoping you’ve got enough feed to get your animals through the winter. Gathering eggs and milk. Making cheese. Making yogurt. Cooking meals. Preparing medicines. Repairing and improving your tools. Climbing the giant beanstalk to Whale Island up in the sky and fighting orcs and slimes and wolves. Defeating a giant Roostergriffon. . . thing.
So maybe it’s not exactly like farming, but that’s what the game is like. And for some reason, it’s a lot of fun. Tending to animals, watering crops, picking out seeds, expanding the house and the barn, improving your tools. All of these things are little achievements that happen over the scope of the game. Gradual advancement. Getting just a little bit further into the the summer dungeon and planting more crops.
The little achievements are important, because Laguna has only a certain amount of time each day. Additionally, there’s only so much stamina per day, and each action, be it tilling the land, or swinging a sword, takes a little bit more of it. He gets better at it over time, and there are levels for farming, for mining, for cooking, crafting, forging, and weapons. A higher level for farming and weapons means that he loses less stamina with each swing. Higher crafting levels are higher success rates and open access to creating better equipment.
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a grindfest. Wake up. Do the farming. Go to the dungeon. Defeat monsters and mine for raw materials in the dungeons. Craft and cook and blacksmith to level up skil. Go to bed. Wake up. Etc. While the days don’t really change in terms of what you do, you get better at them each day, the more you do them. So at the very least for me, it’s a grindfest without all of the MMO baggage of other people.
If you absolutely need a time sink and are familiar with the Rune Factory series or Harvest Moon series, this particular game is literally, a no brainer. Total GET.
And this is going to be a small rant against everyone who is clamoring for the camera to be fully three dimensional.
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Because we can colorize Casablanca does not mean we should. I am not saying that media should shy away from new techniques. We can use computers to clean up the prints digitally, to make the images closer to how audiences in the theaters viewed them originally. But to colorize Casablanca would lose the contrast in the scenes, the visual line between light and dark that is the essence of that movie.
That said, Rune Factory: Frontier is not Casablanca.
But I believe that they made a good design choice. They have created a three dimensional world, given it life through an anime focused design aesthetic. They have made the camera static, and for good reason.
A huge chunk of the game is time management.
Given the design of the game, knowing where to go next is essential. When every second of every minute counts, you need to know where to go. To start moving in that direction immediately. Not fiddle around while a camera catches up to you. If I need to head to the mountain road to Lake Poli, I know it’s to the South West, down and to the left.
I can see why people would would want a three dimensional camera if the game had three dimensional dungeons, with rooms that spanned several floors. But this game is about farming, dating, and crafting, with a dungeon crawling game similar to the first Legend of Zelda. It just happens to use polygons.
Speaking of farming, to all the people that have lining up difficulties for farming activities, I would suggest using the Z button to make the main character strafe. Yeah, that’s in the manual. I’m just sayin’.
Full Disclosure: To date, I’ve put in over 40 hours into Rune Factory. I. . . I had to stop. But I had fun. I would probably still have fun if I booted it up again and started playing. However, the Runey system needs a way for me to see what areas need what Runeys are needed in an area without having to go back to the clock tower or talk to someone every time. It feels more like work than any of the other “work” activities, and unfortunately looks like it’s a required portion of the game.