Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rune Factory 3 - How It Compares to the Original

So, as I've mentioned a few times, I've been playing Rune Factory 3 ever since I polished off the original for my Look Back to put it against my What Went Wrong fpr Innocent Life.  So this is kind of a series thing now, which was completely unintended.  And while I'm not aiming to do reviews and, instead do the types of things I did for the other two games mentioned, I didn't really know what to categorize Rune Factory 3 as.  It's actually a bit too recent for a Look Back, for my tastes, and it's too good of a game for What Went Wrong.  But I do want to write about it, as you all know I'm pretty up on my Harvest Moon games and I do have some opinions with this title.  So I'll just sort of write about it in comparison to the original game (which, in fact, you might have guessed already, given the title) as they're both fresh in my mind.

Rune Factory 3 feels really, really familiar when you start it the first time.  You are a guy who has lost his memory and are in territories unfamiliar to you for more reasons than the obvious one of not being able to remember.  Aside from one little detail, which I'll get to later, everything progresses fairly much like the first game.  You're accosted by a strange, friendlier-than-necessary girl who gives you a home to stay at, so long as you're willing to work at it by farming it, and everything's taught to you in short order and in a style that, in fact, almost mirrors the original.  It does change a little however after the first attack in the game is warded off, only to have two more things show up and you get the weapon tutorial.  The weapon tutorial is there because there is a higher importance on combat in this game and that much becomes very, very apparent rather fast.

Joining the familiar weapons of old, the short swords, zweihanders, axes and hammers are the Twin Swords, which are rather enjoyable, though they aren't too kind to your defense score.  Also magic staves, but those might not be new to the series and you know what, who cares they suck.  Anyways, most of those weapons are available as your starter weapon, which is tossed to you by the local blacksmith so you can dispatch the two new threats.  After which, you're given a choice that will actually decide the difficulty of the game.  (Which I think is different from the first game.)  And there is actually one more form of combat, but it's not introduced until after the first dungeon crawl.

The catch or draw of this game is the fact that you are, in fact, half-man and half-sheep half-monster.  You might think this is a spoiler, but it is, in fact, not.  You wander into town as the sheep, actually and get taken in by the same girl who gives your human form the treehouse.  Because, despite the stigma against monsters in the town, she's just super nice.  You don't gain control over the transformation until after the first dungeon, as I mentioned, which gives you time to enjoy all the new mechanics.  Like the request system.  Also to get to know the wonderful cast of characters the game has to offer.

If you're anything like me, you'll dislike about 99% of the characters first off, which might drive you away completely from the game, but the biggest surprise of the game to me, is that each character develops in a way that makes the big majority of them tolerable and even likable.  You might not be too excited at the prospect of a couple of them being marry-able, but even then, it becomes rather difficult to honestly and earnestly dislike most of the characters.  Except Rusk.  Fuck Rusk.

 To give an idea of this by my own personal experience with the game, I basically narrowed the girl I was going to marry down with the formula of "Who is least likely to annoy the -hell- out of me, and/or who is least likely to want to murder me in my sleep".  Karina is who I ended up going with because of that, but in all honesty, I had two other girls up to 10 affection by the end of the game (when you -can- get married.  More on that later.) which you can only do by taking their requests and going out on 'dates' with them, using the all-new (?) "Invite" option.  Anyone who you become friends with can eventually become a traveling companion at your bidding, who will fight alongside you as a companion monster would.  Which is honestly fairly cool.

The gameplay has been drastically altered from the first game without...honestly changing all that much, if that makes sense.  You still have a quick-bar that you can pull up to cycle through your weapons/tools and your items, and now you have a third one for your spells/techniques, of which there are...a lot.  I think.  Thankfully, 'run' is the default movement now, so you only hold R to walk, as opposed to the first game which was vice-versa of that.  If anything, everything's been streamlined, though...perhaps a little too much.  In the first game, the controls felt like a Harvest Moon game, which allowed for combat.  Whereas Rune Factory 3 feels like an Action-RPG which allows for Harvest Moon things.  Everything can be used to attack and most things feel more built for that than anything.

For example, rather than a single, in-place swing of a scythe to take down a crop, you can pull a 3-hit combo with a scythe which will draw you forward a block with each swing.  While that helps with farming, specifically cutting down weeds, it feels more like a fighting tool than a farming one.  The Hammer and the Axe are thankfully stationary, though both have 3-hit combos as well.  Further evidence of the combat-focus is that there are actually "Battle requests" that you can take from villagers in which you just get told one monster to take out, a number, and a location.  You go there, kill return x amount of monsters to the First Forest (your weapons and such have a magic called 'Retornen' on them.  It doesn't kill monsters, just sends them back to where they came from) and bam, go collect your reward.

Also more prevalent in Rune Factory 3 than in the original one, is the narrative, which in my opinion is a bit too present for my liking, actually.  There are four dungeons that you know of when you start the game, representative of the four seasons, and you learn in short order that going through them and defeating the boss (Which only show up after the proper storyline event) returns a bit of your memories.  And while I don't want to give too much away, I will state here and now, that you can't actually get married until the end of the game because it's tied into the narrative.  Marriage isn't a choice if you want to 'beat' the game, it's a requirement which I'm not too comfortable with.  And in fact, getting married is when the story 'ends'.

My game made it to about the end of Fall before I was married, so I would like to continue playing at least until the new year to see what happens, if anything, but I felt like I was done enough that I could write about the game.  If nothing else, there's still the standard-fare of festivals (which are mostly different from ones in previous Harvest Moon games) which are enjoyable, and I still feel like there's stuff I -can- do, even if I don't necessarily want or need to.  I'd also like to see if you can have a child in this game like you can in the first (which I didn't know!  Because it takes three months.)

Something I've kind of touched on throughout this, but needs to be said directly is the fact that, where Rune Factory 1 was a new kind of Harvest Moon game, Rune Factory 3 is just a new kind of game.  It feels like a game that has Harvest Moon elements, rather than being a fantasy version of it.  Which isn't a bad thing, per se, but it just will not scratch that Harvest Moon itch any better than Rune Factory 1 would and in fact would be the worse option if that's your goal.  But Rune Factory 3, overall, is a better -game- I would say, and is more enjoyable than the first in the series outside of the last dungeon.  Which I just....just hated.  And while there are other complaints I could make, overall, it's just a pretty neat game.   A definite recommendation for anyone looking for something quirky action-RPG with touches of Harvest Moon in it

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