Thursday, October 28, 2010

Impressions: Fable III

I've managed to tear myself away from my Xbox 360 long enough to write an Impressions piece about Fable III. I want to say that it's everything I've hoped for from the Fable franchise, but, though it's a very polished, refined game, it doesn't completely hit the spot. It might just be the nature of games like this; developers make us feel connected to these fantastic worlds, but it always falls short of reality and so falls short of expectations. Like in Fable II, you work jobs by playing mini-games to earn money and you slay baddies to gain renown. All it does though is leave you wanting more.

The one thing that irks me about the game is that it plays almost exactly like Fable II. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but Lionhead Studios didn't do much to innovate or improve upon the established combat system other than to add a few visceral execution animations. Nothing makes you feel more like a hero than when you catch a pouncing Balverine in mid-pounce with the tip of your sword. However, the basic combat system remains the same. One button governs your melee attack, your ranged attack, and your magic attack. I just wish it had a little more depth to it.

An element of the game worth mentioning is the weapon morphing system. For every great hero, there's a great weapon. Your heroic weapon changes and adapts based on your fighting style and your morality. If you're a virtuous champion of good, your sword (or hammer) glows with bright runes. If you're evil, your weapons drip with blood. My sword (named Truth) is a short, broad-bladed weapon, perfect for my blocking and counterattacking style, with a bone hilt from the heaps of Hollow Men I've dispatched. It's a neat system and I'm already excited to play through the game again to see what kind of weapons I'll evolve.

The magic system in Fable III has also changed. You're no longer managing a mana bar like in Fable or juggling different charge levels of spells like in Fable II. Your magic is tied to spell-casting gloves that can be found in your Sanctum. Every spell is tied to a different glove. It might seem like it's been stripped down, but this improvement has added to the versatility of magic. Once you've advanced far enough on the magic track, you gain the ability to wear two different spell-gloves, which allows you to mix the effects of two spells. Personally, I'm a fan of Lightning and Vortex. Casting spells makes me feel like a storm god at the center of a hurricane. The new magic system is an improvement I'm a big fan of.

What sets Fable III apart from its predecessors is its story. The first Fable was the story of a young boy who became a Hero and avenged his family's death by defeating the evil Jack of Blades. Fable II starred another young boy (or girl) who embarked on a quest to unite three Heroes to defeat the megalomaniac Lord Lucien. Fable III puts you in the shoes of a prince (or princess), the younger sibling of the king who is tyrannizing Albion.

The first half of the story has you organizing a revolution and collecting followers who will submit your bid for the throne. The quests have a bit more variety to them, though you will still be descending into Hobbe-infested caves and fighting in twisted tournaments in the Fable style. The second half of the story has you taking the throne to prepare the kingdom for an invasion of an all-consuming evil.

The decisions you're forced to make are no longer the black-and-white choices of the first two. And I can personally attest that it's in your best interest to enjoy your freedom as a revolutionary leader while you can because being a ruler is a time-consuming job. It's easier to fight a revolution than rule a kingdom.

Fable III stands apart from the other games because of its polish. However, this polish is due to the fact that not much has changed since Fable II. In a lot of ways, this game is simply a touch-up on the basic layout of its predecessor. Lionhead has taken a few steps in the right direction; if only they had taken just a little more. 

Welcome to Albion. It's good to be king. Usually.

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