Did you ever play Stardew Valley and think to yourself ‘this would be way better if it offered a meaty fantasy adventure on the side’? Well, you’re in luck because Rune Factory 4 Special offers just that. After starting life as a 3DS game back in 2012, it has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch in a remastered form with additional content, giving more gamers the chance to indulge in its addictively fun fantasy farming-adventure hybrid.
Rune Factory 4 Special puts you in the role of a male or female traveller who is tasked with delivering a package to the town of Selphia via your trusty airship. Disaster strikes when you’re attacked though, and after crash-landing down into the town, you lose your memory. Can’t have a fantasy adventure without a little bit of amnesia, right? Fortunately, you get mistaken for a member of royalty when you are recovered and find a new home in the castle – this comes with new-found responsibilities though, as you’re tasked with looking after Selphia, ensuring its people are happy, and heading on countless adventures into the wilderness.
Sounds like hard work, right? Luckily for gamers, this simply involves farming, adventuring, and forging relationships in the town as you look to start your new life. It makes for a really enjoyable gameplay loop and one that’s easy to find yourself totally addicted to.
One of Rune Factory 4 Special’s most appealing features is its farming, which allows you to grow crops, look after animals, and tend to your land – if you’ve ever played Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon before, you’ll know exactly what you get to do. It’s all busywork, but the kind of busywork that feels rewarding to indulge in and that quickly becomes more and more addictive as you invest more time into it. A full day in-game lasts an hour so you’ve got plenty of time to go about your daily routine whilst farming, though you’ll want to keep an eye on your stamina bar too. It’s all fun stuff and I quickly found myself spending hour upon hour farming without a care for anything else in the game.
Rune Factory 4 Special adds a unique twist to the farming formula though by placing an emphasis on exploration too, with players able to explore dungeons, take on enemies, and find additional materials to help with crafting. Combat feels satisfying in-game and some of the encounters against the bosses are particularly impressive, so it certainly doesn’t feel like a tacked on aspect by any means.
However, there is a focus on grinding that could grow a little tiresome. Some enemies in the game can be tough so you’ll have to grind to improve your own capabilities, whilst there are also some items that you’ll require for crafting that will take a bit of work to uncover. It means that you’ll have to spend some time re-playing through dungeons, which could get a little tedious over time. It’s a bit funny really – I’ll happily tend to my farm and do the same tasks over and over whilst looking after my crops, but battling through dungeons just felt like a chore over time. It shows that whilst enjoyable, combat and exploration aren’t necessarily the best aspects of Rune Factory 4 Special.
So you’re a farmer and an adventurer, but let’s not forget that you’ve also been mistaken for royalty. Throughout Rune Factory 4 Special you’ll earn Prince/Princess points, which you can then spend to develop items, bring new shops to Selphia, initiate festivals, or just attract more tourists to come visit. It’s a neat little system that allows you to directly influence what exactly goes on in Selphia, all whilst making the game a little easier for yourself.
Everyone needs someone by their side when their life is tied up in farming, adventuring, or acting as royalty, so you’ll be glad to know that there’s a relationship system in Rune Factory 4 Special that allows you to find the man or woman of your dreams, marry them, and even have kids. It’ll take some effort, with players expected to shower potential partners with gifts, constantly speak to them, and then declare your love just to end up in a relationship. It’s time-consuming, but hey, it’s all worth it not to be alone, right?
The Nintendo Switch edition of Rune Factory 4 Special has some additional content that ties into these relationships, with the ‘Newlywed Mode’ offering all-new scenarios for you to tackle based upon who you end up in a relationship with. Whilst I’ll admit it’s not something I spent a whole lot of time with, I’m sure returning gamers will enjoy seeing this new content and divulging further into the relationships they share in-game.
There are plenty of things to do in Rune Factory 4 Special, so you’re certainly going to be kept busy. Working out how to balance your day is imperative to your success though, and being a keen adventurer, a farmer, a member of royalty, and a bachelor/bachelorette don’t always go hand-in-hand thanks to the limited time you have in a day. It’s all about effective time-management and prioritising the tasks that are most important to you, whether that’s from a progression viewpoint or simply getting what you want out of the game. With no time-limit in place and PLENTY of fun stuff to so though, you’ve got the freedom and all the time in the world to enjoy your adventure in Rune Factory 4 Special.
Just don’t be afraid to look online for a little guidance if you get stuck. Rune Factory 4 Special isn’t very generous when it comes to explaining its systems or telling you everything that you can do, so you may find yourself a little stumped or not experiencing everything that’s on offer first of all. It’s something you get used to the more you play, but I found that consulting a beginners guide online ensured that I was getting the most out of the game from the get-go.
Presentation-wise, Rune Factory 4 Special looks pretty decent, albeit a little dated in places. It’s clearly had a nice lick of paint to give it a refreshed HD look, but it still has a few sketchy textures here and there. It’s a pretty game though and it certainly offers a world that’s jolly and really pleasant to be a part of. It runs really well on the Nintendo Switch too, with no frame rate stutters or performance issues to be found during my entire time playing.
Rune Factory 4 Special is a delight to play, with its mixture of farming and adventuring making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s a bit of a shame that there’s a little too much of an emphasis placed on grinding when it comes to combat in-game, but it certainly doesn’t tarnish everything that the game gets right – especially the farming, which is top notch throughout.
Whether you played it on the 3DS or this is your first time experiencing its unique amalgamation of genres, Rune Factory 4 Special is one release that adventure (and farming) fans won’t want to miss out on.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch