Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Fable III is a game that promises much, but never fully delivers. Peter Molyneux’s Lionhead Studios has a game with all the elements needed to succeed – stunning graphics, a deep storyline, sympathetic characters, a hip steampunk feel and smooth gameplay. Somehow, though, the game fails to meld all those elements together.
I really wanted to like this game, which is out in stores today, but I couldn’t get myself immersed or lost in a world that offers far too many faux life choices and has a windup longer than an Ayn Rand novel.
Fable III casts you as a prince or princess in the kingdom of Albion. It’s set a half-century after Fable II. Your father, the able king and protagonist of the previous game, is long dead. Before dying, he handed the crown to your mean brother, Logan. The new king is a cruel man, and the people of this realm – in the throes of their own industrial revolution, complete with post-apocalyptic-looking, smoke-belching factories – are also in the early stages of fomenting a real revolution to topple Logan. That’s where you come in. Your mission is to shake a lot of hands, kiss a lot of babies around the kingdome, winning the support of the people and overthrowing your brother. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to keep the support of those who helped you onto the throne or go the way of Logan.
The division of the game into distinct halves – one where your hero is a revolutionary leader and the other as king – is smart and keeps you occupied. You’ll need to display both violence and smarts to be successful throughout the entire game. The good news about the lackluster development of the storyline is that you’ll have plenty of time to develop whatever you’re lacking. If you’re a bad fighter or spell-caster, you’ll have enough chances at swordplay and wolf-killing in the first half. If you’re not up on your Albion tax law, tweaking policy in the second half of the game will let you see what kind of ruler you really are.
You’re helped on your quest by your valet, Jasper, who’s delightfully voiced by John Cleese. I kept expecting him to hand me an exploding pen (a la James Bond’s Q) or to ask Manuel to make me some Paella (nod to “Fawlty Towers”). Neither happened, but it definitely adds something to the game to have Cleese’s snarky lilt along for the journey. Also on your side is adviser Walter Beck. Apart from some sword-fighting scenes and a powwow with villagers that my hero wasn’t allowed to attend, I didn’t get why I needed him. And your trusty dog is with you on the quest, always ready to fetch. He barks when he finds something useful to you somewhere in the game.
Spoiler warning: very early in the game, you see how cruel Logan is when he forces you to decide between killing your lady friend or a revolutionary leader. But it’s also the first of many moral dilemmas and social choices you’ll have to make to develop your hero’s character.
There are some nice side touches to Fable III. You can find and accumulate wealth, including gold or jewels. If clothes do make the man (or woman), you have plenty of choices of what to buy and wear in Fable III. You can wander slightly off the path the game wants you to take to interact with or engage passers-by. The game’s social aspect also lets you develop relationships with other characters.
Fable III is a clear upgrade in the last version of the role-playing game. It has a cleaner interface that’s not cluttered with menus. Choices appear as button icons on the screen with one-word memory-joggers. Instead of plowing into the game’s manual, you can generally get by with helpful tips that appear on the bottom of the screen between scenes.
Overall, though, I don’t like games that force you down a particular path. In this game, your every course is illuminated by a glowing dust trail – like emergency aisle lighting on an airplane. While it’s nice to not have to memorize locations or read a map, exploring is often half the fun of adventure and role-playing games.
You can read more of Adam Najberg's excellent review here: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/10/26/fable-iii-isnt-legendary/
Posted by RXD Gaming at 1:08 PM