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   Rune Factory: Frontier - Staff Review  

So Much to Do, So Little Time
by Tom Goldman

PLATFORM
Wii
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
40-60 Hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
+ Tons of content
+ Many ways to play
- Runey system is annoying
- Time/stamina management can be frustrating
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Rune Factory: Frontier is a Wii iteration of the Harvest Moon spin-off series Rune Factory, the first two entries having been released on the Nintendo DS. Rune Factory takes many of its gameplay elements from Harvest Moon, but adds dungeon crawling. If you've ever wanted to grow legions of crops, but also wanted to kill some monsters on the side, Rune Factory: Frontier is the game for you.

   Rune Factory: Frontier has many conventions of the typical MMORPG, making the game feel like a single player version of one. Monsters respawn in the dungeons each day, allowing players to farm as much loot as they please. There is also a robust crafting system, the ingredients for which are found mostly in dungeons, giving players the power to cook varying types of food, craft weaponry, create accessories, and make potions. There are many different kinds of weapons to use in combat, each with its own range, power, and special ability

   Heading through Frontier's dungeons for the first time, it feels strange to stop to plant a crop of radishes after fighting goblins and mining for ore. Planting crops in dungeons actually has a use, sometimes giving a valuable replenishment of health, or offering the chance to grow crops that are out of season on your farm back home. The dungeon crawling portion can be challenging unless the proper amount of health replenishing items and weapons is crafted. There is enough content in Frontier to play a single dungeon endlessly just to farm ingredients to make new items, while doing actual farming on the fields back home to earn money.

Look at all those annoying Runeys. Look at all those annoying Runeys.

   One of the best parts of Rune Factory: Frontier is the amount of freedom it allows. Outside of the restrictions of crop planting, which only let players plant summer crops in summer, spring crops in spring, etc, players are free to do as they please. There is no linear storyline that forces the player to do anything, though to advance through the game certain tasks must be completed. These tasks can be taken on at leisure, though as a downside this can also make it hard to figure out exactly what to do or where to go to keep moving through the game.

   Frontier is truly all about the management of a single resource: time. The game is divided into seasons, with each season subdivided into days, with each day composed of twenty-four hours. An hour of gametime is about one minute in real time. Staying out too late at night can make the main character sick, which will make him wake up late the next day or have very low stamina. The character's stamina must also be managed, as each action will use up a little bit of it, whether it be clearing rocks from your fields, engaging in combat, or crafting an object. If stamina runs out, the day automatically ends and the player could be sick again the next day. For this reason, actions must be planned carefully to maximize effective time usage each day. Animals can be tamed and put to work on the farm to help out, but days will likely have to be set aside for farming, crafting, dungeon crawling, or one of the game's more annoying aspects: balancing Runeys.

Farm your life away. Farm your life away.

   Runeys can generally be ignored, but must be managed at one point or another. Rune Factory: Frontier's town is divided into areas, with four types of Runeys populating each region: grass, air, water, and rock. Certain Runeys eat each other; some multiply faster than others. Runey population, when balanced, can make crops grow faster. When unbalanced, crops will grow slower. Balancing Runeys requires them to be sucked into an object called the Harvester — which is slow and tedious — and then they can be released in other areas. The problem is that the Runey balance can only be checked in a specific location and not during the act of transference, mandating the annoyance of keeping good notes handy. In certain cases Runeys seem to multiply or die out for an unknown reason, which might be explained by a piece of information somewhere in the game that wasn't obvious.

   Other than the Runey system, Frontier is a pretty fun game. It is a very deep experience that includes farming, dungeon crawling, fishing, crafting, chopping wood, weeding, special events such as canoe races, forging relationships with the townsfolk, upgrading weaponry, the Runey system, taming monsters, and more. For Harvest Moon players interested in something a bit different, it's a strong bet. For RPG fans in general, it could be a fun divergence from the norm. Rune Factory: Frontier can be somewhat tedious at times, but at the least it always gives players something to do.

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