Monday, October 9, 2017

Rune Factory Oceans (PS3)

Rune Factory Oceans (known in North America as Rune Factory:  Tides of Destiny) was released for both the PS3 and Nintendo Wii, therefore the graphics aren't that great for PS3 standards.  However, the bright colorful world makes up for it somewhat.  Rune Factory is a simulation game, mixing farming, relationship building and combat into one game.  Unfortunately, the game had clunky controls which definitely takes some time getting used to.  Selecting an item and using it will take multiple button presses.  Hotkeying them feels convoluted and perhaps the worst thing is that you have to pick up items one at a time, even when they are monster drops.  Therefore, you have to put away your weapons while fighting monsters in order to pick up the items dropped from them.  Giving items to NPCs require you to select the item, and then manually hand it to them.  For such an integral part of the gameplay, it is befuddling on why they did not streamline the process better.

Combat is perhaps the weakest part of the game since it involves button mashing.  You have a variety of weapons to choose from, such as dual blades (fast), magic (ranged attacks), hammers (slow but powerful) and katanas (speed).  Despite that, there's no real strategy against monsters and by the end of the game, it becomes tedious and you'll probably opt to run pass them.  Bosses, on the other hand, have huge amounts of health, with their battles dragging on and on.  It boils down to remembering their attack patterns and knowing when to attack and when to run.  Your weapon of choice is extremely important for bosses since using a particular weapon may make it harder than it needs to.  While the game on the whole is fairly easy, a lot of it depends on your equipment.  You will have to occasionally upgrade your gear such that you don't die too quickly.  One of the most annoying aspects is how the game overwhelms you with monsters surrounding you, with each monster attacking you at the same time which stunlocks you.  It's annoying because there are "Monster Gates", which constantly respawn up to three monsters at the same time, and you have to destroy these first if you don't want to defeat the never-ending waves of enemies.

You can capture any monster you face (with the exception of bosses).  This is crucial since not only are they able to join your party (although they are useless in battle), but they are the cornerstone of farming.  Each monster can farm different items or generate different items.  As you progress through the game, you'll unlock up to four islands in which you are able to farm.  Farming is as simple as allocating monsters, and then come back the next day to pick your items.  Unfortunately, it becomes very tedious once you farms become large as you still have to pick up each item one by one.  It's made worse when you press a button to pick up, and then press again to put it into your storage.  Lastly, Rune Factory has a simple and tedious relationship system where the player talks to NPCs and gives them items to build up relationship points to level up.  As you level up, you get to learn more about them through cutscenes and eventually, you will be able to pick one to marry.

Tying into the relationship system are requests which are split into two types, the first is to advance the story while the second is to purely improve relationship levels and obtain items.  The game has various other typical gameplay functions such as crafting, cooking and fishing.  Each has a separate level, which you increase through doing the activity.  Time passes in real time, one second equals to on in-game minute, and therefore a day is 24 minutes long if you don't speed it up.  You can work to force time to speed up or sleep to head into the next day.  You will need to sleep before 5am otherwise you will collapse from exhaustion and start with lower health the next day.  While the clock is constantly ticking, it isn't too bad since there is no real time limit.  You get to play at your own pace and you end up getting into a routine every day.  For the first 30 hours at least, you feel that each day is too short as you run out of time to do all the things you wanted to do.

By the end of the game, it feels repetitive when you're doing the same things again for the 4000th time (this is not an exaggeration).  You will end up starting to skip some activities to focus on others.  That's the neat thing about Rune Factory, there are no penalties.  You can neglect your farm and come back later with everything just the way you left it.  Or you can stop a request to explore somewhere else and come back to it later.  Probably as a side effect that this is also a Wii game, but you cannot control the camera.  It automatically rotates depending on where the character is going.  You get used to it eventually and it works most of the time.  It can be nauseating though and is more annoying than anything if you wanted to check out what's in the distance but you cannot move the camera yourself...

Speaking of flaws, the game has auto-jumping (although you can manually jump as well) which is frustrating and annoying since it swings the camera around.  It is terrible during platforming sections where you don't get the precision control you'd want since it'll auto-jump when you're near the ledge, when you didn't want it to.  To give the player a sense of progression, Rune Factory Oceans packs in a story.  It tells the tale of Aden and Sonja as they wake up on Fenith Island, start to get to know the people living there, and end up exploring the world, which eventually leads to them saving the world (naturally).  It starts off with a long and boring tutorial section which forces you to follow a NPC to go through all the areas of the island.  It feels painful to play since it feels so restrictive, yet it doesn't actually introduce you to all the places you need to interact with to craft, which is crucial in the long run.  You'll soon get the use of Ymir, a giant golem that aids you in exploring the sea surrounding Fenith island.  You can find new islands, battle giant monsters and is also the place where you captured monsters can stay in.

While the plot is simple, the ending was good and has a neat twist to it.  You feel that it completes the story and ties in perfectly with the beginning of the story.  Yes, it is predictable and you suspect what the twist is going to be long before it is revealed, but is makes you feel good and happy when you watch the ending.  The game never truly ends since you can play forever (but you'll likely to have had your fill by the time the credits roll).  After the final boss, you unlock the options to get married, have children and a battle arena for extra battles.  It takes 40-60 hours to beat the final boss, depending on how much of the other things you do beforehand.  Overall, Rune Factory Oceans has a slow start, but once you get into the rhythm of things, it is fairly addictive.  While there are various flaws such as the clunky item management, loss of camera control and weak combat, there is enough in the game that it is actually very enjoyable and fun.


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