Review by HoshunMk112
"Accessible and enjoyable game despite some glaring flaws"
As of this writing (23 Jan, 2011) I have completed every achievement and have completed two playthroughs of this game.
The much-anticipated sequel to Fable 2 doesn't exactly deliver everything you may have wanted, but it still delivers a solid and enjoyable gameplay experience. Personally, I never completed Fable 1, Fable: The Lost Chapters, or Fable 2 ... in the case of Fable 1/TLC, I always reached a point in the game where I had max stats, the best weapons, the best everything - and the story failed to really bring me in. It was always after the arena events. As for Fable 2, I plan to go back and give it another go but it felt like there was too much to do - so much so that for someone with semi-aggressive gaming OCD like myself, it became a touch overwhelming and made it difficult to focus on any one thing.
That, and I hate it when games that have a "point of no return".
To those ends, Fable 3 is excellent. It has no "point of no return" (barring some end-of-game decisions surrounding Bowerstone Old Quarter) so that everything you may miss during normal gameplay is still attainable once you've completed the game's story.
However, it does have a number of flaws. More on those in the following sections.
GAMEPLAY - 3.5 / 5
It's everything you know and love/hate about the Fable series. You still have your standard melee, ranged, and magic attack buttons. Holding the melee attack button allows you to block, holding your magic attack button allows you to charge up powerful area-of-effect attacks, and holding a direction and any of the ability buttons charges up powerful single-target attacks. Some of them even get nifty "finishing move" animations that are cute the first few times you see them - thereafter, they become a bit tiresome and distracting.
You can also dodge and enter a pseudo-first-person view with the gun to aim your attacks, but unlike in Fable 2 you can't really aim for specific body parts or weapons to disable your foes.
The glaring flaw here is that the game quickly becomes more of a beat-'em-up than a typical role-playing game. That, combined with the complete lack of "mana", "magic points", or whatever you want to call them, and the fact that the game starts sending swarms of enemies at you ... and eventually you find that magic almost complete shuts out the need to use any other attack. Weaving spells together is a neat ability you attain fairly early into the game, but there's little to no need to use any spell apart from Shock - and maybe Fireball. You *can* use other spells, but I've found they aren't nearly as strong a combination as Fireball/Shock.
Customizing weapons is still sort of around, but many of the requirements are just obnoxious to try and attain. "Kill 500 enemies with a flourish", while not hard, is completely tiresome to try and get. "Complete 30 quests" is easy enough, but many of the quests end up being fetch quests for improving your relationship with the townsfolk, which is EXCEEDINGLY boring. The fact that the game forces you to run out into the middle of nowhere to dig up some hunk of crap out of the ground just to become friends with some dork you don't care about, just to get a pittance of experience and a quest complete for improving a completely replaceable weapon ... it's just not that fun. Furthermore, the game promoted heavily a "weapon evolution" system - which frankly, kind of flops. The most unique weapons you have access to are the first ones you're given early on in the game, whose appearances will shift depending on the specifics of how you play. However, these same weapons are the weakest in the game, and once you start collecting other weapons there is ZERO reason to use them again.
Furthermore, in order to obtain all of the weapons and items in the game, you must trade with other players. More on that in the ONLINE PLAY section.
Then there's home ownership. You can still buy properties and businesses, and you can go as far as to set rent/sales prices. Adjusting the rent and prices will adjust the general populace's opinion of you accordingly. However, the game insists that you repair the houses you own, otherwise the tenants won't pay rent. If there were a "repair all" or some way to automate the system, it wouldn't have been any problem. But the game FORCES you to repair each house individually, which becomes boring very fast.
You can start up families all over the place, have your own kids (or adopt if you wish), that sort of thing. Having a family has its own advantages - your spouse will give you gifts if you keep them happy, as will your kids. It's pretty forgiving, and if you set a house as a family house it won't degrade so it won't need repairs. It just won't generate revenue.
Most of the quibbles I have with the gameplay are fairly minor compared to the high points. Combat is pretty fast and action-packed, and enjoyable enough for what it is. The "gold trail" is still around to guide you to where you need to go - it can get a bit glitchy at times, but it does the job admirably. Your dog still leads you to treasure. Overall, I'd say the gameplay isn't the game's highest point, but it's not bad at all - apart from some somewhat obvious flaws.
STORY - 4 / 5
It's not the most original plot - evil brother, tyrant king, overthrow the government, "do it better" yourself. The voice acting in the game is superb, with some very well-written dialogue being voiced by some very familiar actors. I kept waiting to hear Walter say "Riders of Rohan!" throughout the game. As you probably know, the game's primary "gimmick" is that once you become king, you have to make kingly decisions and keep (or break) promises that you'd made on the way to revolution. The morality system in this game has some obvious effects on the world around you, with the options to drain lakes, destroy orphanages, and cut down whole forests as possible outcomes of your choices.
However, this same morality system ends up being completely black-and-white. You get asked very matter-of-factly if you'd rather (good) build a school out of an old, unused factory ... or (bad) keep the factory running and use child labor to staff it. There is no in the middle decision. It's either child labor, or education. Likewise, you're eventually given the option of (good) making a new sewage treatment plant, or (bad) routing the sewage into a forest. It becomes less ... interesting, if you will, when your decisions are so blatantly pandering to one side or the other.
The game also promotes the notion that money can fix everything. With enough money you can do almost anything as the king. While it's not wholly unrealistic, it does make you wonder why the game lets you avoid what could have potentially been a very involved and thought-provoking series of choices leading to the game's conclusion ... by simply collecting rent long enough to avoid the hard choices.
Regardless, all of the dialogue from the characters is entertaining to say the least, and with a spectacular set of voice actors the game never really fails to keep you listening.
