Have you had
hobo stew before? We knew a hobo once who could make a real mean stew. There’s
no science to the recipe. You just take whatever you can scrounge up and throw
it all into a boiling pot. Some of those ingredients may be better by
themselves or if prepared differently, but when you’re a hobo you take what you
can get. Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is a stew with plenty of fixings in the
pot, but it’s a bit overcooked.
Above: All screens are from the PS3 version
Factory games stem from the cult favorite Harvest Moon series. Where Harvest
Moon focused on farming crops and building relationships within a strict time
limit, Rune Factory puts an emphasis on a more open experience with combat and
dungeon exploration, while retaining the basic elements of its predecessor.
Destiny stars Aden and Sonja, two friends living on Fenith Island during a
peaceful age. Everything changes when a mysterious light puts Sonja’s soul into
Aden’s body and transports he/she/them to an unfamiliar location with only one
dragon. When Aden awakens, he finds out he is still on Fenith Island, but in
the future. Don’t get mad, but that whole future thing is technically a spoiler.
To be honest though, if you don’t pick up on the heavy-handed hints during the
sleep inducing intro, then that means someone hasn’t gotten their Brain Age exercises
in for the day.
intro out of the way, players are free to explore the huge laundry list of
tasks available. Hours can be spent exploring dungeons, riding a giant golem on
the even more gigantic world map, pursuing relationships, leveling up stats,
helping people around town, learning new attacks, training monsters, fishing,
farming, crafting, or cooking. Players can easily rack up dozens of hours and
completely ignore the plot. At first it may all seem a little intimidating, but
it’s actually quite easy to find a routine and slowly wade your way through all
Now for the
unfortunate kicker: all those activities kind of suck. Almost every single
minigame and task you can perform lacks any form of depth and creative thought.
The crafting, cooking, and fishing minigames are treated with an all too
familiar contextual meter. When you stop a moving arrow over the “good” side on
the meter, you win. You can also level up just about every action Aden can
perform, but there’s no indication that you’re getting better at any of them.
Who wants to level up their sleeping or greetings? What does a level 20
greeting even sound like? What’s even worse is when you level up a useful
ability like Aden’s jump and then see no change. It makes more sense to see
your character jump a little higher or gain new jumping abilities instead of,
you know, getting nothing.
the problem with Rune Points. Under the health bar is Aden’s RP, which track
the amount of stamina he has left. Everything you do will cause a decrease in
RP. Once RP are depleted, all actions will cause HP to quickly vanish. The idea
behind these points makes perfect sense. RP limits what you can do within the
in-game calendar so players aren’t planting and picking crops in the same day. However,
combat drains stamina too quickly, leaving you in the middle of a dungeon with
no ability to fight. There are ways to extend your RP bar and refill it when it
gets low, but these methods require a lot of time playing the other minigames
which, as already covered, suck.
Combat is the
biggest and blandest offender in this already tepid game. Surprisingly, combat
starts off interesting enough. Before your first fight, you get to choose from
several different weapon types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, from here it’s a brainless attack mash fest. The only strategy
available is to stop attacking when an enemy fights back. You gain new special
attacks through repeated use, but these new attacks are, in most cases,
flat-out ineffective and quick to drain your RP. When going through a
multi-floored dungeon with regenerating enemies, it makes more sense to avoid
the monsters than to try and fight them. Players of a genre involving such a big
expansive world probably want to be able to explore every detail of a dungeon
at their own pace. Instead you’ll find yourself flying through dungeons because
the reward for fighting a horde of monsters isn’t worth the RP.
does have a lot going for it on the surface: it’s an aesthetically pleasing
game where, even after 50 hours, may still have some surprises in store. It’s
when you get into the tedium of every activity that you realize a game that only
does a few things well holds more value than a game that does a dozen things
poorly. Variety is supposed to be the spice of life, but let’s be honest,
everything has its limits.
Oct 19, 2011