|Why yes, I am quite okay with this. Quite okay indeed.|
But when I was told, repeatedly, that the Rune Factory series was a better version of Harvest Moon and that it featured dungeon crawling... well, I had to cave and slip on the farming gloves.
-Extremely accessible, Rune Factory 4 features an interesting control scheme that works extremely well with its gameplay- the inventory system is simplistic and straightforward, the command functions feel responsive and satisfying, and it all works in tandem with the missions of the game.
-The insane abundance of things to do in Rune Factory is staggering. From leveling up every aspect of your farming, crafting, and combat skills, to improving your relationships with townsfolk, to arranging festivals... the list goes on and on, and it's a game that you play at your own pace if only because it's literally impossible to do everything in one day.
- In a pretty genius move, leveling is a frequent thing in Rune Factory but does not cap at 100. This allows for a growth system that really rewards the player and allows them to travel further into the game's offerings as they invest more time.
-A hopelessly backwards tutorial system that, if left unchecked, you won't finish until after the main quest? Eh.
- The main quest is unfortunately rather dull and serves simply as a way to introduce you to dungeon crawling. The relationships with other characters and events that occur later are far more interesting.
- For a game that encourages a sense of community, rarely does it feel like anyone contributes anything to the town except yourself. Even materials and wares are vastly inferior to the objects you can obtain yourself, unless you're looking to shave off time.
Rune Factory 4 is a timesink. A major one. Mind you, that's not a bad thing, especially for a game you can come back to multiple times, because there's ALWAYS something to do. As someone who was going into the series for the first time with 4, I was impressed with how readily available information was on getting accustomed to the game- but the quest-based tutorial system was one I hardly looked into.
See, the game is so heavily time-based that you have to make use of every second you have, and when it comes down to doing some sort of beneficial sidequest that will increase town relations or get you something neat, it's far better to take that on instead of a tutorial- which will give you points and a reward but take up one or two slots of your quest limit a day! No fun.
Aside from that, though, Rune Factory 4 is all about living- and having a blast doing so. Whether you're raising enemies you befriended in dungeons to kick major ass, asking your personal sweetheart out on a date, or farming, the game gives you more than you could ever hope to accomplish, but that's why it's fun. Every day is different. But there's so much that days go by without touching on the combat system or dungeons, and while they aren't really that impressive events. Sure, they have some pretty backgrounds and are peppered with the occasional switch puzzle, they seem quite sparse in a game that's supposed to be... well, you know... Harvest Moon with dungeons. That's not to say they aren't a challenging, though. Level spikes are frequent in order to keep up with the seemingly-endless level system of the game, so you'll always have a dungeon to tackle... maybe alone, or with a monster, or with a family.
Final Verdict: While it features enough content to keep a committed gamer playing for a solid year straight, one of Rune Factory's core elements- dungeon crawling- feels more stat-crunchy than it does action RPG. But if you've ever wanted to be the hero of the town and able to pretty much do anything, this game is for you.