It's like Harvest Moon, but you have a giant golem you can use to fight stuff.
Rune Factory is an off-shoot of the Harvest Moon series described succinctly by a producer as “Harvest Moon where you wield a sword.” For some people, that might convince them to run out and buy it, as the idea is sound if you’re into farming simulators. Tides of Destiny, the fifth entry in the series and second on Wii, is a good entry in the series that seems to bring enough refined content while still delivering the token gameplay that made Harvest Moon and Rune Factory beloved niche series.
The game begins with an overly long story setup involving Aden and Sonja, two friends who get thrown into an alternate dimension (or what is very likely the future). Aden is the only one who has a body, as his friend Sonja just exists in ethereal form to continually annoy and embarrass him. Oddly, everyone on the island, called Fenith, has no problem with this.
The game quickly picks up, but still operates on the snail pace of Harvest Moon games. You complete chores and fetch quests for fellow villagers, hoping to earn their friendship and get other rewards. There is also a farming component, though it’s significantly watered down compared to other Harvest Moon games. The seasons are represented individually on different islands. So instead of figuring out what crops to plants when, you just take the winter crop and plant it on Winter Island.
The simplification doesn’t soil the experience, though, as the combat mechanic manages to even out the experience. While it amounts to a button-mashing dungeon crawler, the progression remains fun throughout, especially as different wrinkles are added. You use a giant golem to get to these dungeons, and occasionally you control the golem in a fight, which is a nice change of pace. Additionally, you can tame monsters, using them to help you in different aspects of the game.
The presentation of the game is smooth and relaxing, with the island theme being used to great effect. Content isn’t lacking here, either, as the main story and subsequent post-game content could take players upwards of 50 hours. Since the gameplay varies from timing-based mini-games and fetch quests to fun combat (especially bolstered by a jump button) and laid-back farming, it’s not that monotonous of a grind, either.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is kind of a jack-of-all-trades video game. The villager interaction, combat, and farming are all serviceable, but none of the singular aspects of the game are spectacular. Series faithful will no doubt dig this game, though they might be put off by the farming simplification. On the other hand, the fact that the emphasis is more on action might make this more appealing to action-oriented gamers. Although, at the end of the day, it’s still a Harvest Moon-style game, so there is that small chance that you’ll be lulled to sleep while playing it, even if you are having a great time doing so.