GRAPHICS - 4.5 / 5
The game looks gorgeous. Character models are well-built, animations are generally quite smooth, and overall you'll enjoy running around Albion and seeing sights both new and familiar. However, the game still employs a fairly extensive "screen blur" effect which, while making sunsets beautiful and lighting effects fairly realistic, also tends to set off my motion sickness a bit until I really got used to it. Even then, you can't appreciate the fluidity of the animations fully - every time you move the camera, the screen blurs a bit and your eyes have to refocus.
It's not nearly as bad as, say, the Gears of War series (which did, in fact, make me sick). If you played Fable 2, you'll recognize it right away.
Character customization has taken a hit, however. A purely magic-using character won't look *that* different from one that uses melee attacks extensively. The more melee you use, the bulkier you become - but it's not as obvious as you might think. It's hard to tell the difference between a 5-star Herculean warrior, and a 0-star freshly-made character. Using more ranged attacks makes you taller, which is a bit more obvious. Using more magic makes your tattoos glow which, while being a very cute effect, can be rather hard to appreciate.
Furthermore, there aren't a lot of hairstyles, facial hair options, or makeup to use. However, the game uses an extensive color palette for dying your clothes and hair (and eventually your tattoos), so while the shape of your character may be identical to another players', the specifics on how you look - your clothes and the colors you use - will likely be different enough to make things interesting.
Overall, the game is gorgeous. I could just do without the blur.
SOUND - 5 / 5
The music fits the game's feel perfectly. It becomes stressful when fighting, different regions get different tunes, it sets the mood of an area perfectly without being so blaring or blatant that it distracts from the game's visuals. The voice acting is top-notch, employing such voices as Simon Pegg, Stephen Fry, and John Cleese to name but a few. The dialogue is hilarious when it calls for it, and creepy-as-all-hell when needed.
There's not much to say, other than ... Fable 3 excels here.
GLITCHINESS - 2 / 5
Fable 3 has a number of glitches - some fairly minor, others potentially game-breaking. I have personally encountered three obvious glitches - one didn't break the game, one broke part of the game (but was fixable to an extent), and one nearly killed the game I was playing.
First glitch was that after the events of a certain quest, I was getting married to another NPC. At the wedding ceremony proper, neither myself nor my bride-to-be's character models actually appeared at the wedding, and during the wedding ambient character dialogue was occurring as if I were elsewhere. While this was certainly distracting, it didn't break the game and it wasn't so huge a problem as to make me irate.
The second glitch was the infamous "Mute Jasper" glitch, wherein Jasper stopped talking completely. While the incessant peddling of pay-to-use DLC was annoying to no end, I like hearing him chime in on my weapons, wardrobe choice, and the like. The "fix" was to make a couch co-op session (more on that later), join my second profile's game session, talk to their Jasper a bit, save my game, and exit. While this made it so that my Jasper was able to speak again, it also reset my in-game tutorial progress so every time I did an action, Jasper would comment on it. Turning off the tutorials made it much more tolerable and allowed me to enjoy John Cleese to the fullest, but it was quite a lot of work just to make an NPC talk again.
The third glitch was one where I was playing couch co-op, in a region called The Ossuary. I jumped off a ledge, and my partner jumped off behind me. However, her character didn't drop into the same spot I did - she somehow dropped off the side of the ledge and slid onto a wall that you're not supposed to be able to walk onto. Coincidentally, she couldn't walk off of that wall, and from all appearances her character was stuck there for eternity. We did everything we could to try and get her down, but the game had saved her in that spot. Eventually, I tried interacting with her (I could run up right next to her, but she couldn't get off the wall at all). By interacting with her, she was able to get back onto the normal game map and play like normal. Had this occurred without the ability to do couch co-op, she would have been screwed.
There's other glitches that I have yet to experience which can and will kill your game as well, including but not limited to falling through the floor and falling into an "infinite pit" later into the game. These bugs should have been squashed in beta, and should never have made it into the live build of the game.
The game is enjoyable despite the bugs, but be aware that your save may be forfeit to the whims of the game's glitches.
ONLINE PLAY - 4 / 5
I haven't played much at all online, but I've been enjoying a playthrough with my S.O. via couch co-op. One character progresses their story, while the other receives wages for playing as well as sharing in experience gains. This means that one character gets command of the camera - which can get quite annoying if, like my S.O., they lack the fine motor skills developed after years of sitting on a couch playing videogames. But it's very enjoyable, in particular because the game is so accessible to newer players. It's a simple game setup, it lets you play how you'd prefer to play, and it doesn't punish you for making "bad" decisions.
Likewise, you can marry other players, have kids with them, and enter into "business partnerships" with them - wherein while you play together, you can earn money off of properties and businesses that you each purchase together. Your money is "shared" when purchasing buildings, and the earnings from said buildings are split.
In a given game world you can't obtain every weapon, clothing article, or character customization option (tattoos, makeup, etc). In order to obtain everything you have to start multiple games and trade between your characters via couch co-op, or trade with other players on XBL. This is a very annoying process, as it means any progress you attain comes at someone else's cost, ultimately. Obtaining everything can take a very long time.
Collecting things aside, the online play could stand to be a bit more involved, but it's still quite fun.
OVERALL - 3.5 / 5
After playing through this game the first time, I immediately started up another character because I wanted to play through it again. Playing Fable 3 has also made me want to fire up Fable 2 and give it a real honest "go". Fable 3 is not without its flaws, which can be very, very glaring at times. However, what the game lacks in polish and refinement it makes up for in ease of access for both new and experienced gamers alike, an entertaining (if unoriginal) story, and top-notch voice acting and dialogue.
I would recommend this game for most gamers. Except, perhaps, young children - as you may not want to field the "Mom/Dad, what's a whore?" questions too early.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/24/11
Game Release: Fable III (US, 10/26/10)
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