Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny [Review]
The Harvest Moon series decided to make things more interesting for players (namely male players) when it created its first entry into the Rune Factory series in 2006. These new games followed the same simple farming formula and also contained dating sim properties to follow the same eventual goal of finding a wife/husband and having a child. There have been less successful spin-off games, though, such as Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon, in which they took away the need to marry and have a child because you were a robot.
The Rune Factory series has enjoyed more popularity and although it started on the Nintendo DS, it has migrated to the Nintendo Wii and even the PlayStation 3 with the newest installment, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. For all intents and purposes, this review is based off experiences with the Wii version of the game.
Most gamers who will pick up this title will already be acquainted with the series’ formula. The story in Tides of Destiny is that of the “hero,” Aden, who is both a boy and a girl in one body. More specifically, the soul of Sonja (the female playable character) is stuck in Aden’s body along with his own soul. Basically, you cannot choose genders at the game’s beginning. Finding Sonja’s body and placing her soul into it will give you that choice.
This aspect was a little annoying, but it is hard to complain about it too much; because this is the first Rune Factory title that gave players a choice between genders at all. Older titles have just had male protagonists. Aden and Sonja had previously been enjoying life in their island town, when a mysterious curse causes them to awake on another island; and they discover they are trapped in the same body.
The goal of the two protagonists is to get into their separate bodies, and explore this strange new land. The “land” is actually mostly water, but the player is out to change that. You befriend a golem name Ymir that helps you raise islands and wrecked ships. These in turn can be explored, which yields treasure and resources.
As is the standard in all Rune Factory games, this outing is part dungeon crawler and part gardening sim. Gamers will fight monsters in a way that is not unlike Pokemon. You can bypass trying to kill them by befriending them. This involves taking damage from them in a fight, while giving them a hug (an assumed hug, as you actually just stand next to them with hearts appearing on screen).
After you befriend them, they can do work for you or just provide milk, eggs, and wool. They can also tend your fields, and make crops magically grow eliminating the need to buy or plant seeds. So it’s kind of like indentured servitude. Your character is a horrible person, but he/she does not shove monsters into spherical prisons, so it’s not really that bad.
There is a moderate focus on the battle system, which is pretty much an elaborate version of the combat found in previous Rune Factory games. It is basically a form of turn-based combat. There are numerous weapons you can use and they each have their own respective strengths and weaknesses. It is also possible to acquire special battle attacks by finding them, buying them or unlocking them. Special attacks use rune power which can be replenished by the appropriate foods and potions. In the Wii version, you do not use the motion controls for battle, so fear of dancing about your living room can be put aside. Keeping track of your tools is made easier with an on-screen quick equip menu.
In addition to being able to raise islands, your monster friend, Ymir, can also fight larger monsters that players may not be able to tackle on their own. He also acts as the only means to get across water. Ymir does have a limited amount of stamina, just as your character does, so at times it is necessary to give him a break. Ymir carries the monster barn, where your monsters are kept, in his chest. (Which is kind of weird.) However, this is the same game that requires you to milk monsters, so maybe it’s not all that weird when taken in context with the title as a whole.
When not battling monsters, you will be looking for treasure. Gamers can either go out on their own, or complete quests that are posted on the bulletin board at the inn. Other options include fishing, crafting, weapon forging and medicine concocting. There eventually comes a point at which it is possible to make your own tools rather than buying them, and players are granted the ability to upgrade and furnish their home. There’s quite a lot to do in the game, and it is all well varied; so it’s hard to get bored.
The second goal is getting hitched, which requires making friends with the locals. Gift-giving or just talking to them will get them feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, and if you are lucky they will be interested in something more. Know that those playing as the male character will have more potential mates to choose from than gamers who play as the female character.
All in all, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny feels like a genuinely different game, which is odd for a series that is notorious for producing the same game fifty times over. The island environment changes slightly during over time, and players will experience the changing of the seasons. There are a lot of different activities that can be done, so it’s a lot harder to be bored with this title than it was with its predecessors. Tides of Destiny is a great addition to a fan’s Rune Factory/Harvest Moon collection, and a good starting point for those new to the series.