Albion needs a Hero
Fable 3 ... is finally upon us and itís a mixed blessing. Normally Iíd start a review with a bit of a pre-amble, but this time I want to get right down to it. So...Story
This time you donít start off as a child, youíre either the Prince or Princess of the Kingdom of Albion, your brother Logan, is a tyrant and he oppresses the people and would rather see Albion burnt to the ground than surrender it. To make matters worse, youíre also the son or daughter of the old Hero King or Queen. That means youíre destined to overthrow Logan and take Albionís throne for yourself.
Thatís all Iím really going to say on the story, itís well told and it has a few twists and turns here and there that make it fun to watch unfold.Gameplay
If youíve played Fable or Fable 2 then youíre going to be no stranger to the gameplay thatís in Fable 3, even though itís refined it remains essentially Fable and thatís not a bad thing. You have the 3 main attacks, mapped to the 3 buttons, melee weapons on X, ranged on Y and spells on B. You can mix them up in combat and the switching is a lot quicker, so you can throw a devastating spell one moment, fire off a couple of shots the next and finish off with a nice sword attack.
This system is smoother and a lot more fun than Fable 2.
It gets a little more cinematic as you level up your skills, which weíll come to in a moment, with flourishes and better blocks. The camera occasionally gives you a slow motion cinematic combat move that really makes combat come alive and the animations for those are great Ė theyíre also tied into the weapon youíre using, so melee and ranged all have different key death-dealing animations, different again for pistols and rifles, swords and hammers and so on.
Flourishes are triggered in the same way as Fable 2, hold down the button and press the direction until the pad vibrates or you see your characterís Will lines appear (if youíre strong in magic). You can also unlock spell-weaving and put on two different kinds of gauntlets, mixing magic...like a fireball and vortex to create a powerful flaming tornado of doom.
You have your main attributes; they level up based on doing. So if you swing a lot of swords youíre going to get stronger, fire a lot of guns, you get faster and taller (stature) and well, use a lot of magic and youíre going to get all sparkly-glowy Annie!
As you battle the creatures of Albion, you gain Guild Seals (XP) for doing really well in combat, or completing Quests. These can be used on the Road to Rule, a kind of quasi-mystical pathway that represents your ascension to power. There are chests on the road and each one costs x-amount of Guild Seals to unlock. The chests can contain your core expressions, landlord packs (allowing you to own property and so on) and of course weapon and magic levels. From 1 to 5.
Each time you level up your weapons, you transform your Heroic Weapons into a different form, this also reflects to all the other weapons (Legendary) that you can buy from shops and find on Quests. Many of them will change their appearance based on what youíve done so far in the game. There are a lot of attributes that Fable 3 keeps track of and they all count to something, for instance, my sword gained a more malicious appearance because I had apparently been very cruel to chickens.
I had been, I canít help it...see a chicken = kick a chicken; itís the law in my Albion.
The core gameplay values remain the same, kill monsters, go on Quests, meet people and express yourself (either evil, good or funny) to earn Guild Seals from them. Interaction being one on one now, no more crowds of people all standing around going: good even, or, I like your hat. The road is unlocked as you move through the core story, so you can never be overly powerful in your own game world. Youíre always at the right power level for the next bit of the story.
The other big change to Fable 3 is the GUI; no longer does the game bombard you with 2d menus full of stuff: everything is in 3d thanks to the Sanctuary. Weapons, costumes, items and everything appears in this mystical hideout, once you access it through the start menu. You can save and load your game, check on your map (from which you can also fast travel and buy/sell property, raise the rent etc) and check out your friendís progress, since they also appear as orbs on your map (depending on your setting in the Live Room).
Shops actually have their goods on sale, you can see them in 3d, you can interact with costumes and see what youíre buying Ė so youíll know if that halter top looks good on your Prince or not.
Itís a bold step away from our traditional 2d menus and I like it. I like it a lot, apart from the Silent Jasper bug which is a bit of a gamebreaker, since it can stop you seeing how much cash you earn from odd jobs, fast-travelling around the Sanctuary via the D-pad and preventing you interacting with Jasper (your butler voiced by John Cleese) Ė this includes important quest related information and so on. Not a very good bug and one of the reasons the game score is lower than I wanted to give it.
It seems directly tied to the Sanctuary and virtually everyone I have spoken to, has been hit with this bug at some point during their Fable 3 game.
At some point youíre going to rule Albion, thatís about mid-point in the game but the game doesnít feel very long during this ruling phase. You can still interact with your map and do all sorts of property management and questing, but the rulership part feels rushed. I think Lionhead could have done a lot more...also...would it have killed them to implement some kind of mass management for repair of property Ė it is insanely tedious trying to scroll the highly inaccurate mini-map around and find the property flags that are lower than the others.
I want my 100% rent!