Monday, November 1, 2010

One King to rule them all.

Most of my time this past week has been spent outside of WoW playing Fable III the newest game in the 'Fable' series by Lionhead studios.

I have to say at the start that this game has one of the coolest collectors edition boxes of all time.

For a starter the case is a fake leather bound book.

The book opens up to reveal the game held inside.

The bottom of the book then flips down to revel a hidden compartment holding the collectors coin and playing cards.

Very awesome looking case in deed.

As with all the previous Fable games there was a lot of hype behind this one with the games creator Peter Molyneux once again telling the world all about his ambitious plans for the title. I as always got right into the hype and was expecting great things.
I have been a fan of the series since I heard about and played the first game, the concept of a game where your choices and actions could effect not just yourself but the world around you was amazing. However like the first game and the second as well Fable III tried to do to much, and anytime we are told to expect perfection and are given anything less the Internet attacks. It is a long running trend that Molyneux over estimates just what the he can pull off with the technology, time and money he has available. The man dreams big but sadly he can never make just what he in-visions and as a result many disappointed and deluded individuals attack him and the company for letting them down. If you take a step back and look at the games for what they are and not what they fell short of you will see that they are still very excellent games.
Fable III defiantly has its short comings, for starters and probably one of my biggest disappointments is the weapon morphing system. Their dream was to have weapons that evolved with the character so that every action effected your weapon. What we got was a random change based on a few things you had done that only occurs to a set part of your weapon and only at one point i.e. You are an evil player that does a lot of treasure finding and you open the melee upgrade chest level 3 which morphs your blade or hammerhead to randomly reflect one of those two styles. This change is permanent and your look will not upgrade ever again. The two biggest downsides to this is that once you have your weapon design it can never change no matter how you change your play style. Secondly you cannot predict what your weapon will look like without force quitting and reloading.
My second main disappointment is how little your moral effects your game. In the first Fable the more "Good" you were the lighter your hair got and the more visible a halo was above you, similarly the more "Evil" you were the more your feet burned the ground and horns grew from your head. Fable II had a similar level of character morph with the added bonus of corruption effecting it to. In Fable III I have seen little change by moral outside of some glow effects on weapons and tattoos, now sure I have not played an evil game yet but from what I have seen this seems like a step back in this area.
The third area of annoyance for me is the housing system. In all games you were able to buy houses and rent them out for profit however Fable III stepped this up with the ability to customize the interior with new furniture, change the rent and with the ability of the quality to decrease over time. Now having your homes degrade and need repairing is a nice idea after all this happens in real life to however the issue comes when you start to own quite a few houses. You see each house has to be repaired separately and while this is not much of an issue for your first few homes once you own most of the continent it takes onwards of 20-30min just to repair them all. What would of been nice would have been a repair all feature, even if it was just town wide.
My final major annoyance is the requirement of Xbox Live or the very least multiple account abuse if you want to get the most out of the game. This may not be directly a Lionhead decision and Microsoft may have played a part but for someone who does not like Xbox Live its a real pain. For example the game has a total of 51 weapons available in it to collect but each time you open a chest the weapon you get is random from that list. Even the two weapon stores have a random list decided on game opening. In total any one game you can only get 26 different weapons the rest must be traded for between games ether as a gift from a second game or across XBL. Similarly the first "Demon Door"(Sealed room that requires certain conditions before you can enter for a big reward) requires two players to stand before it and be friends/lovers for it to open. Finally there are several dyes that are missing from your self that can only be brought via Microsoft points on XBL including the much wanted Black dye. I get that there will be things that co-op should get as a bonus and sure things can be sold on XBL to add to the game but I should not need to do them just to finish the game completely.

Despite these flaws the game is a lot of fun. They have continued to rework their spell system and while it no longer boosts the large supply that the first game had the implementation is a lot easier to use.
They also improved the Flourish system (Power attacks) so that as you gain in power you see more and more visible rune glow from you when charging until finally at max level magic you will see wings based on your alignment sprout from you.
Combat has also been improved with enemy's having an increased arsenal of attacks, couple that with some spectacular finishing moves and battle become visually amazing to watch even if your not playing.
The game play its self is very enjoyable and the storyline is interesting and very addictive, there have been several times when I have lost complete track of time while playing.
Finally they have done away with game menus, choosing to replace the 'Map', 'Equipment', 'Trophy', 'Clothing' and 'Xbox Live' options with the 'Sanctuary'. The Sanctuary is a physical location where the options are given rooms rather than menus.

To equip a weapon you head to the armory and just take it off the shelf.

In the Dressing room you can browse through all your clothes, tattoos etc shown on manikins.

If you go to the Trophy room you can see them all lined up on the walls and your gold is shown as a visible pile that slowly fills the room.

Your fast travel map is also there in the middle room as a visible table with a 3d map upon it.
I love this feature it makes the menu interesting and gives you a safe place to go hang out and get away from what ever may be after you.

Overall Fable III does not live up to Molyneux's plans for it but knowing he dreams big I was expecting it. While we lost a few features from the other games the stuff we gained makes up for most of it and the rest is filled by the addictive story.
What we have ended up with is a fun and addictive game that still feels like its only part of something.
I think that if Molyneux went back now and was to work on a Fable revamp using the best parts of the 3 games he has made so far along with a few more improvements to bring it closer to his vision we could potentially have a very very powerful game that would change gaming as we know it.
I would not be surprised if we see a Fable IV and hopefully if we do it can be brought closer to this games potential than we stand currently.

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