The Rune Factory series has always been a strange kind of beast. Trying to balance the meticulous and geographically static nature of farming with going out to explore dungeon crawler style can be difficult. Which do the fans want more and which should Natsume put its focus most into? Previous games I would say the focus has been more so on farming than the combat system or exploring, but that seems to be changing with Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. Only time will tell if that was for better or for worse……or I could just tell you right now.
First thing I did when I got my hands on the demo was teleport back home (a nice new feature by the way) and ran outside to look at my farm. All I saw were houses to either side of my own house. There was no farm. I mean I had heard they cut back on it but this was just ridiculous. The guy manning the demo then told me to go upstairs to my home’s second floor which I did and went through a magic mirror to end up on a huge golem.
I had read that the farming was done on a golem’s back but I guess I thought I’d still have a patch by my house. Unperturbed I ran into the animal stable and past that I could choose to teleport to the islands I had for farming. At this point in the demo only the Spring and Winter islands were unlocked. As their name suggests these islands are in a constant seasonal state so you may or may not have to concern yourself with the timing of seasonal crops anymore. Progressing through the storyline unlocks more and more of these islands to plant on so that you can expand your faming efforts.
So I ran out to the farm and noticed that plants were already growing and a bunch of my animals were wandering around. Seems the farming is just handled by my beasts of burden this time around. The need for watering and tilling soil and clearing the field of rocks and crap had all been taken out to make farming more streamlined. Now you simply walk around shaking a magic stick at the ground and waypoints will pop up where your planter monsters will come in and plant whatever they can. Each monster has a couple of options of what they plant and I was told you can’t directly control it but there are ways to work around it and get a specific plant if you want it.
Seems monster can do just about anything for you these days, plant crops, plant trees for wood for the new carpentry skill, and go out and get you mining materials. I swear if I worked real people this hard the government would check their papers. At this point I got somewhat confused on what my job was. Back at home I could still do all the crafting and whatnot you would expect from the game and the mechanics of it worked about the same as they did in Rune Factory Frontier.
Only things I had left from my normal Rune Factory activities was to either chat up some girls for courting (or guys I would assume if you are playing as the female main character) or go do some fighting/exploring. Since this was only a short demo I assumed I wouldn’t have time to get anywhere romantically so it was off to find a dungeon. After a short trek upstairs I was back on the golem and found that if you went to his head you could actually control him directly. Once in this mode you can bring up a map which allows you to set the golem on a journey you won’t want to do manually across the seas to new islands to explore. As he walks time is taken away on the in-game clock and you can run into enemies if you aren’t lucky. I didn’t get a chance to try this out myself but I was told that the enemies you would encounter would be the same size as the golem himself. He seemed to have just a simple pound attack, but perhaps he gets more abilities later.
Once I got to an island and started exploring a new dungeon I saw where the developers had really put the bulk of the game’s improvements. Combat felt significantly faster and more fluid than previous Rune Factory titles. It was more similar to something like a Kingdom Hearts than the plodding nature it had in Rune Factory Frontier. I only got a short time with exploring but I’m certain that that part of the game is vastly improved and should end up much more fun overall.
I was told that the differences between the PS3 and Wii versions of the game were very minimal (just as I expected to be the case). Sure the PS3 could do better resolution but on a more stylized cartoony game like this it really doesn't make too much of a difference. The Wii version has some motion controller usage specific to it but the representative from Natsume told me that making the PS3 version work with the Move was being looked into.
So I left the demo with perhaps more questions than answers. Would people who played Rune Factory for the farming really feel satisfied in this weird middle management type scenario? Where would the time management be without doing all that watering, farm tending, and managing seasonal crops? I’m really not sure to be honest. Maybe this will all work out and the game’s new improved combat and exploring will mean that you won’t mind the lack of direct farming because you’ll just want to spend that time in dungeons anyway.
I guess I’d say if you played Rune Factory mostly for the farming that you may want to cull your expectations, but otherwise it’ll at least be an interesting deviation from the normal Rune Factory formula and still worth a look for JRPG fans. But atleast we can all agree one one definite improvement: no runeys!