Friday, October 29, 2010
Weight of world on your shoulders in Fable III
Developed by Lionhead Studios
Published by Microsoft Gaming Studios
Available on: Xbox 360
Rating: M for Mature
Price: $59.99 for Standard Edition; $79.99 for Limited Collector's Edition
Choices. When you wake up every day, you face them. What to wear - what to eat, to get out of bed or hit the snooze button. How about this choice - to force your country, your people to endure hardship to sock away money to save them from certain death?
For most of us, it's a foreign concept. We make small, nonthreatening decisions that have even smaller consequences. Yet, Lionhead Studios decided to add an interesting twist to their newest Fable offering. You will see just how far reaching your decisions will be - and the consequences could downright tragic.
Welcome the world of Fable III.
Fable III, developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft, puts gamers into the boots of royalty. As with every Fable game I've ever played, you start out in good digs until a hater flips the script and you are busted to buck private.
Here's the back story - your dad was king. Your big brother takes over when your dad dies. Big brother goes on this expedition - suffers a serious case of PTSD and ends up enacting a lot of changes that nearly cripple Albion.
You have to ascend to Hero status, take the throne by force and end his reign of tyranny. The journey is filled with balverines, thieves, hollow men and hobbes, all ready to knock you out of the box. Yes, knock out - you don't die, that's a good thing, huh?
Of course, you can play the game as a man or woman. I chose as a woman for my playthrough. I also opted to rip the DVD to my Slim's hard drive and noticed some much faster load times. I definitely recommend saving the game to your hard drive if you have the space to.
You start out with three companions - your butler, Jasper, voiced by vet Brit actor John Cleese; an old, grizzled warrior, Walter, and your trusty canine, who I dubbed M4dski11z. You also meet your intended. For me, it was this dashing, swash-buckling type who was heaving on the amour, but light on actual combat. Pity. After suffering your brother's wrath and having to run for your life, you meet a seer who tells you what you can expect on your journey.
From there, it's what you make of the game. Since I had to review it, I raced through the main campaign and finished the game. Afterward, I'm working through the hundreds of side quests and missions for villagers. At last count, I had logged roughly 24 hours in the game. You will most definitely get your money (and mileage) out of Fable III.
As you progress and finish missions, different areas on the map open up. If you plan on taking your time to finish the game, and do the side quests first, that's fine too. It runs at your pace. The only time you'll be pressed to action - which is funny, because you are pressed twice in the game - once from your brother, once from the Crawler to spring into action and make quick decisions.
The game gives you the power of life and death - you can choose to spare or kill enemies, like the other Fables. This one, however, adds a new twist. You actually go through part of the game governing Albion. You have to prepare for the Crawler's attack. You can perform quests, but your time - and resources - are limited. You soon learn your brother had to make some very hard - and unpopular decisions to save Albion. You start out with all of Albion - 6,500,000 citizens being wiped out. Your treasurer will present you with economic solutions - though most are unpopular - but will add $$$$ to the depleted treasury. It's a very delicate balancing act, if you ask me. Still, I wonder if Peter Molyneux wanted to give gamers a very small taste of what world leaders deal with every day. A few of my decisions didn't play out as I would have liked to.
The one thing that I wasn't fond of was the lack of saves. You get one save, not multiple ones. It would have been awesome to have several saves, just to see how each decision would help - or hurt - Albion. Now, if I want to see the results, I'll have to replay the game.
You can also buy real estate and create revenue streams. At first, you don't have much cash, but if you keep playing, you'll have several million to play with. Another nice touch? With Albion facing a huge deficit, I donated most of my cash to the treasury. After the Crawler attack and the creature's defeat, the treasury is still accessible. You can continue to make deposits or withdraw them, though I'm not sure it matters at this point in the game.
You can also marry, divorce or fool around as well. I remained chaste until I was married but still caught an STD. Fail. My nasty hubby is about to lose his head. Literally.
Online multiplayer is a barrel of laughs. There is some lag at times, and trying to find a random multiplayer match/game wasn't hard at first, but the past few times I went online, I received an error message stating the game was full. Hmmmm.
It's easy to connect with friends and do co-op missions. Be wary - if you are trying to achieve sainthood, and your friend or companion online wants to act a fool, you share all of the stats. That said, if your partner decides to do a Rambo, whip out the jammy and flat blast villagers and soldiers, their carnage, murders will appear on YOUR stats as well. I got online to play with random players and the very first person I co-oped with starting killing villagers. And I heard them begging for mercy as they laid there, dying. Classy.
You can also gift co-op players - and marry, divorce, get pregnant and have partnerships with them.
The coolest feature about co-op? On the lower levels, if you are on a much higher level than your partner, you can literally help them run through the game, as long as you are playing on a lower level player's game. The flip side of that is - if you invite a lower level player into your advanced game, they are just along for the ride most times.
The graphics are good - the environments seem vast and very diverse. Your dog is a great addition, though I wish there was an easier way to train your dog to be Cujo. The pre-order feature, Create a Villager? I created a villager, but have had a very hard time finding her and her quest.
The music is a delight. I loved the music from the first game - this is just as awesome. The voiceovers are engaging. I can't help but listen to Cleese's voice and think about A Fish Called Wanda.
Overall, I spent nearly a day in Albion and enjoyed my stay. Yes, there were glitches, yes, it wasn't flawless and yes, an enemy who wanted me dead ended up being a business partner, even though I was trying to find a way to rub them out, the game still kept my attention and is a great ride from beginning to end.
The verdict? 3.5 (out of 4 stars) Here's the thing about the world of Albion and the Fable universe - you either love it or hate it. It's a time-suck and will let you escape the cares of the election season, high unemployment and economic hardship. You can be a king or queen and travel a country, winning the hearts and minds of your citizens. And it never gets old. I would love to see additional DLC - houses, missions, quests - to keep this game fresh. I see this game getting a lot of use in the days to come.