"... you'd totally be justified in cementing that pre-order now."
What's the best way to liven things up in the Rune Factory series? Add in oceans and a giant! With this, you've clearly got a game changer on your hands, and that is exactly what the tide of Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny for the PS3 and Wii is bringing in. Really, we'd expect nothing else from the kooky Rune Factory world we've always been enthralled by. And speaking of the series navigating new territories, for the first time ever in a Rune factory game, the player will have the option of playing as a female character. However, in order to unlock her, you're going to have spend a few hours with Aden, the male player character.
See, the story starts off with Aden having his childhood friend Sonja's soul trapped inside his body. A freak accident delivered every boy's nightmare: being in contact 100% of the time with a woman. Aden can't escape her thoughts, feelings, or presence. The good news for pals Aden and Sonja is that that they will not be chained to each other eternally - instead, once you figure out the puzzle tied to this strange curse, you can then select to play as just one of the characters instead of powering them both. Choose Aden and you truly have a wide selection of marriage partnters - nine to be exact. Poor Sonja, on the other hand, is left with only three potential marriage choices. That's not to mention that in this iteration you'll actually be able to procreate some kids to keep on the farm. Child labor, anyone?
While Sonja is lacking in marriage options, the good news is there are more than enough other choices and innovations in Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny. This hindrance shouldn't make or break the game - perhaps it will even help make the marriage decision a lot easier. Too many choices equals too many headaches, and you'll already have one big cluster of a headache as you've been transported to a strange island that's locked away with many secrets and a creepy masked stranger seeking to destroy it. Maybe this is the Darth Vader of the Rune Factory realm? The prospect is delightful.
Tides of Destiny is offering plenty of what we've seen before from the series, but refining the series' standby traits. You can craft weapons, mix up restorative items such as potions, experiment to find new cooking recipes, fish to your heart's content, and manage a farm to make a living off of. The best part of the farm and your living quarters? They're located inside a giant! Not only that, but you'll navigate the seas using this giant golem named Ymir. The golem is key to raising new islands, since he pounds on the water to make them visible and explorable for you. Even more thrilling is you have battles on the sea, using your golem against enemies that are just as dauntingly large. Let's just say that there are quite a few powerful, epic battles heading your way. In addition, there's a nifty map overlay on the screen so you can keep tabs on the big uncharted world. As you explore, you will see a minature version of your giant on the map as you move him toward your desired destination. Once you get closer, you can zoom in on the island to get a scope of the island you're about to land on.
Besides golem wars, you have the typical Rune Factory action combat as you explore dungeons. Your character can equip just about all the weapons from previous titles, such as spears, axes, hammers, and, yes, the Rune Factory 3 dual-wield weapon is back! To add some spice, each weapons has Rune abilities, which are attacks that releash your ultimate fury. For instance, a Rune ability is for the spear is a "Rapid Spike" attack - do monsters really want to mess with that? You'll make them regret ever chasing you, using the rage of a stood-up prom date.
Speaking of taming the wild beast, monster raising is back in full force. Once you butter up wild animals, you can bring them back to your farm, and this will determine what crops and resources these animals can provide. In our brief time with Tides of Destiny, we saw a wide variety of animals to recruit that went far beyond anything we've previously seen in a Rune Factory game. The variety and challenge of making these animals part of your family should offer an addictive obsession similar to Pokémon's "Gotta catch 'em all!" syndrome. And the variety doesn't just extend to the animals - each island has its distinct flair of shrines and dungeons. Most noteworthy in our brief demo (where we saw the PlayStation 3 version of the title), is just how gorgeous the game looks on the big screen. Not just in how lush the environments are or in the detailed outfits of the characters, but also in the fluid character animations. The fluidity extends to the gameplay as well, as we've never seen battles play out so smoothly without any slowdown - it's combo time in all its glory.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny leaves us confident that this is definitely an experience on the big screen that is not to be missed. Rune Factory Frontier was beyond amazing, but Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is bringing even more innovation to the series. We think we just might get so wrapped up in all its variety of activities that we could invest close to a 100 hours of our time into the title - and we wouldn't regret a single hour of them. Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny is offering the complete experience this fall for both the PlayStation 3 and Wii, and you'd totally be justified in cementing that pre-order now.