Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny Review
Imagine a creepy, flamboyant priest who likes to wiggle around whenever he talks to you. Then imagine if that priest told you that he has two kids--a boy and a girl--living with him in a church. Now imagine the boy constantly acting disturbed, with his head lowered in shame and embarrassment, hardly able to talk to you whenever you approach him. There's definitely something fishy going on there, wouldn't you say? I know I'd be alerting the nearby authorities ASAP.
The scenario I described is just one of the many problems that Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny has holding it down. It's fitting that there are such characters in the game to truly terrify you, because the entire experience is enough to send you crying into your pillow, much like I imagine the little boy I just mentioned does on a nightly basis.
Last year around this time, I reviewed Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon for the Nintendo DS. I awarded it a great score of 8.5 / 10, and I listed its intuitive and engaging farming, simple yet entertaining combat, interesting story, and sheer depth as great reasons to pick it up. The only real problem I had with the game was that it wasn't exactly groundbreaking for the series. As Tides of Destiny drew closer to its launch date, I was excited to get a console follow-up to the game I invested so much time into in November and December of 2010.
I happily popped in my review copy of Tides of Destiny for the Wii and awaited yet another grand adventure rife with exploration, hack-and-slash combat, and some fun farming. Sadly, all of my expectations were crushed, much like the emotions of that little boy in Tides of Destiny who lives with the priest and I imagine returns to his tear-soaked pillow every day. The game got off to a slow start, which I kind of expected, but as I spent more time with it, it hardly seemed to speed up. Tides of Destiny is an exercise in boredom and monotony, and that's due to one constant element: character interaction.
In Rune Factory 3, you interacted with characters within the village and did favors for them via a job board. There were different activites for you to engage in, many of which were pretty fun. Of course, these jobs weren't the focal point of the experience. Rune Factory 3 featured an underlying string of dungeons that you needed to clear in order to fully progress through the game. Tides of Destiny is quite the opposite. Here, there are dungeons for you to explore, but in order to reach these dungeons, you first need to complete several tasks posted on the job board. Not only are these tasks annoying fetch quests, but they repeat too often, forcing you to do the same thing over and over.
The reason I stated that character interaction is the basis of the game and the very reason the game is so boring is because you need to communicate with the boring citizens of Tides of Destiny constantly in order to unlock new job requests. Talking to them and giving them gifts is a great way to get them on your good side, and the more you interact, the closer you'll get to them, which in turn means you'll unlock more jobs that will eventually lead to the game's dungeons.
Have you ever had those moments with a game where several hours pass and you think to yourself, "Hmm ... I haven't made much progress. Am I doing something wrong? What the heck do I need to do next to keep the game's story going?" Well, the first several hours with Tides of Destiny were like that for me. I spent several in-game days doing absolutely nothing. In Rune Factory 3, I would talk to people, farm, do some level grinding, and engage in all manner of activites, which resulted in my character tiring out before the day ended. In Tides of Destiny, I found myself with hardly anything to do, so I would frequently send the protagonist to bed by 2PM.
Interacting with characters only takes so long, and given just how boring they all are, I found it hard to approach them and watch as they made small talk with me. The game's story, which revolves around a guy named Aden, who has the soul of his best friend Sonja stuck in his body, isn't bad, and it could have made for some sweet conversations. Instead, the whole thing is a boring mess full of annoying dialogue.
That said, I could have handled a bad story and bad characters, but it's the gameplay that really bothers me. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was a game that was centered on its side quests. Story progression relied heavily on these additional objectives, but the game managed to make such a design feel engaging and incredible. Tides of Destiny also relies on side quests, but they're so tedious that the game never truly picks up. Even when you do reach the dungeons, it's hard to really enjoy them because they're not as interesting as those in Rune Factory 3. Since you rely on Rune Points to do anything from fighting to fishing, you constantly find your RP meter running low. So stock up on health and regeneration supplies, and don't forget to grind.
Farming wasn't complex in Rune Factory 3, but it was fun. Tides of Destiny brings back this series staple, but it makes it feel ridiculously uninspired. Farming is overly simplistic, and it's not a major part of the experience. There's something kind of wrong with that, because this is a spin-off of Harvest Moon. Farming should be at least a semi-integral part of these games, and because it's worked so well in the past, it's frustrating that such an enjoyable aspect has been stripped down... like that poor little boy in the church at the hands of that jovially sinister priest.
You can still tame monsters and take them with you, and it's highly recommended that you do. A few extra hands in battle certainly help, even if the combat is strictly reliant on button mashing. You can also craft items such as weapons, which requires you to complete mini-games and use up that ever-precious RP meter. These aspects of the game are decent enough, but when you take into account everything else that's wrong with Tides of Destiny, it's hard to get much if any enjoyment out of it whatsoever.
Visually, the art style in Tides of Destiny is certainly nice to look at. Cool colors adorn the land, characters have a nice anime aesthetic, and there's charm practically everywhere. The sound design is also pretty sweet, though songs can loop a bit, especially since you spend so much time running around town, talking to people and fetching items for them. The Wii version of the game is a lot less impressive than the PlayStation 3 version, but that's to be expected, and I won't fault the developers for that. It's that damn gameplay that makes me pass judgment on them.
At first, I thought I couldn't stay entertained with Tides of Destiny because I wanted to go back to the insanity of Saints Row: The Third. Then I thought it was because I've got a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that I've only spent a handful of hours with, and I'd really like to return to that soon. I honestly felt that I may not have been giving Tides of Destiny a fair shot, but after sinking more hours into the game, I realized that I had every reason to hate it. Not only is this game a disappointment, but it's a total letdown, especially when you consider that Rune Factory could and should be a much more important series.
You will spend a lot of time playing Tides of Destiny, but most of that time will consist of boring character interactions and even more boring side quests. The little fun that there is to be had here is offset by the sheer lack of depth in the game. Tides of Destiny could have been such a grand action RPG, but it's a shallow experience that launched during a time when there are so many other games that are far more worthy of your time.
Oh, and there's also an old alcoholic dude who thinks he's everyone's grandpa, so there's that.