RFF: Mid-summer doldrums (Wii)

Everyone is complaining about the heat and most are heading to the beach on holidays. Everyone except me, that is. I’ve been run ragged trying to get my farm in order. Very little dungeon exploring these days; I let my lot go and it is overrun with tree stumps [apparently in the world of Rune Factory Frontier tree stumps grow on their own] and now I’m struggling to take back my land.

Lute came around and I bought a bunch of new gear for the house, but so far I’m not really putting it to good use. But at least I’ll be ready when I figure out some fancy recipes (or when Selphy gets some new books in so I can just buy recipes).

I also experienced my first storm. I got up at 6 am, like I always do, and headed for the door. Suddenly I got this thought into my head: “I shouldn’t go outside today.” No amount of convincing myself would get me out the door. So I did some blacksmithing at my forge until I was tired, then went back to bed. It was, of course, still 6 am. 🙂 Funny how time doesn’t pass when you’re stuck inside.

When I woke up the next day, my farm was a shambles. Branches, tree roots and pebbles had replaced patches of crops all over the place, and I could barely get around to what was left. Happily the rain continued to drizzle down, so instead of spending all my energy watering, I started the clean up process. But it really set me back.

I do have 2 ripe patches of strawberries growing in the dungeon on Whale Island, and a third coming along nicely. I pop up there every day, with my trusty ant companion (his name is Ant…he is an ant. I’m very original at naming my monster pals) to harvest the rune stones and get my energy back. Ant protects me from other monsters so I don’t have to spend my energy fighting my way in or out.

There’s a tree growing along the mountain path, and I can see a crevice behind it. As the tree grows, it pushes up a large chunk of stone, making the crevice larger. So far it isn’t open far enough to let me get in. I’ve taken to watering the tree in the hopes that it’ll grow faster. I suspect there’s a dungeon in there!

I must admit, I haven’t been very social. I did give Mist a straw hat, which she really liked (she wears it every day) and I talk to Melody at the baths daily, but aside from that I’m still keeping to myself, for now.

The work of clearing my farm lot probably sounds dull, but I find it rather satisfying, and I’m gathering plenty of lumber for future expansions. I know I won’t be doing any farming come winter, and I figure I can leave the dungeon exploring until them.

Oh, did I mention I gave that strange purple elephant monster to Bianca? She seemed very happy to have it. I stop by to check in now and then and it seems happy and healthy.

[I flew past the 20 hour point in Rune Factory Frontier this weekend, and I’m still really enjoying the game, albeit in smaller doses. I generally boot it up and play through a day or two, then go on to something with a bit more action. It’s a little like Animal Crossing in that way, except it isn’t tied to a real life clock, so I can play whenever I want. I’ve mostly avoided spoilers, but have read a few, so I know that tree is opening the Summer Dungeon, and that there are 2 more I’ve yet to discover (Fall and Winter).]

RFF – First week of summer (Wii)

So as I alluded to in my last post, the end of Spring holiday held its share of disappointments (I’m talking about Rune Factory Frontier here).

First, there was a festival celebrating the opening of the beach, which shook everything up. Lute wasn’t in his normal spot, and by the time I found out where he was (near the church, apparently) it was too late and he’d gone home. So my big forge room remains empty for another week.

Second, Day 30 was actually the first day of Summer, not the last day of Spring, so I lost some crops as they withered to dead grass.

Third, there was a contest at the festival, which I participated in…and failed at, much to the amusement of all the available young ladies present. *sigh*

But life goes on! This week, and today is Wednesday or Thursday of Week 1 of Summer in Rune Factory Frontier land, I’ve already expanded the kitchen area, and I’ve *already* harvested a crop of onions. How so fast?

The power of Runeys. I haven’t mentioned Runeys yet because I’m still figuring them out. Runeys are these kind of spirit things that float around in the world, and if you have a balanced Runey population, your land will become prosperous and things will grow more quickly. You collect Runeys via the (wait for it) Collector (hmm, or is it called a Gatherer?) which feels like a Ghostbuster Ectoplasmic Vacuum kind of thing. So I collected a bunch and set them free around my farm and now I can harvest animal fodder every day, and my onions went from seed to harvest in less than a week. Yay!

Runeys appear over mature croplands, apparently… but they also eat each other, so there’s some kind of balancing thing going on that I haven’t fussed over much yet.

