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Rune Factory: Frontier Review

Farming, cooking, slaying giant scorpions... it's all in a day's work

It's hard to know where to start with Rune Factory: Frontier. You're just given a small homestead, a plot of land and a dummy's guide to agriculture, but after that you're on your own.

Normal adventure game convention would have an epic cut scene kick in, showing a settlement coming under attack from big bad imperialist forces, or a nasty curse throwing you into another dimension. You'd have a launch pad for the game, in other words. In Rune Factory there's no such leg-up, so you have to put some serious graft in at the beginning to build a picture of what you must do.

This is Frontier's strength and weakness. Having near total freedom to do what you wish in your own time frame is still a rare thing, especially when it's done this well. The flipside is that to anyone who is not a longstanding Rune Factory fan, or well versed in role-playing games in general, this is not the most accessible, easy-to-follow experience, despite the country bumpkin stylings. After all, this is a game with back-breaking daily chores as one of its central features.

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The Good Life

Rune Factory started life as a spin-off of the lovely Harvest Moon series, with the Farmer Giles tendencies becoming stronger with each subsequent game. But despite this heritage, Frontier is self-sufficient in every way, with its own standalone story meaning you don't have to know the series inside out in order to follow the story.

You've just got to find it first which, given the complete lack of signposting, might take some time. It's not a Bad Thing, but when you have to take a scattergun approach to investigation at the beginning of a game, newcomers are in danger of being put off. First impressions and all that. Imagine meeting Shigeru Miyamoto for the first time and dismissing him as a banjo-twanging nut. Imagine then what you'd be writing off.

If Frontier were considered a banjo-twanging nut you'd be writing off one of the most cleverly conceived, wide-ranging games on the Wii. In the first two hours alone (five days in game time, as one real time second is one game minute) we'd cleared, tilled and cultivated our field to yield a crop of turnips; got to know everyone in our home of Trampoli; helped nurse a sick traveller; and signed up the local builder to plan an extension to our house. Oh, and we witnessed a giant bean stalk erupt from the ground to reach Whale Island, hovering over town (the story has you trying to prevent this island smashing into the village, though it's up to you how and when you go about it). It's very easy to see why this is a game that could easily take you past the 100 hour mark. Prepare to invest a lot of time.

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Frontier takes on a whole new dimension when you venture out of Trampoli Village and hit your first battle, for it adds a dungeon crawler string to its social-farming bow. Every skill you develop, whether it's digging, harvesting or decapitating giant scorpions with a broadsword, levels-up as you practice it, so there's no call to 'spend' experience points in particular categories. You improve specific stats the more you use a particular item, be it a watering can or a scythe, plus your overall experience level ticks round at the same time. Given the huge amount of ground you'll need to cover, it's a relief to not have to bother number crunching, and there's still a proper sense of progress too.

Reward also comes in financial form, from a sideline of your choice. You could concentrate on growing food, keeping livestock or becoming adept at mixing medicines, or you could sell the rare items you come across on your travels to keep cash flowing in. You could also fish, forge weaponry, mine for minerals or become an expert cook. The choices are staggering and each speciality is rounded enough to provide you with loads to get stuck into. And if you prove especially great at, say, making strawberry jam, it might just win you favour with a lovely local lady too.

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Comments

18 comments so far...
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  1. Daz_Dagon Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 12:11

    I am getting this. I love harvest moon. Come on all you other fans there is nothing to be embarased about playing these games.

  2. Onna76_NL Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 12:34

    I am getting this. I love harvest moon. Come on all you other fans there is nothing to be embarased about playing these games.

    Don't worry I already own the US version from day 1 and I'm saying that every single RPG and / or Harvest Moon nut should get this! ^v^. The fortune I guess for having three region Wii's :D

    I seriously hope sales will pick up well in Europe comparing to what they did in the US *sob*, I'd like to see another Rune Factory on the Wii.

