|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Lionhead Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 26, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Despite the iffy combat, though, the first half of the game is a joy to play. The same cant be said for the second half, which quite frankly feels thrown together. Now that youre the boss, you have to decide whether to keep the promises you made. The problem is that you have exactly one year to prepare for an attack by an evil force that has been plaguing the nearby land of Aurora, and the only way to raise money to fight the attack is by ignoring the promises.
This could make for a great plot, requiring you to be diplomatic with the factions to which you made promises. But it doesnt really fit the whole Fable idea of good vs. evil; youre not deciding whether to be good or bad, but rather how to weigh the promises you made against the threat of impending mass death. And more important, there is no diplomacy here. You cant reason with the people who come to collect on their promises. You can only accept or reject their proposals.
Also, its almost impossible to make sense of the second half on your first playthrough. Protecting Albion without incurring casualties requires a specific amount of gold, which (unless we missed some serious money-making opportunities) means you have to break a certain proportion of your promises. However, the timeline jerks forward many days at a time, and you can never be sure how much money youll be able to make or lose with your next decision, so its nearly impossible to develop a plan for how to accept and reject proposals. We kept on track for a while (at a third of the way through the year, we had about a third of the money we needed), but soon fell behind, and in the end we were able to save just over half the population.
The game breaks up the monotony of being king by sending you on a few random quests. Unfortunately, it makes absolutely no sense for a king to be confronting robbers or hunting for treasure in faraway caves. The games writers could have capitalized on this absurdity with the humor we saw in the first half, but they didnt, so it just seems weird.
Once youve beaten the game (which took us a respectable but decidedly not-epic ten hours), the game world remains open. Youre free to complete the many side quests you probably missed (we had more than twenty available), pick up collectibles, buy land, raise a family, and accumulate sex partners. For many, this will no doubt be the bread and butter of the Fable III experience, as it offers a whole world in which to make your mark without worrying about overthrowing a king or preparing for war. Then again, its awfully tempting to start over and play the game a different way to see how everything changes.
Fable III also offers a co-op system thats much improved over that of its predecessor. You can invite other players into your world, and the two of you split any rewards you earn (except advancing the storyline, which occurs only in the hosts world). You can even marry other players, presuming youre willing to share your resources and split everything down the middle in the event of a divorce. This allows you to see the worlds that other players created, and to develop your character in co-op instead of playing as someone else, as Fable II required you to do. This features quality will become clearer once massive numbers of people log in, but it worked well in our pre-release experience with it.
When it comes to presentation, Fable III is decent but far from mind-blowing. The graphics can impress, but they often suffer from a lack of detail and various technical problems, most noticeably pop-in. The voiceover work is outstanding, and the music and sound effects befit the games eighteenth-century vibe.
Fable III is a good game, and in some ways its a great one. But playing it, one cant help but wonder what it would be with better combat and a more thoughtful second half.
CCC Freelance Writer