This week, we have a guest reviewer. Patty Campbell (Tackyspoons on Twitter) is a friend and former game industry colleague.
Too busy to devote 12+ hours a day to your gaming habit? Here's a review that's sensitive to your needs: Short and focused on just the things that a busy gamer like you really needs to know.
Reviewed On: Xbox 360. A PC version is in development.
|Is Fable III a misfire?|
In a Nutshell: Set 50 years after the last installment ended, your brother Logan is King of Albion and not a very popular one at that. The first half of the game leads you through a rebellion to overthrow your brother and the second half of the game puts you on the throne. As Queen (or King), the choices that you make and the way you decide to rule have a huge impact on how the game ends. Are you a benevolent ruler who makes good on your promises or do you simply drive forward in a self-serving quest for riches, not caring who or what you harm in the process?
Through combat, interactions with people and quests, you earn Guild Seals, which you can spend to level your magic, melee and ranged weapon skills. Melee combat has improved since Fable II. The more you use a weapon, the more elaborate your attacks with that weapon will become. Instead of augments, Fable III makes use of a unique levelling system for weapons, but you'll need to read each weapon's description carefully to find out how to activate it.
If you only follow the storyline-based quests, the game is appallingly short. I was able to finish twice in one week. My advice, if you get this game: Take your time and explore the side quests along the way to unlock new content and extend the life of the game.
Learning Curve: Fable creator Peter Molyneux has long tried to do away with the traditional game interface to reduce the amount of clutter on the screen and allow a player to become fully immersed in the game. There are some improvements over past Fable games, but not many.
Like Fable II, you learn how to play the game through character dialogue or pop-up help text at the top of the screen. But from there on out, Molyneux's vision of a simple UI falls flat. Your items, clothing, map, save features and access to Xbox Live features have been moved to a place called The Sanctuary — just a button push away from your game screen. Although it's a marked improvement over Fable II's character/item management, the user experience of The Sanctuary is clunky and inconsistent.
Interactions with villagers, a key way to gaining the guild seals you need to progress in the game, are frustrating at best. The elegant "emotion wheel" from Fable II has been replaced with a jerky, time-consuming cut scene consisting of three emotions: a "good" one, a "bad" one and a "funny" one. My first "meh" of this review. (Oh yes, there will be another!)
The Save Game: You'll have to play through about an hour of the game before you can get to a save point. After that, as long as you're not in the middle of a quest or interacting with another character, you can save your progress at any point by entering the Sanctuary and going to the options menu.
Family Factor: In addition to scary imagery and dark, supernatural beings that even made me jump a little, there's sex, mildly foul language and lewd behavior. Sure, you can play the game without getting married and having a family, but you miss out on a lot of the experience if you do. Bottom line, not for kids.
Buy, Rent or Skip? Rent. While it's still fun to explore the world of Albion, the game is too short to justify a $60 investment and I hate to reward Lionhead for sloppy testing.
On a Personal Note: I loved Fable II. I spent hours exploring the kingdom of Albion, interacting with its citizens, fighting crime, buying property and making choices that affected not only my character's life, but the lives of those around her.
|This shot from a Fable III developer diary shows a bug count of 30. |
Did those bugs all get fixed? It doesn't seem like it.
Fable III was to be the jewel in Lionhead Studios' crown. Their marketing materials were rich with the promise of dramatic visuals, all-star voice talent (including John Cleese, Simon Pegg, Stephen Fry and Sir Ben Kingsley), exciting battles and a compelling story line.
Dramatic visuals? Check. All-star voice talent? Yes, plus a bonus gold star for crafty dialogue! Exciting battles? Sure, if your definition of exciting is using the same spell all the way through the game. Compelling story? Meh. Not exactly.
The sheer number of plot holes and dead-end storylines alone should have been my first clue that this game was rushed through production. But those paled in comparison to the number of bugs I found in the game.
There were at least three quests I was unable to finish due to bugged NPCs or environmental issues. The sparkly gold trail that leads me from quest to quest would disappear for no reason, and at one point, my butler (voiced by John Cleese) just stopped talking to me. These are all well-documented bugs, but so far Lionhead has been silent as to how or when there will be a patch to fix them.
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