The Rune Factory series is a bit of an oddball. A spin-off of Harvest Moon, you get a fantasy-eque, story driven game… but filled with all the farming and relationship building of the mother series. The nice blend of dungeon exploring and plant growing make it easy to see how the spin-off became popular. Eventually, the Rune Factory series came out with games that weren’t part of its main series. The first was Rune Factory: Frontier, and the second… well, was this game.
For a sub series that deviates from the core franchise, Tides of Destiny diverges even further. The game is much more story based: I won’t go into specifics, but you’re given a clear goal and are given story quests to constantly work towards that goal. While all of the Harvest Moon/Rune Factory games have a ‘winning’ point, few make it so obvious than Tides of Destiny.
Also, something that many fans might be disappointed in… there’s no actual farming. Sure, you can grow crops and whatnot, but the extent of you doing that is waving a wand to create seedlings. The rest, you make monsters do… you can recruit monsters to grow crops (what kind you get depends on the monster and its happiness), harvest them, and provide materials themselves (such as milk, wool, and… ore, oddly enough). It’s certainly a change from the other games, and one that not everyone’s going to like.
Tides of Destiny focuses way more on dungeon exploring and fighting, and that’s what you’ll be spending the most time with. There are a lot of islands to explore, with materials and treasures to get, and the action-based fighting does pretty well. Weapons can feel a little unbalanced (magic can wreck a lot of enemies easily… and the extra stamina use is worth it), and a couple times the game can throw you into a frustrating situation, but once you get the hang of it fighting as fun and fast paced.
This Rune Factory entry is a long one… it took me about 80 hours to get through the main story, though I had a lot of trouble tripping an event flag and 20 hours was spent trying to do that. It’s unfortunate, because you can’t start dating or even choose your gender until after that point–for reasons that make sense, of course, but it’s still a bit of a downer. For my first time into the entire series, I found the game fun and addicting (except for that 20 hour period above), but I can see how fans and veterans of the series would be less than happy with the entry. It seems to be a ‘love it or hate it’ sort of game.