This installment, branching from one of my favorite game series, Harvest Moon, presents an open ended experience in the city of Trampoli.
This “Harvest Moon Fantasy” game has free roaming fun and multitasking challenges. The standard town exploration remains while developers expand adventures in places like Whale Island, which is about what you would expect…except it’s floating in the sky and not in the sea.
Developers also succeed with simple navigation that cuts down your traveling time though the simplified camera and action choices need some improvement. The strong graphics have a nice artistic style while the physical and aesthetic properties of natural elements like water enhance the game to a high level.
As the game’s helpful hero, Raguna, you usually don’t get a chance to choose tasks within the storyline. After an awkward orientation welcome by Sister Stella, the town’s founder, at the local church, you also encounter a previous friend named Mist. She’s basically the reason you end up in Trampoli.
Some arbitrary events where you collect items and bonuses may not be logical, but they bring some nice unpredictability. You get some dialogue choices amid the character interactions, which include ten different female characters.
This game still has immense free roaming and multitasking activities including cooking, exploration, farming (especially tiling areas), fishing, gathering food, watering plants and even fighting.
This installment adds dungeon exploration, swordplay and runeys. Yes, runeys enhance your produce productivity. There are four different types of these little ghost-like creatures hovering around. Using a harvester tool you can capture and move them to various places. It’s great when you first discover their properties. Their rate of growth, general disposition and ideal settings all factor into placement. Other special runey properties include crystals used in miracle events.
You encounter the monsters in the dungeons and then fight or tame them. If you can coax these creatures, then they help with your chores and can even watch your back in battles. Monsters can produce milk and eggs if you feed them fodder every day. You can also breed monsters using runeys.
Other actions include town/homestead expansions, picking fruit, performing magic, trying out recipes and smashing rocks for mineral ore. More interaction in the house would be great for the next installment, though, as in past installments, the townspeople can still expand your home with forge, barn or kitchen for a price.
As you use your various tools including a pet brush, sickle, ax and watering can to produce, maintain and eventually sell items. You can purchase needed items like weapons, seeds and special tools, though some are limited to special times or triggered events. It’s fun to eat while you work in the fields growing a wide array of edibles.
The control scheme works smoothly, but choosing menu items can be bit awkward, especially when fighting. Some choices pause the action before you make your selection. This format helps younger players make a decision, but experienced players could use a more challenging scheme where improvisational skills are useful and maybe incorporated with a bonus system.
One big time waster, especially in this genre, is time spent wandering around. Thankfully the buildings are close together and navigation is quick. Initially the detailed graphics can be overwhelming, so you get the sense that you could get lost very quickly. Time stops when accessing menus or going inside buildings and you get three save slots to save progress.
Improved skills (on the farm and in battle) and other enhancements really help you quickly progress further. The slower pace is best because you can really soak up the experience greatly enhanced by a basic music set (including some polka) and deeply detailed graphics. Rune Factory: Frontier is a game with great execution and relational role-playing where you choose how you spend your days and nights in Trampoli.
Rune Factory: Frontier is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for fantasy violence, mild language, suggestive themes and alcohol use.