The Switch has long since become a safe haven for farming games big and small. Among some of the more well known farming games is Rune Factory. The Rune Factory series has been on Nintendo systems since its creation in 2006 for the DS. And just three years later in 2009 was the release of Rune Factory 3, on the same system. With the release of Rune Factory 4 Special, perhaps it was only common sense that Rune Factory 3 would get its own special edition.
In Rune Factory 3 Special, you play as Micah, a young boy who has wandered into a village and has amnesia. Thankfully the village people are more than helpful and offer you a place to stay within the Sharance Tree. This big tree has stopped blooming due to an unknown reason and along with it, the farm land around the tree has fallen into disarray. So in exchange for letting you stay, it’s up to you to revive the farm and earn your keep so to say.
The main story for Rune Factory 3 progresses as you explore the areas around the village and defeat the bosses in each area. This means the story can go at your own pace. Want to spend an entire year just farming, crafting, and getting close to the villagers before making your way through each of the areas? You can do that. Want to speedrun through the game and try to complete everything before the first season ends? You can do that too. It is truly a game where you get what you put in.
In terms of the actual storytelling, it is par the course for Rune Factory. There are multiple areas each representing the four seasons and each area has its own monsters and collectibles to obtain. The story does have its somber moments, particularly when tackling the human versus Univir relationship. But overall, things are kept lighthearted.
In the Rune Factory series, you are able to get closer with characters that you meet. Some characters you can only have a platonic bond with while others can be romanced. Which characters you can romance are easily told by looking at the list of characters and making note of who has a heart next to their name as opposed to a smiley face. Since Rune Factory 3 is one of the many games in the series where you can’t play as a girl and it doesn’t offer same-sex relationships, that means that you can only romance the female characters of the game.
If you wish to pursue a relationship with one of the characters, you’ll need to increase their bond level. This can be done by completing quests from those characters and giving them gifts that they enjoy. Once you approach the end of the game, you’ll unlock the blueprint for an engagement ring, which you can give to a character of your choosing. Of course though, characters will turn you down until they have a bond level of 10 with you.
The Rune Factory series tends to lean into having characters with singular quirks that will always come up in conversation. For example, Pia really loves squid and is guaranteed to mention the word squid at least once every other day when you talk to her, while Raven doesn’t appear to like you at all. On the surface, it does leave a feeling of wondering whether these characters have anything else to talk about. That paired with conversation points often repeating and you’re left feeling the need to skip dialogue at times just to continue with your day.
However, the characters will start to open up to you as your relationship grows with them. Pia will tell you how she came to live in the village and her motivations for staying while Raven will crack a smile when she sees you and talk about her relationship with Gaius. They’re all sweet moments and really show how far you’ve come compared to the beginning of the game. But don’t think that that will stop some characters from leaning back into their quirks in their day-to-day conversation.
Your relationships with characters will grow as you speak to them, but completing side quests and giving gifts are the quickest ways to increase your bond. But with gift giving, you need to make sure that you’re giving items that the characters care about. All of the characters are upfront with what they like the most, so it’s only a matter of getting that item in abundance if you’re looking to quickly raise your bond level. However, don’t think that you can just give a bunch of items to a character at one time, as that won’t raise their bond past the first time for a singular day.
There are three places where you can collect quests from: your mailbox outside your house, the bulletin board next to the flower shop, and the owl in the Univir village (which won’t unlock until later in the game). However, there is a limit of one quest per location per day. That means that once you complete a quest that came in from your mailbox, you can’t take on any more from that location until you pass the day. This is more than likely done to keep the player from speeding through all of the quests, especially since all of them are very easy to complete.
All of the quests are either escorting a character to a location, fighting specific monsters, or giving specific items to a character. Some quests are generic and don’t really advance any sort of plot. There are a series of quests that are character specific which will allow for you to learn more about them, with the relationship eventually growing to a romantic status. After you’ve earned eight hearts, that character will confess their feelings to you, allowing you to either accept or reject.