  3. Icarus_Kid Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 12:40

    Amazingly, this has been getting fairly decent reviews and it actually intrests me. Might give it a go at some point.

  4. Shadow Samus Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 12:50

    This game looks really good, havent played a Harvest Moon game in ages.

    Problem is I hope i can find the time / money to play this. In between Monster Hunter Tri, Galaxy 2 and Other M this seems unlikely till late on in the year :cry:

  5. burnoutjoe Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 13:24

    Isn't this just a port of the rune factory fantasy harvest moon on Ds?

  6. D3KU_JUDD Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 13:39

    I definatly will buy this. It looks quality and i've always loved the Harvest Moon games. Hopefully it will live up to my expectations and the sales will match.

  7. SimonONM Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 14:36

    Isn't this just a port of the rune factory fantasy harvest moon on Ds?

    Nope. It takes some elements but puts them into a new story and a new village. It's DS Rune Factory expanded.

  8. Sonic Freak Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 15:31

    Looks good, but i will never buy it.

  9. ShadowofPain Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 19:42

    Looks good, but i will never buy it.

    Same here. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that there are other games this year much further up my list that I really want to buy ie:
    Red Steel 2
    Monster Hunter Tri
    Super Mario Galaxy 2
    Metroid Other M
    Sonic 4 etc

  10. seancuk23 Thursday 1st Apr 2010 at 23:40

    Definitely getting this game!

  11. jaco_p Friday 2nd Apr 2010 at 02:00

    is this out yet? i love the harvest moon games so don't really care if i'm not told what to do...we're not babies!! lol
    will definitely get it at some point if anywhere stocks it. c'mon wii owners lets encourage evryone to buy decent games on wii for a change!

  12. Eternal Darkness Friday 2nd Apr 2010 at 08:50

    Got it when it came out yesterday. Haven't played much yet, but I love the charm it gives off.
    Also getting this game means I won't be getting Monster Hunter 3~tri on release, but I have no regrets :)

  13. burnoutjoe Friday 2nd Apr 2010 at 15:37

    Isn't this just a port of the rune factory fantasy harvest moon on Ds?

    Nope. It takes some elements but puts them into a new story and a new village. It's DS Rune Factory expanded.


    Sweet! Thanks for answering, I'll get this in town tomorrow as I loved Rune factory DS n was trying to justify buying it again, so if theres new stuff it should be great! :D

  14. rusty_uk Monday 5th Apr 2010 at 15:45

    i love harvest moon and rpgs so will definitely be getting this
    i just entered the comp to win a copy, but not sure i did it right lol, i didn't see anywhere to type an answer to the question so just entered. i'm guessing that's not the way to go about it....anyone any ideas?

  15. jacksoap Tuesday 6th Apr 2010 at 06:22

    This game looks great. I'm going to.be playing this for a long long time. I hope it sells well because I want more of the same in the future.

  16. Eternal Darkness Wednesday 7th Apr 2010 at 00:06

    Well I love this game, you all better get it.

    Also as this is Rune Factory DS but bigger, I guess there is no point in getting Rune Factory.
    I'm going to get Rune Factory 2 and wait for Rune Factory 3 to come out.

  17. Onna76_NL Sunday 11th Apr 2010 at 15:25

    Well I love this game, you all better get it.

    Also as this is Rune Factory DS but bigger, I guess there is no point in getting Rune Factory.
    I'm going to get Rune Factory 2 and wait for Rune Factory 3 to come out.

    I haven't been really able to play the DS version much but as said by Simon, the Wii version differs quite from its DS counterpart.

    Compare it with NSMB Wii versus DS version. Both look quite the same but then again different.

    I hope every single RPG fan out there with a Wii will pick up this game and most of all if you're a Harvest Moon fan to begin with.

  18. Joesta1985 Friday 23rd Apr 2010 at 08:28

    Love the game- but I'm struggling to get any scrap iron/iron so I can forge! Any ideas?!

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