I have a deep and abiding love of Harvest Moon, and that love has easily transferred over to its spin-off series, Rune Factory. I have the same amount of devotion of it as well, which is why I couldn’t leave E3 2013 without playing Rune Factory 4, the first 3DS installment in what has become a formidable series on its own. Given this installment covers farming, dungeon crawling, relationship building and even some mild town management, the demo couldn’t possibly cover every single aspect. Instead, it focused on exploring and fighting through a dungeon, which is what I’ll cover here today.
Before I get into that though, I noticed one of Rune Factory 4‘s biggest changes the moment I stepped up to the demo. I was playing as a female character. For the first time in the series, players can choose their avatar’s gender at the beginning of the adventure. He or she is then a new prince or princess, ready to rule over and shape a town, while also managing a farm and protecting it from monsters. Now, this gender difference had no influence on the battles I was about to face, but will determine which characters a player can marry during the relationship building segments.
Dungeons and battles in Rune Factory 4 are pretty much identical to previous installments, though they’re a bit prettier and more detailed in this installment. Players have an overhead view of their avatar as he or she runs through an area, attacking enemies that appear on the field. Enemies are spawned from portals, which can be destroyed to prevent more from appearing. I could wield a sword, axe or magic spells to damage my opponents in the demo, with certain weapons or spells assigned to various action buttons and the ability to swap between items on the fly with the tap of a shoulder button. I also had access to the taming glove, which I could have used to make the ant-like monsters love my avatar and join my flock of creatures at the farm, but given that they wouldn’t immediately be joining me in battle, I decided to ignore that option.
As usual, I had a map on the touch screen that I could consult to check my location and possible points of interest. Also, Rune Factory 4 still utilizes save points instead of a more modern save-anywhere policy, which means players have to keep an eye out for special spots to maintain their progress. The ant monsters looked familiar as well, as I’m sure I’d seen them in Rune Factory 3, but I didn’t immediately spot any of the series’ other staple monsters in this area.
Unfortunately, I must have arrived to this Rune Factory 4 demo station after someone else had already completed the objective. All there was for me to do was explore the area and fight critters as they would respawn. There was no boss battle or story segment. I just had the most basic experience of fighting monsters in this new world. It didn’t go badly, I even leveled up my sword-wielding skills due to substantial use of it when slaying monsters, but I would have liked a bit more of a challenge or something that showcased more of the advances from previous games.
Rune Factory 4 is coming to the 3DS on August 13, 2013. It will cost you $39.99, and while I can only find confirmation of a physical release at the moment, I’m sure we’ll see it on the eShop as well. If you enjoy a good simulation that lets you make friends and occasionally journey into dungeons to fight monsters, you may want to keep it on your radar.