Rune Factory 3 Special is an action RPG and farming game where you can balance fighting against monsters with farming and crafting. The game has an internal clock where one second is one minute. The days will pass by naturally, but you are able to skip to the next day by resting in your bed. There isn’t a time limit to complete any portion of the main story, truly giving the player the freedom to choose when to advance the plot. There are no consequences for going to sleep late, although you’ll have to make sure to go to sleep before 5:59 A.M. as the next day will start at 6:00 A.M.
You have both an HP and RP bar to maintain. Your RP will be used with just about any physical action that you can take, from farming to casting spells. As you level up your skill level for these specific actions, the less RP will be used. If your RP bar depletes to 0, you’ll start taking damage. You don’t want this to occur, as the amount of damage you take will be substantial.
Once you get the chance to venture out of the village, you’ll be allowed to choose your first weapon for free. There are a variety of weapons to choose from, from a short sword to dual blades to a long sword. All weapons have upgraded versions that you are able to purchase or forge and each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages. Using the dual blades allows you to attack quickly, but damage won’t be as substantial as other weapons. The long sword hits for a lot of damage, but is very slow, leaving you open to attacks. It truly comes down to user preference, as all weapons are viable in the game.
You’ll also have special abilities known as rune abilities that can be hot-keyed to two of your buttons to use during combat. These abilities can randomly drop from enemies or can be bought at the store. Much like the weapons, many of the abilities are viable in their own way and it comes down to what works best for the player. There are both physical and magical abilities, which can open up the effectiveness of your battling, as you’ll run into enemies where physical (or magical) attacks are ineffective. But outside of combat, there are other abilities such as one that allows you to teleport back to either the beginning of the area, the village, and your house (which each consecutive use of the spell). Like everything else in the game, using abilities consume your RP gauge. You can, however, consume less RP by leveling up your skills bar from using combat skills.
Defeating monsters will give you experience, allowing you to eventually level up. Outside of the ceremonial music that plays every time you level up, nothing else really changes (outside of your stats increasing). To gain more moves, you need to increase your skill level with specific weapons. This means that there isn’t a penalty with switching weapons later in the game, outside of not being able to perform different attack combos.
You’ll eventually unlock the ability to transform into a monster yourself, which opens up a new form of fighting. Much like the weapons, attacking as a monster isn’t inherently better or worse than the weapons. The main downside is that you can’t exploit a monster’s weakness to specific elements like you can with a combination of weapons, spells, and specific items.
Combat happens in “dungeons” outside of the village. As you enter new areas, there will be plenty of monsters that will start attacking you the moment you enter their range. How much damage they end up doing depends on the equipment you have on and your level compared to theirs. The first few times you enter a new area, you’ll more than likely be a few levels under the recommendation. But gaining levels is simple and you’ll be able to catch up in no time.
There will always be portals that will spawn new monsters when those out in the field are defeated. In order to stop these monsters from spawning, you’ll need to destroy the portal. Although, if you’re looking to farm levels, keeping the portals may work in your favor. Of course though, moving off screen to the next area will reset the monsters in the previous area.
If you end up being defeated in battle, you’ll automatically be teleported to the clinic, where you’ll then be charged money. With each defeat, the cost of the clinic will continue going up, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your health. You’re able to consume cook or potions at any time to heal, although it takes a few seconds due to the eating animation to play through. So you’ll want to make sure that there aren’t any enemies nearby that can hit you in those moments.
At the end of each dungeon is a boss. Each of the bosses have their own attack patterns and they will all hit for massive damage if allowed. Once you enter a boss area, you’ll be locked into battle, with the only chance of escape being victory or defeat. Each of the bosses has their own elements and battle patterns that are easy to exploit. And while the fights aren’t hard, you do want to keep a close eye on your health, as some bosses have attacks that can get you caught up in a combo, making it impossible to escape in time to heal.
Rune Factory 3 has four seasons for players to work with, each day spanning 30 days total. During each season, you’ll be able to purchase seeds that work best during that season. The farming is pretty straightforward, with the potential to min-maxing your farm output for maximum profits. With the farm that you start out with, the plots are covered in logs, rocks, and leaves that will need to be cleaned up before you can get to farming. Grass can be used to make medicine, logs can be chopped up to make lumber that can be stored for later use with making equipment, and stones can be used for crafting. If the ground is not plowed, debris will spawn back on your farm, which can be overwhelming to keep up with.
