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Rune Factory Frontier - A Unique End
Though I've sunk almost fifty hours into Rune Factory Frontier and am finished with the game, even if I didn't finish the game, there's not a whole lot more to say about it. It remains fairly steady from start till, well, about the 75% completion mark, anyway, and I suspect it does all the way through to the end. There are two things that bare mentioning though, one because it is annoying and I simply must bitch about it, because this is the internet, after all, and the other because it's so fucking bizarre that I just can't not say anything.

The first item is one of my biggest complaints about the game, a major annoyance, and perhaps the only major annoyance I had with the game. It is one of the game's mini-games, so to speak, one of the sub systems: the Runey system. In brief, there are four types of spirits that inhabit the land - Water, Rock, Tree, Grass - and they consume each other in that order, with Water eating the Rock, and so on. Having thirty-five of each in any of the game's nine distinct areas will put that area in prosperity, which will make your crops grow faster, thus making you more money. Having less than a certain number total (twelve?) will put the area into decline, making your crops grow slower. There are plenty of dumb intricacies to the system, but the basic gist is this: if you exploit the system, it is massively beneficial to you, if you fuckup the system, it is massively detrimental to you, and if you ignore the system, it will probably end up being the same as fucking up the system.

In order to game the Runeys and use them to your advantage, you first must harvest them, which collects them, and then redistribute them as necessary. This first requires establishing a grass Runey farm, something I never would have dreamed up had I not read a FAQ. After that, well, you have to harvest the Runeys. To do this, you have to break out your harvester and then go harvest underneath a set of Runeys. Runeys are 2D images in a 3D game, and they're scattered throughout a map. It is often extremely hard to tell where they are on the map, and even harder to tell what your harvester will actually harvest. I cannot tell you how many times I hit the button to harvest, thinking I would pull in some Runeys, only to find myself pulling in nothing at all. Add to this the fact that the harvest animation is something like five seconds long, which is annoying in and of itself, more annoying when you harvest nothing, and excruciatingly annoying when it eats five minutes of your game day and ultimately prevents you from doing something you want to, like exploring dungeons, and you get an extremely annoying mechanic.

But wait! That's not all! Before you can harvest, you need to know how much to harvest. So the top of the food chain has overrun the middle and the bottom, and you need to get things back in line. Well, how many of each type do you need to suck out of each area? To find out, you have to either hunt down Candy, one of the characters, or go to the second floor of the Clock Tower. The loading screens in RFF are shockingly long and common, with one between every area, with an area being small enough to walk across in perhaps three to five seconds, maybe ten for a really big one. So, let's look at the worst case, the lake. Let's assume that you start at the clock tower. You check the Runey count, find out how many you need to suck up. You run down to the first level of the tower, then out the door. Loading screen. You run through the Church District and to the Business one. Loading screen. From there to the South Road. Loading screen. From there to the Mountain Path. Loading Screen. From there to the Lake. Loading Screen. At this point, you have likely spent as much time running as loading.

Now that you're in the lake, you get to wave around your harvester for five minutes. Hey, guess what! Unless you wrote down how many Runeys of each of the four types you had to suck up, and how many you had at the start - which will allow you to know how many you actually have sucked up - you're going to have to go back to the Clock Tower to repeat this process, possibly multiple times, depending on whether or not you sucked up enough. You need to know how many to redistribute, after all.

Multiple that by nine areas, and then factor in that your areas will hang in prosperity for roughly four days before becoming completely fucked. Runeys were likely my single biggest time sink in the game, and they were one that I absolutely hated dealing with. That is a big problem. Google "Rune Factory Frontier Runeys", and you will come up with dozens of forum threads asking what the fuck the deal is with them, and how to handle them. In every thread, every goddamn thread, you will hear as many complaints about the system as explanations. You will hear some variation of "I really wish the game didn't have Runeys, it would be so much more fun without them" over and over. I echo that sentiment.

The other bit of the game I must share deals with what made me quit playing it. When fall begins, a new character moves into town. He's a melodramatic hardass-wannabe who thinks that you're some horrible person with a dark past who has come to this town to escape it. It's kind of amusing, really, the way he tries to act like a hero by exposing your non-existent evilness. He does several things throughout the season, like knocking on your door and then running away while you're trying to sleep, or putting rocks in your harvest basket, which makes the person who collects your goods yell at you. It's goofy, but no big deal.

Somewhere around the time of the rocks incident, the character informed me that he would drive me out of town by winter, no matter what he had to do - make no mistake. I rolled my eyes and said, yeah, sure, right, whatever man. Toward the end of fall, I walked out of my door one morning and my character stopped in shock. The antagonist's theme music played, and I looked out over my field. I had spent days of game time and hours of my life making my once-overrun field nice, neat, and orderly. I'd planted crops, I'd hauled away boulders, I'd removed tree stumps. Everything was finally in good shape. And then the antagonist fucked all of that up, filling my field with boulders and twigs and stones, destroying portions of my crops and ruining my neat and orderly system. He had not sent me back to the beginning of the game, but it felt like it.

I contemplated spending the hours of my life it would take to undo the damage, and then I said fuck it. I turned off RFF, and have not played it since. Turns out he was right - he did run me out of town before winter. It's not every day that a game bets you that it can make you stop playing it, and then carries through and wins that bet.

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