However inside dungeons, instead of Runeys appearing from mature crops, you get these Rune Point Stone things that replenish your supply of Rune Points. I’ve got 2 patches of strawberries growing on Whale Island’s dungeon, so I pop over there, harvest berries, top off my Rune Points and I’m good to go for a while longer. More work!

Anyway, we’ll see how things go during the next holiday; hopefully Lute will be back and I can get both a better Forging Station and better Kitchen Equipment. We’ll see if the money holds out.

So far this week, not much dungeon diving. I did tame a new monster: an ant… so now I have a sheep (I can harvest wool from him) a cow (milk), a squirrel, (who runs around my farmland harvesting ‘wild’ weeds, which can be valuable), a goblin, (who harvests veggies), and the ant will be my combat partner, at least for now (He can harvest veggies too, if need be). These monster pets aren’t particularly efficient yet but I’m hoping they get better with practice. For now they just save me some time, but I still have to do some collecting/harvesting myself.

And finally, the purpose of this post. If you have a Wii, and my inane blatherings about this title have piqued your interest, Amazon has it on sale (today only, I believe) for $29.98. It lists for $50, but I think I paid about $40 at Best Buy a couple weeks ago.

I found a great website devoted to these games: http://www.ranchstory.co.uk/?games/Rune_Factory_Frontier. Gamefaqs has a lot of info too, and honestly for Gamefaqs, the community is decent, but I prefer visiting ‘indie’ websites when I am able to.

Rune Factory Frontier – Day 29 (Wii)

On Day 29, I finally, barely, scraped together enough lumber to get Kross to add a dedicated Forge area to my house. I needed 240 lumber, and I had exactly 240. Late in the evening on Day 28 I realized that my existing axe *could* break down tree stumps into lumber if I was persistent enough. Had I not risked a pile of Rune Points on this discovery, I never would have made it.

Tomorrow is the end of Spring, and a Holiday. I believe I have enough gold to buy an updated Forge from Lute, the salesman who only visits on Holidays. This should allow me to craft better tools and weapons. I have a great amount of iron and scrap iron stored up. Not much copper and nothing more precious, aside from the odd gemstone or two.

I’ve pre-purchased my first run of Summer seeds. I think early summer will be spent digging out all the tree stumps in my field (how do these things grow, anyway…every day there are more!); half of it is over-run with stumps and boulders.

A few mysteries plague me. First is the small purple elephant who has taken up residence in the vestibule of my barn. I first met him in a dungeon. He wasn’t aggressive and I let him be. When I returned from my outing, there he was, hanging out in the barn. He’s gentle but is resistant to brushing or any other kind of interaction. Hmmm.

Second, on Whale Island I found a tower, and spied a young lady watering the plants outside of it. Before I could reach her, she’d gone inside the tower, and no amount of effort would get her to reappear.

These mysteries will have to wait until I get the summer planting in order. It’s going to be a busy few days. Oh! Did I mention I tamed two more monsters? One produces wool, the other milk. That reminds me, perhaps Lute will sell me a “Maker” that will turn wool into yarn.

Oh yes, and not one, but two bunches of flowers were given to me. I extracted seeds from both, but each is a Spring variety of flower. When I can find time I’m going to plant them in the Green Ruins, where it is eternally spring. I’m sure I can make some friends with fresh flowers.

Rune Factory Frontier – Intro (Wii)

A while back, Wiqd, Tesh, Ysharros and a few others were talking about what a Harvest Moon MMO would feel like. It’d been a long time since I played a Harvest Moon game but I remembered the series fondly. All that talk got me reminiscing.

Before I knew it, I’d ordered Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, for the DS. When I mentioned this to a friend, he told me he’d been enjoying Rune Factory Frontier on the Wii. Being a crazy person, I picked that up as well.

And I’m glad I did, because honestly I found RF2 to be a bit overwhelming. RFF, on the other hand, eases you into the life of farming and monster bashing…wait, monster bashing? In a Harvest Moon game?

Yup, it appears the series has expanded beyond its non-combat roots. Harvest Moon used to be all about running a farm (unless my memory is playing tricks on me). It was more or less a time management game where you had to balance raising crops with befriending villagers (and eventually finding a spouse). Along the way you’d have to chop wood in order to get lumber to increase the size of your house, and so on. Or at least, that’s how I remember things.

