Monday, September 12, 2011

Fable III Review

I decided to add video game reviews to my blog. Although it doesn't relate to enterprise IT issues and topics, the video game industry is a huge technological presence and quite frankly, I simply like playing video games and talking about them. I'm no video guru (I'm not a guru of anything really) but I will post my reviews and experiences of games as I finish them (or sooner if I'm really excited).

I completed Fable III 2 days ago. It takes me a while in general to complete games as I tend to lose interest if I feel like I'm doing the same thing over and over again (looking at you, Ninja Blade) or that the game play is simply too hard to enjoy (what's up Prototype?). With the right game however I play it pretty obsessively until I'm done, as in the case of the last game I completed, Mass Effect 2. I found myself going back to Fable III over and over again.  I acknowledge that some part of that had to do with the fact that the game was downloaded so there was no need to swap discs, and the disc in my tray is L.A. Noire (look for a review on that soon as I feel close to finishing it).

The first thing that caught my attention about Fable III was
how very SIMS-like it was. The characters' interactions, facial expressions, all felt like playing a game of SIMS. The first time I engaged an NPC in a game of patty-cake I was struck by the resemblance. The second thing that made a big impression was how clumsy the character controls were. Something as simple as running lacked the sort've fluidity you'd expect from a game. The combat system wasn't bad, but there weren't a lot of options for movement and the effects of different spell attacks didn't seem consistent. It was frustrating that if I were in the midst of an attack and needed to run away to let my hero healing kick in, I couldn't. The best I could do was a continuous roll out of the path of my opponents until some arbitrary distance was reached, at which point the combat system disengaged and the very same key combo could then be used to make my character run. Of equal frustration was that a fireball spell attack could kill Hollow Men after 2-3 blows, but would seem to have nary an effect on human mercenaries. The combat system really gave me issues in boss battles where the bosses continuously spawned minions to group attack me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that after I defeated the prince there was actually more story to go; in fact, the real focus of the plot began after that battle. What was interesting was that the challenge at this point of the story wasn't really combat-related. It had more to do with balancing the financial needs of your kingdom and trying to build up an army to face a coming threat while trying to honor the promises made during your earlier campaigns. In essence, to keep on the path of being a benevolent rule that your people live instead of the tyrant you just overthrew while making some hard decisions. I found myself between a rock and a hard place several times. I wound up exploring many more of the side missions and challenges than I would have trying to earn money for the kingdom. In this way the game play lasted much longer than it would have otherwise.

In the end I still wound up sacrificing 4 million lives in the final battle because I had only raised ~$2M to the ~$6M needed. There aren't a lot of ways to make money unfortunately, which puts you in a tough spot. You have to make promises to the people you want to help you overthrow your brother, and when they come back to cash in those promises after you've assumed rule you either honor them and lose money (since everything costs) or you deny them and become the tyrant your brother was. I chose to honor them and was forced to spend most of the remaining game doing quests and challenges that I would rather not have (the Gnomes quest was particularly annoying) in the hopes of obtaining large sums of money. I turned to walkthroughs many times during the second part of the game, which is something I only do when I'm stumped, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make money.

I enjoyed the animation, the scenery, and some of the silly bits thrown into the game. The array of weapons and spells was also fun to explore. The combat system could have been improved, and more could have been done within the game to help the player through. For example, in the gnome quest it turned out that you had to revisit several of the places you'd already gone in order to find gnomes. This in itself isn't a huge deal except that foes you'd already defeated were re-spawned, which is particularly annoying with the more difficult foes. That and the fact that there were absolutely no clues as to where to find the gnomes made me quit this challenge pretty early on. Same with the rare books challenge.

Over all it was an enjoyable game which could have been a lot better with just a few small tweaks. Not worth playing over again, but I don't regret my sole play through.

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