When it comes to games such as Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny (or “Rune Factory Oceans”), many things must be taken into consideration. Are you a grinding gamer who devotes endless hours to exploring anime-like environments, shopping for in-game gear, upgrading your character’s house, building virtual relationships, and capturing monsters? Then, perhaps, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is right for you. Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, dubbed as the “Fantasy Harvest Moon,” is one of the most successful entries in the Rune Factory series, and a strong branch in the tree of farm-RPG successes made popular by Natsume.
In Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny you play as Aden, an adventurous young man accompanied by a supporting character, Sonja. The two are best friends living in a sweet springtime town on Fenith island that’s very reminiscent of Harvest Moon titles. While gazing into a pond, both Aden and Sonja are sucked into another dimension, forcing Sonja to disappear and live within Aden’s body. The people in this new island dimension (which is a bizarro version of Fenith) are able to hear Sonja when Aden is present, yet no one can see her. Funky, right?
You’re given a seed which sprouts a giant golem, Ymir, that’s your main sea vessel. The golem acts as your ocean defender, traveling with you across the new world, fighting sea monsters and retrieving sunken islands that have been plunged deep below the sea surface. Finding these lost islands atop Ymir allows you to progress deeper into the game. As you collect more items and complete more quests, you get closer to returning home and reuniting Sonja with her body.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny’s turn-based action is very similar to the Tales games or White Knight Chronicles. You can roam freely around your enemy, but there are brief pauses between attacks. That said, fighting monsters is very minimal in the Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny experience. If you plan to pick up this game to dive into the gameplay mechanics, you won’t see as much action as you’d like. However, as you explore, enemies become increasingly stronger. This makes upgrading weapons, as well as collecting and crafting items, essential.
Oftentimes, you’ll encounter enemies that you aren’t properly prepared to battle. I repeatedly returned to town during my play through to gather health potions because Aden kept dying in combat. The runaround is tedious, but if you stock up on your medicinal herbs, you’ll be fine.
Capturing monsters opens up options that let you expand your garden, supplies, and eventually your overall wealth. You begin with such monsters as Wooly, a sheep-like creature that produces fleece that you can sell for profit. Likewise, the Gold Dragon will produce vast amounts of gold once captured and placed on your farm. The larger the monster you capture, the more fruitful the supplies. Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny‘s much like Pokemon, but with purpose.
The farming is similar to Harvest Moon‘s in that you plant, water, and collect, but the overall farming function is much more fantasy based; you depend on magic to grow your crops rather than the seasons. You can also create meals from the dairy or other food products that comes from monsters. These gifts are given to the town’s wide selection of bachelors and bachelorettes to woo them for marriage.
Further on in the game, I found myself strangely attached to the new Fenith Island and the various NPCs that inhabit it. It’s difficult not to be charmed by the nostalgic Hayao Myazaki-like themes that are blended with cherry blossoms and wondrous childlike imagination.
Take the witch Pandora who you find trapped in a chest on a sunken island turned to stone, for example. Your conscious tells you not to trust Pandora once you’ve freed her, but the witch’s sweet and sassy personality forces you to do so regardless. And then there’s Odette, a beautiful tomboy with purple hair who can communicate with the dragon spirits that are the sweet island’s essence. When you venture to their native dragon shrine, you can watch her sing to them. I personally felt attached to Odette because she reminded me of Saria from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Different characters such as these are what truly make the game special. Whether it be the blacksmith with her robot slave, the beautiful tavern lute player, or the overly friendly priest, you cannot help but adore the villagers of Fenith Island.
Despite its charms, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny could use improvements in gameplay and storyline. I don’t mind real-time action, but as I get older I find the time consumed fighting foes becomes tiring, especially when you’re battling multiple enemies to accumulate XP. Likewise, the monster repetition becomes a tad boring if you do not take time to explore islands atop Ymir. To keep your interest, it’s essential to visit the town’s tavern and check the message board for quests from the villagers. Lastly, the very straightforward plot could use a surprise or two. Don’t get me wrong, the plot may not be as intricate as I would like, but it is still enjoyable.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny‘s wonderful atmosphere and cast of characters mask many of the game’s missteps. If you don’t mind the grind and linear plot, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is a very solid RPG for those who like a little romance, crafting, and battling in their video games.
You can buy Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny at Amazon for $19.59.