In order to farm, you’ll need to plow the field, plant your seeds, and then water them with a watering can. The period of time that needs to pass before harvesting a plant varies, as well as whether a plant can be harvested multiple times. As the days pass, there may be moments where your plants turn brown, as though they are dried up. Watering these plants will rehydrate them, allowing them to grow/be harvested. However, if they look similar to the other grasses that can populate your field, then your plant has wilted.
When a plant is ready to be harvested, you have the option to harvest it or use your scythe to get higher level seeds. This is the only guaranteed way to get higher level seeds. You can also get higher level seeds when harvesting, although this is not always as consistent. As you grow more produce, your plants will naturally gain levels, with higher level produce giving more revenue.
On your farm, there will be a mailing box that you can put items into. Be very careful when putting items inside of the box though, as you won’t be able to get it back out afterwards. This is your main way of earning money, and you can sell anything from grass to extravagant weapons. As you sell items, you can also look at the mailing box to see how much items will sell for.
When it comes to crafting or cooking, you’ll need a recipe in order to create items. Recipes can be unlocked by eating different types of recipe bread bought from the chef Blaise. However, you won’t be able to unlock all recipes, as a good chunk of them are blocked off based on your current cooking or crafting level. In order to increase those levels, you’ll need to cook or craft.
Crafting and cooking will be cut off from you until you are able to unlock and purchase specific equipment from the villagers. Some characters will, like Gaius, will give you equipment for free. Others, like Blaise, will require money. You’ll want to unlock as many pieces of equipment as possible, as it will open up the types of items that you can cook and craft.
While you can get through the majority of the game without having to craft or cook, making use of these two functions will expand upon your game and makes things much easier for you. For one, items that are made tend to sell more than the raw materials themselves. And while you could either eat the produce that you harvest to heal, cooked meals will give more HP and RP, as well as giving additional stat increases. Some character’s favorite items can also happen to be cooked meals. You can also make your own food and potions to heal while fighting, cutting down on the amount of money you would spend to get these items.
During each season, there are a set amount of days where a holiday takes place. There are two sets of holidays: birthdays and festivals. During birthdays, things in the village operate as usual, but with characters mentioning that it’s a specific character’s birthday. With festivals however, all shops are closed and all of the characters will run around talking about how excited they are for the festival. There are a variety of festivals to take part in, such as fishing and eating tournaments. Some festivals will have you play a minigame against other characters while others will have you submit an item for judging. While simple in its execution, it’s a nice change of pace from your day to day with farming and fighting.
Rune Factory 3 Special brings updated graphics compared to its original release on the DS, following in the steps of Rune Factory 4 Special. Character sprites during conversation are 2D, with each character’s design fun and vibrant. The character models and environments are all in 3D and look pretty good, more than likely using the same assets from Rune Factory 4. Of course though, compared to some of the other farming games that have released recently, Rune Factory 3 Special definitely looks dated.
Music and Voice Acting
Much like the art assets, there are some tracks that fans of Rune Factory will recognize. And much like other Rune Factory titles, Rune Factory 3 makes use of wind instruments along with synths that transport you right to the countryside. It’s a nice balance that brings about a feeling of nostalgia, making it just right for farming. The battle music does bring a more serious tone to the game while also maintaining the lightheartedness of the series.
There is also partial voice acting. Most of the time when talking to a character, they’ll just grunt or hum. But during key moments of the game, the game will switch over to full voice acting. The voices in Rune Factory range from over the top to mellow and each character’s voice fits their character perfectly. There is both English and Japanese voices that players are able to choose from.
Rune Factory 3 Special is a fine farming/action RPG on its own. While there are some quality of life features present in future Rune Factory games that are missing with this iteration, coming back to this title isn’t too painful. Its cast of characters and story are sweet to play through and if you’re familiar with the series, you’ll be right at home. For what it is, it’s a fun farming action RPG that can keep you occupied through its many seasons.