|Dev: Neverland Co.|
|Pub: XSEED Games|
|Release: Q3 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol|
by Jenni Lada
2013 is truly the year of the RPG for the 3DS, with major games from multiple sources giving players the chance to live the imaginary lives of their dreams. We've fought armies in Fire Emblem: Awakening, explored a post-apocalyptic world in Shin Megami Tensei IV, charted labyrinths with Etrian Odyssey IV, and visited some dreams in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Next, we'll be able to enjoy a fantasy life filled with dungeons, dragons, and farming with Rune Factory 4.
The amnesiacs are getting their due. Gone are the days when those without memories and direction are condemned to a life of farming, saving the world, or even godliness. In Rune Factory 4, those of us without any past or credentials are given the life we deserve. We're declared royalty! Given the job by a dragon and prince, no less! Granted, it isn't as simple as that. There's a misunderstanding on an airship and a clandestine encounter, during which the hero or heroine is attacked and thrown overboard, but it all ends up the same: You're the new prince or princess of Selphia. Congratulations!
Being newfound royalty means a player's role in Rune Factory 4 is a bit different than in prior installments. The dungeon crawling and farming is still there, of course. It wouldn't be a Rune Factory game without it. This time, however, players directly influence the growth of a town and the happiness of the citizens living within it. When it comes to managing your new empire, you'll have to take part in tasks such as building new buildings and holding various festivals, as well as fulfilling ordinary requests from townspeople. When it comes to farming, it's business as usual. Crops can be planted and tended to fulfill requests or earn extra money.
Building up a town isn't as easy as snapping your newly royal fingers. People have to trust you, and that means earning prince or princess points. This means serving the people. Taking care of their requests will earn points, and so will running the shop in the castle. Once enough points have been acquired, special licenses may unlock, or new buildings and events can be opened or held that then increase your prince or princess level. More levels means more stuff is available to earn. It sounds like it could be a vicious cycle.
The adventuring section has quite a bit in common with prior Rune Factory games. In Rune Factory 4, you'll venture into new areas to advance the story and learn more about not only your roots, but also the town and areas. A character can wield standard hero or heroine equipment such as swords, axes, lances, or magic as well as regular farming tools. The monsters encountered can be befriended if you're willing to take enough hits while petting them to prove your love. Befriended animals can be tended like livestock for items such as eggs, milk, or wool, or they can join your character in a dungeon as an AI-controlled partner. Players can also have a capable townsperson join them in dungeons.
Just be careful when you fight the boss in a dungeon. He or she could become your husband or wife. Yes, there are some rather unorthodox bachelors and bachelorettes in this installment. Aside from ordinary human men and women to date, there are also some characters with monster forms. Once the boss has been defeated in monster form, he or she will take on a human form, move to town, and be open to the idea of love.
Speaking of which, players of Rune Factory 4 can have a meet-cute with a virtual guy or gal and hook up. This time, however, people don't go straight from a few happy and romantic events to a wedding. There's actually a period of time where the avatar and person of his or her choice are in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Think of it as a way to take part in some special events without committing to one person right away, especially since a player character can have six boyfriends or girlfriends at once. This effectively means that one could date every bachelor or bachelorette in the game.
When marriage does happen, a family life begins. All your other old flames just become friends, and the player character and spouse eventually have a child. There will be special family events, and the group can all go together on dungeon-crawling adventures. (Which sounds like an excellent and totally normal family activity to me.) Of course, the family's life doesn't just revolve around the player. While a player is out having adventures, the spouse will have his or her own routine around town.
As usual, life in Rune Factory 4 will really be up to the players. They get to make the most of it, and, while a healthy balance of farming, adventuring, and socializing is usually required to succeed in these games, I've found in Rune Factory, Rune Factory 2, and Rune Factory 3 that, after a while, I was able to focus on whatever aspect entertained me most. We'll see if Rune Factory 4 is the same way when XSEED releases it in a few months on the 3DS.
Date: August 12, 2013