And so our review begins, bringing us back to the world of Albion in Fable III, the latest in the engaging roleplaying game series from Lionhead Studios. For players who've been to Albion in Fable and Fable II, this installment offers a new and interesting twist on the game world experience. Helpfully for those who may have never played either of the first two games, the game is created so that they can jump right into it without missing out on crucial backstory and can enjoy the game as a standalone.
In Fable III you play a prince or princess of Albion who is the child of the previous monarch (naturally). Your parent was a Hero, an extraordinary person who had the ability to manipulate magic, have incredible strength and agility and the capacity to make heroic decisions that helped or harmed the people of their world. Your brother, the tyrant king Logan has no such abilities, and seeing your potential a loyal family servant takes you from your home to prepare you for the day you overthrow the king and sit on the throne yourself. Over the course of the game, you interact with other leaders in Albion; the leader of a tribe, the leader of the current rebellion and so on. In exchange for their help overthrowing your brother, you agree to assist them once you're on the throne.
Now, of course to help them means that you have to quest your way across the world, leveling up and becoming stronger and better at defeating your enemies. The quests in Fable III can vary wildly, giving the player an amusing and interesting plethora of choices. Do I help someone retrieve their kidnapped fiancee? Or do I go murder someone because...well, does it really matter what the reason is when unnecessary murder is involved? I have to say that I had an amazing time completing the quests in the game. The dialogue that you get from quest givers is funny and entertaining, and watching the results of your actions can give you giggles for days. I never knew that things like divorce could be so much fun!
Fable III, like the previous two installments has an in game morality system. There are some actions that are blatantly good and some that are ever so deliciously evil. As a player, you have to pick the good and moral or evil and immoral decision when completing quests. Some quests are even specifically geared towards either alignment. Because of this and because you are allowed to make the choice every time you play a quest, the replay value in this game is tremendous, allowing you to go back multiple times and pick and choose which quests to complete and how to complete them. Replay value increases even more once you start realizing that you need to complete certain quests in order to open up new ones. During my first play through, there were quests that I never even saw because I didn't complete the necessary previous quests to open them up. The second time I played, I started seeing more of the game world as I opened and explored entirely new areas.
At the end of the game, you are let in on the big game secret; something bad is about to happen to Albion and as the new ruler, it's up to you to fix it. You have a set amount of time (a year) and a goal to complete; the rescue of the citizens of Albion, the people who put their trust in you when you overthrew your brother. You now have the option of reneging or upholding the various promises you made on your way through the main quest. This is where the game takes an interesting turn. Without getting too much into what the Big Bad Evil is, it basically comes down to you having to make tough decisions to save your people. Do you increase the guards in your main city? Do you decrease them? It might seem cruel to the citizens if you don't, but you may need to decrease them in order to save those people later on. Do you uphold your promise to help restore your lands, or not? Saving people now may mean that you doom them later. It's all up to you.
Now with all the fun I was having playing the game, I was surprised and disappointed when I started coming across some very major problems. Like glitches. And glitches. And glitchertastic glitches. As a matter fact, I came across so many glitches I kept wondering what the next new interesting one would be. And kept worrying about coming across another completely GAME BREAKING GLITCH. That's right, game breaking. About six or seven hours into the game I was on a quest to do some random evil killing. As I travelled in the area I was in, several enemies spawned in. I was unable to interact with them. As a matter of fact, I was unable to draw a weapon. Or use my magic. They ignored me and walked around as if nothing was going on. I was able to run right past them. Might seem great, but when it came time to killing the person I was supposed to for my quest, I was, again, unable to draw my weapon. As you travel through the game, there are multiple areas where you have to fight your way through enemies in order to trigger the next sequence of events. Being unable to fight means being unable to play and complete the game.
I also experienced multiple glitches in getting quests to start. After selecting a quest as my active one, I'd go to the quest giver only to have them ignore me. For a while, I was unable to start quests when I met quest givers on the street and could only get one if I purposefully selected it and then went to the person. I've experienced glitches where my character and only my character and the person I was traveling with slowed to a crawl and could not move any faster. I've had former family homes lock up so that I could not move another family in or out, or sell the home to regain the money invested. As a matter of fact, I couldn't even rent the home out. I've even seen the glitch where my pale character and their pale spouse produce a very decidedly non-pale child. And being the female in the relationship, I knew for sure who the father was and knew the child shouldn't be looking the way they did.
Another nasty glitch kept repeating itself over the course of the game. When completing quests, you have to rely on a golden trail of breadcrumbs that shows you the way to your next objective. I've had my breadcrumbs not only refuse to show up on occasion, but I've had them double back on themselves multiple times before actually showing me the correct way to go. When they decided not to work properly, the game became extraordinarily difficult and even impossible in some cases. The amount of glitches in bugs in this game is phenomenal and I know there are others that other players have experienced. For such a big name release, the amount of problems is inexcusable, especially the bugs that make gameplay nearly impossible and more than a little annoying to deal with.
The combat in this game also leaves much to be desired. Your Hero gets to run around the game world with a ranged weapon, melee weapon and magical gauntlets that let them perform magic attacks. The ranged and melee weapons have different goals attached to them that need to be completed in order for you to level them up and make the weapon more powerful. For example, one rifle may require you to kill 150 bandits while a sword may require you to kill 200 enemies at night. Because each weapons goal is only accomplished when you have that weapon in hand and use it to perform the kill, keeping track of each weapons requirements can be a little tedious. And switching weapons in the middle of combat can sometimes be deadly.
