2009's Rune Factory Frontier, the first Rune Factory game for a console, had its faults but at its core was still a great Harvest Moon title and expanded on the monster battling system present in the spin-off series's handheld incarnations. The next iteration in the series, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny takes the series from the rural location of the original and places it near the ocean. Besides the superficial location change, long-time fans may ask what has changed. From our time with the game at E3, it turns out that there's quite a bit indeed.
The first big change is the addition of a playable female character, a first to the Rune Factory series. However, you'll have to spend a few hours playing as the male lead Aden has his childhood friend Sonja's soul trapped in his body, hearing her every thought, feeling and presence. After solving the mystery tied to this strange curse you can select to play as either one of the characters instead of playing as the two together. One slight issue with the female path is that she only has three marriage suitors instead of the male path's nine, although both sides will be able to produce offspring to help out on the farm and the game won't end once the female character is married like in some previous Harvest Moon titles.
Tides of Destiny for the most part takes what has worked before in the series and refines it instead of replacing it entirely. You can still craft weapons, mix up restorative potions, find new cooking recipes, fish and farm. The catch this time is that all this takes place on top of a giant golem called Ymir, which acts as your ferry to the various islands found in the game. Ymir can even participate in sea battles where you fight against giant sea monsters. With this expansive of a world, developer Marvelous has included a useful minimap overlay that helps to keep tabs on the area around you, which can be zoomed in to see nearby islands in closer detail.
In addition to the farming, Tides of Destiny also features what the Rune Factory series is so well-known for: battles. Almost all of the same weapons from the previous games are back, including the popular dual-wielding ability from Rune Factory 3. New to this title is the ability to equip "Rune" abilities to your weapons. One example of such an ability is "Rapid Strike", an skill for the spear that deals a flurry of attacks to damage nearby enemies. And of course, a Rune Factory title wouldn't be complete without the ability to raise your own monsters. Once you tame a wild monster you can bring them back to your farm to help with raising your crops and animals. A plethora of new monsters have been added in this entry compared to previous entries in the series and the sheer number eclipses anything we've seen prior.
We tested the PS3 version out (the game will also be available on the Nintendo Wii) and it looked simply stunning and didn't feel like many of the Wii-to-PS3 ports we've seen in the past with no real jaggies or un-upgraded textures. There's no slowdown in battle either, which is always one of the biggest factors in titles like this. Natsume has stated that the PS3 version will support PlayStation Move, although its exact use wasn't ready to be revealed as of yet.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny will be released this Fall on the PS3 and Nintendo Wii.