by Jacob Adams | Assistant Editor

Fans of Stardew Valley enjoy its farming life simulation with a multitude of activities ranging from socializing to fighting. 

However, the game has been out for four years now, and some fans may be feeling that itch that Stardew Valley had scratched for them. Here’s a suggestion for another game series that has the elements of Stardew Valley but puts more emphasis on fantasy elements and combat mechanics: Rune Factory. Specifically Rune Factory 4 Special which is a 2020 remaster for the Nintendo Switch of the 2012 Rune Factory 4 3DS title.

Chronological order does not matter much, other than to assist in understanding a few references to the previous Rune Factory titles.

Much like Stardew Valley, the three main concepts that Rune Factory is built upon are farming, socializing, and fighting. The most significant difference is the focus Rune Factory puts into the fantasy aspect as opposed to the way Stardew Valley sprinkles in elements of fantasy in a modern world. 

This transition is aided by having players control a character —Lest (male) or Frey (female — who has a moderately preset personality that can be influenced by player choices throughout the game.

Furthermore, there is much more to the development of the three core mechanics of the game, meaning the developers of Neverland studios have had the opportunities to implement these complex systems correctly.


Those familiar with Stardew Valley will recall the crop quality system being represented by different colored stars from no star to iridium star. Rune Factory has a similar system but uses a grading scale of level one to level ten.

Furthermore, once a higher level has been achieved, grown, and shipped, the in-game store will adjust to that level, where in Stardew Valley most stars were up to random chance.

There are also multiple ways to influence crop growth, such as increasing speed, level, or the chance to grow giant crops.


Friendship events have become a staple in any farming simulation game modeled after the Harvest Moon franchise.

Rune Factory has six bachelors and bachelorettes each with various unique events pertaining to each character.

Once players reach a certain level of friendship with another character, they will have an opportunity to confess to them, initiate a relationship, and then ask them out on dates. 

The dates are relatively the same per character; the main character acts to get a positive reaction from the bachelor/bachelorette.

As the overarching story progresses, characters will interact with each other in new ways, which makes Rune Factory’s town of Selphia feel alive without the players’ constant influence.


Rune Factory 4 Special is also an action RPG, so a combat system has variation and complexity that is expected and delivered.

Eight weapon types can be combined with seven damage types, and that’s not including the few dozen unique spells. 

However, this alienates some casual fans from thoroughly enjoying the game because a lot of content is locked behind dungeons and boss fights that are required for story progression.

Luckily, there’s a range of difficulties from easy to nightmare modes, so players can tailor their experience to some degree.

The Rune Factory series is one of the best substitutions for Stardew Valley while waiting for Concernedape to continue work on new titles because it is built off of similar cores of the Stardew’s Valley experience.