Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fable 3

Fable 3 is Lionhead's newest installment of the Fable universe. While it is a step up in graphics and story, the game play leaves a lot to be desired.

The story of Fable 3 is one of your standard good vs. evil fares. A force of darkness is coming to take over the kingdom, and your king brother is running the kingdom into the ground with a merciless hand. Your goal is to take over the ruling of the kingdom, and then run it as you see fit to prepare for the epic battle.

Unfortunately, the game is far from perfect. While certain elements were employed to allegedly increase the immersion of the player, they only end up getting in the way of what could've been an enjoyable experience.

Here is a small sampling of the bugs and annoyances I've encountered personally while playing Fable 3:

  • Relationships are a chore. To manage your relationships, you have to interact with a person a couple times (each interaction is fairly long, silly, and somewhat disturbing — a little amusing the first couple times, aggravating and boring by the 150th). Then you do some kind of quest that is invariably: a) travel to another town, b) find/deliver some item, and c) return for your "reward". And the villager may not stay happy too long anyway, unless you keep repeating the process. (Except kids. I haven't seen a kid do anything but get more unhappy. Their quests are invariably "give me a toy", but I have not yet seen it actually improve their mood, and I have actually seen them get less happy with a positive expression.)

  • No real map. The map tables are extremely high-level, showing very little town detail. It is impossible to navigate using that map, requiring you to memorize the layout and paths of every town in order to truly get where you want to go (difficult unless you happen to be able to set a quest target in that town, so the gold trail can guide you; very difficult if your real-life sense of direction is crippled as it is). The map also only identifies the major towns. If you want to, say, return to the Ossuary in Mourningwood, unless you remember exactly where it was for the one quest you did there, you have almost no chance of finding it again.

    Speaking of Mourningwood, it gets tiresome every time you travel there to have to go through a long path full of hobbes. (It's arguably easier to fast-travel to Bowerstone Industrial and backtrack on foot, but I end up walking in circles before I find the path back, since I don't have that town memorized.)

  • Sanctuary issues. When Jasper would talk to me, quite often he'd tell me there were "new" items in the shop. Actually, he just meant there were items I haven't bought yet — and no amount of pushing would make me spend money on a dog costume for my hero.

    Of course, that all stopped when Jasper decided to stop talking to me altogether. Lionhead eventually released a patch, but that only got Jasper talking for a few minutes. Then he not only stopped again, but I lost my inability to interact with him (fairly useless anyway), and the D-pad quick links to the Sanctuary rooms stopped functioning (or even displaying on-screen), making the Sanctuary slightly more of a chore to be forced to use for weapon switching.

  • Disappearing wife. Eventually, you can marry your childhood sweetheart; but after the final battle for the kingdom (which I got through saving the entire kingdom), she disappeared. I had her in a house in Bowerstone Market, but there was no sign of her. The map showed she was still there (with the heart indicator on Bowerstone Market); and when I highlighted our house, it says she is there with a gift for me. I eventually selected the house and was able to choose "Move family", which I did — moved them right to the castle. There is still no sign of her, though.

  • Disappearing civilian. I have a relationship quest where I'm supposed to return an item to a person in a particular town. That person no longer exists in the town. I don't know where he went (I left, got the item, and came back almost immediately). I can select the quest, but when I get to the town, no gold trail appears.

  • Network issues. I joined someone's multiplayer game at one point. I'm guessing we had some network issues involved, since we were in an Xbox Live party and I could only hear about half of what he was saying. One attempt ended with characters on my screen stuck in place — my hero was frozen, but other characters were walking in place. His screen was apparently stuck on a "Loading" screen I never saw. The second attempt ended with both of us going to loading screens, and then me staring at a solid black screen (with the occasional cricket chirping noise, indicating the scene I couldn't see was at night) and his loading screen showing cog wheels almost frozen (moving slightly every 20 seconds or so). I had to exit to the dashboard to break out.

It's rather disappointing that my strongest impressions of the game are the problems I've had. I really enjoyed Fable and Fable 2, but Fable 3 has been really hard to fully enjoy with the constant little bugs and awkward design.

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