on November 17, 2010
**SPOILERS AHEAD** We all heard about the "touch" expression system. The "innovation" in the interface. The "improved" combat. All of those fail on many levels. It attempts to rewrite the rules of the genre and does an awful job of it. I'll cover those in a minute.
My biggest issue? The king section's poor execution.
Example 1: The game refuses to play by its own rules. You earn money from your properties every five minutes of play time, correct? The time it takes you to walk from your house to the blacksmith can earn you $20,000 if you own enough property. That is why you buy stores and homes in the first place.
So, can someone please answer this: How is it that, as king, a month or more of game time can pass in an instant and you haven't earned a single extra golden dime from your properties? When you're walking the streets as king, you still earn money. However, when a king segment ends and you fast-forward in time - say two months - you receive no earnings. It doesn't compute how much you should have earned in those 60 days. Your potential earnings just disappear into limbo.
Money is the sole key to Albion's fate. People will live or die based on how much gold you've got in your coffers. It's a literal $1 to 1 life ratio. Yet, just when you need it the most, they take away that mechanic. Over the course of a game year the game skips ahead at enormous, irregular intervals - such as three months as opposed to a standard 30 day month - so you have no accurate gauge as to how fast you need to earn that money.
My wife and I ended up just leaving the game on overnight when we realized what was going on. During one of the (very) few action segments of the king chapter, we left our character in a castle room, bound the controller stick with a rubber band to keep it from pausing out and earned a ton of $$ from our properties. It doesn't want to play by its own rules? We won't play by them either.
I'm not one to use cheats, exploits, or "God" codes in games. I find cheating takes away the fun and challenge of a game, which is what I play for in the first place. That said, I did not feel bad in the least doing what I did. We used no codes or trickery. We simply did what the game *should* have done. Considering the amount of backlash the "king" portion of the game has received for its gross imbalances, I made the right decision.
Example 2: Zero grey area or thought put into the king's choices. One of the choices involves Aurora, which wants to become a part of Albion. The good choice - rebuilding Aurora with a fort and letting them join Albion immediately - will cost $200,000. Reaver's suggestion is for them to pay you a $500,000 dowry of sorts by mining a mineral deposit located in Aurora.
My question is this: if you let them join Albion now, won't that mine be yours anyway? I mean, Aurora is now your land. You can extract what you want from it. So... why would following the "good" road cost you $200,000 instead of earning you just $300,000? ($500K worth of mine - $200K of rebuilding = $300K left over, no?) It makes no sense whatsoever.
And your other choices? Orphanage or brothel? Sewage or tree hugging? People who want their happy, pretty cake AND for you to save them from the horrible "darkness". They are all so very black and white. Politics are often about compromise. I realize Fable is not intended to be a political system simulator, but it should have at least some grasp of human nature. In WWII, when the USA was threatened by the Axis, everyday people sacrificed food, materials, clothing and more for the sake of the armed forces. That the people of Albion would be so oblivious is beyond me.
As for the other things...
Touch Expression: Sure, you can interact people now, but you can't express yourself. There are no choices beyond "good" or "evil". In lieu of a natural friendship progression - wave, shake hands, hug - now your first contact with someone is playing patty cake or executing a perfect dance number (complete with lift). It's a ridiculous, disappointing change from Fable II's "expression wheel". It's like someone giving you a sports car but ordering you to drive only in straight lines on a 50 foot long track. What's the point of that power when you can't tell it in which direction to go?
Interface: The sanctuary is a clunky, time consuming mess. The "old" list method from Fable II is not as pretty, but is far more expedient. Running from room to room and cycling/paging through the limited display of items took far more time than Fable II's list system. I did like the world map feature. It made it easy to navigate and manage your quests. However, when dealing with your property, a simple dedicated "repair 100%" button would have been nice when you highlight a property, instead of having to drill down into each property's sub menu. What about a "repair all" feature for a region?
XP vs. Guild Seals: Calling a cat a horse doesn't make it a horse, nor does it make you clever.
Lag/Stutter: The game is ridiculously buggy. I've had quests disappear without reason, horrendous framerate stutter at random times, speech glitches, loading glitches, and more. I have not played a game this buggy since Price of Persia: Warrior Within. I haven't fallen through a wall yet in Fable III, so POP:WW is still on top of that junk pile.
Jasper (aka the Used DLC Salesman): While I liked Jasper at the beginning, I quickly came to loathe him. It seemed every time I visited the sanctuary all he did was hawk DLC to me. The only DLC available at the time was the dog suit. I looked at it, decided not to spend real $$ for a freaking dog suit. Yet, every time I hit the sanctuary, there was Jasper prodding me to buy the "new" outfit, even though I'd looked at it several times to try and convince him I was well and truly familiar with this horrible example of fashion. I swear to God, the next time I hear "a fetching new outfit" I'm going to slay a villager.
Combat: What combat? There is no strategy and the AI is weak. The only enemies that gave me a run for the money were the Balvarines. Combat largely consists of spamming the attack of your choice. And, if you want to be even lazier, just charge up a combination fireball/force push spell and you'll barely be touched. One or two repeats and you'll clear almost any room. Add in a friend/spouse on coop and you'll breeze through. In my entire playthrough, I got knocked out exactly once, and it was because I was bored and started fooling around.
In conclusion... It's an action RPG that fails at both the action and the RPG parts. All the new things the game brought to the table are soundly borked. Poor expression and combat system. Interface design. The king chapter. The graphics are only a minor improvement over Fable II. The storyline and characters aren't as great they make themselves out to be (although I did like Walter).
I honestly don't know what the professional reviewers from gaming sites and mags are talking about when they give this game 8's and 9's out of 10. Stay away from this one.