There are multiple encounters in the game where your character is swarmed by enemy groups. But so what, you're a Hero, right? Should be simple but unfortunately it isn't. Beware whenever your character is surrounded by a group of enemies. You may find yourself unable to perform a group attack or defend yourself before suffering a barrage of combo attacks. The roll system in the game doesn't always respond the best either, making it difficult to get away from attacking enemies at times.
And even though the game has two additional potion items to assist in combat, don't necessarily count on being able to use both of them. One of them, a slow time potion, is keyed to the up button on the D pad. The up button on the D pad is also where several other game notifications are keyed; such as your spouse wanting your attention, you being able to upgrade your character or notifications that there are quests for you to complete. In the middle of a combat situation, you may find yourself desperately wanting to slow time to allow yourself to get your bearings and fight back. If any of those other items are stuck on the up key you will be completely unable to use that slow time item. Get used to depending upon your healing potions. It was at the point where I was reluctant to go exploring in certain areas because I knew what kind of enemies I would have to deal with once going there, and I didn't feel like being constantly swarmed by them.
Fable III does introduce an interesting new game mechanic called Spell Weaving. In each of the previous games, your character was able to purchase the ability to use a variety of magical attacks. In this game, the magical attacks are performed using Spell Gauntlets that your character wears on their arms. Because of this, the Hero is able to wear two different ones at a time, enabling a spell combination that can have devastating results. My personal favorite was using Shock and Force Push at the same time. Not only did it knock enemies away from me, but it stunned them, making it possible to move away or rush in for the kill, if the spell itself didn't tear them a new one.
Another new game mechanic is the lack of an active inventory. It was taken out of the game to make it more immersive. Now, instead of going to a menu that shows you all the items your character is carrying, you have to go to a pawnshop in order to sell them, or to your Sanctuary to look at items you can put on or carry, such as clothing, hair and weapons. It could be very annoying to not know what items you were carrying, such as when trying to marry someone or complete a relationship quest. Does your Hero have a wedding ring already or are they going to have to go run and find one? Do they have a toy gun already? Who knows? They're going to have to run to the pawnshop to find out. About to go on a difficult quest and want to know how many healing potions you have? Same problem. And whenever I wanted to switch my weapons (to complete their goals) or switch my clothing, I had to go to my magical Sanctuary and interact with the models holding the clothes or weapons, which meant going through several pauses while I waited for each separate screen to load. The loads didn't take too long, but it slowed the gameplay down.
There are some old familiar things back in the game, like the Demon Doors which hold treasures behind them and which much be appeased in order to get them to open up. For example, one of the Demon Doors wants to see someone good, pure and innocent before they're willing to open up and allow you to the treasure inside. And of course there are the various item collection quests to find various collectible items. One of the old familiars, home and shop ownership came attached with a new annoying trait. When you own a home that you're renting out, the home takes damage every time the family inside moves out. Over the course of the game, if your rented home falls too far into disrepair, the family inside will refuse to pay rent until you repair it. Sounds reasonable enough until you realize that in order to repair a home, you have to go to each individual home either physically in the world or in the over world map view. Some towns have upwards of a dozen homes that you can buy and rent out; meaning that for every town you have to check every house to repair it as opposed to an option to say, repair all the homes in a town. It made the process very tedious and quickly made home renting a very undesirable money making route to go in the game.
The multiplayer abilities in this game are actually very well done and can help make your Hero's life a lot easier. You can play multiplayer on the same system and over Xbox live, allowing you to sit on the same couch with your henchman or sit in two different countries. By allowing another Hero to join your game, you gain the ability to use their fighting skills to help crush your enemies as you quest through Albion. They get to use all of their skills next to yours, making some areas of the game oh so blessedly easier. You also gain the ability to form business partnerships which let you pool your money to buy up property that you might not be able to afford on your own. Making money becomes a lot easier when someone else is helping you to invest. And if business isn't the only thing on your mind, you can marry another Hero as well and even have children. Whoever the main Hero is gets to keep the children from that union in their game world, with a Nanny who cares for them so the Heroes can do their job and save Albion. Heroes can even give gifts of clothing, weapons and gold to each other; as a matter of fact, at least two achievements are connected to this ability. You need another Hero to swap you some very particular items so you can complete your full collection of them in your game world, which won't have everything you need.
The game graphics are very similar to the previous installment; the land of Albion is bright, shiny and fairy tale pretty. The dark, dank areas are creepy and intimidating looking, and the game developers did an excellent job in some areas by using shadows and light to create an impressive atmosphere. Just remember the name, 'The Crawler'. Wait until you see his crib. But one of the big things graphical lures to the game, your Hero form, doesn't actually show up until the very end of the game. So if you're waiting to see just how twisted your dark and evil actions make your Hero look, be prepared to wait until the clock strikes midnight for that evil visage to appear. And while the ambient noises and music are pleasant and a nice and necessary inclusion, much of the music and sound bites sound recycled from the last game with some new ones added in here and there. Some new atmosphere music would have been nice to listen to in the game, considering how much it's set up to allow you to run around for hours on end, earning upgrades and hunting collectibles.
Fable III is a fun, interesting and amusing game to play with some excellent replay value. You can play it more than just once or twice to try a variety of different strategies, upgrade different weapons and just plain have fun trying to find everything there is to track down in Albion. Have fun listening to the dialogue and comments made by the people around you and enjoy the landscaping. The main handicaps to this game are the major, obnoxious glitches and the annoying combat. I can only hope that some fixes are already in the works for the glitches and as for the combat, just be prepared to grit your teeth and work your way through it if you're looking to play this game.