Rune Factory Frontier still has you tilling the land, socializing, expanding your house, fishing, gathering wild herbs, but now you can also go out monster hunting. And time management is still a huge part of the game, in two ways.

First, your character has Hit Points and Rune Points. Virtually every action, be in tilling a plot of land, or swinging a sword at a monster, uses up Rune Points. When you’re out of Rune Points, these actions start using up Hit Points. When you run out of Hit Points, you pass out and wake up the next day at the infirmary. So Time Management Thing One is managing your Rune Points.

Time Management Thing Two is that time is always passing while you’re out and about. You wake up every morning and as soon as you set foot outside, time starts to advance (time stands still inside buildings, for some reason). At some point, you’ll need to go to bed. Sleeping replenishes your Hit and Rune Points, fully if you get enough rest. So when to go to bed is up to you. Get there early and you’ll be fully refreshed. Stay up too late and you’ll start the next day partially depleted, or worse, get sick and end up starting a day with 50% Hit & Rune Points.

At the start of the game, there isn’t a lot to do, nor are there many villagers to talk to. You’re given a run-down farm to use, some seeds and some cheap basic farming gear. Your job is to till the fields (initially 1 ‘square’ at a time), plant the seeds, then water them. As you do all this, you’ll gain skill levels in almost every action. The higher your level, the fewer Rune Points it takes to carry out that action.

With your free time (and early on you’ll run out of Rune Points with plenty of daylight left to burn) you can run around and get to know the villagers, who might give you simple quests, or new farm tools to use. Getting a cheap axe lets you start to chop branches for lumber. Getting a cheap hammer lets you pulverize the pebbles in your field. Both of these actions clear the square for future tilling. Both also has a Skill Level attached.

It won’t be long before you find your first dungeon, at which point you can start hunting monsters (which drop craft materials), mining ore, or even planting crops in the dungeons. Eventually you can tame the monsters, at which point they’ll go live in a barn (which you’ve had to purchase) where you need to brush them every day to get them to like you. Once they like you enough they can be put to work helping around the farm.

I have to say, this is the first game I’ve played that has me brushing a goblin in order to get him to harvest my crops.

You can expand your house with a forge, a kitchen, an alchemy lab, and other ‘crafting stations’ and use the materials you’ve gathered to make better, more efficient tools and weapons. For instance, once you upgrade your watering can you can water 3 squares at once using a ‘special move’ that uses twice the Rune Points of a regular 1 square watering. So a 50% increase in Rune Point efficiency, plus some time saving.

All the while this is going on, the days are passing, new people are moving into the village, and hopefully you’ve been starting to woo a future wife.

At which point we hit one big drawback: you can only play a male character, who can only woo a set number of “heroines” as a future wife.

But hopefully you can see how the game branches out as you play more and more. Suddenly there are too many activities per day, and you have to figure out where the best place to spend your time is. When you wake up to find it raining, you’ll rejoice since it means all the time and rune points you usually spend watering crops can be spend on clearing the field, or dungeon diving, or going fishing, or crafting… still too much to do!

There are 4 seasons, each 30 days long. Different crops grow in each of Spring, Summer and Fall (nothing grows in Winter). Different dungeons allow you to grow different seasonal crops all year long. So inside the “Green Ruins” it is perpetually spring. But you have to fight monsters (using Rune Points) to go in there to tend your crops.

This is going to be a LONG game. I’m 13 hours in, and only on day 23. That is, I’m still in Spring of my first year. There are flowers that take 100+ days to grow (obviously they can only be grown in dungeons where seasons don’t end).

And at 13 hours, I still feel like a complete newbie, still learning to do new things, still meeting new people, still figuring out new relationships and mechanics.

In a very real way, this is scratching my MMO itch. In fact, I got into the Free Realms beta this weekend, and tried to play it, but kept getting drawn back to Rune Factory Frontier instead. If you’re a big fan of crafting systems in MMOs, it’s really hard to resist the appeal of trying to get deep enough into the dungeon to get some copper so you can upgrade your sword, and doing it quickly enough that you can get home to bed early enough that you’ll have enough energy to tend the crops (which you’ll whip up into delicious food for sale) the next day.

Harvest Moon games are often a hard sell, as they can really sound boring. But I find them remarkably compelling. I thought the addition of dungeon crawling would dilute the experience, but it really doesn’t. Having to schedule a dungeon outing, in fact, adds to the experience of the game.

Only 13 hours in, but so far, two thumbs up.