It’s Wednesday night. I’m sick, I’m alone; it’s the perfect time for me to do something constructive. As soon as I sit at my pc, a torrential rain sweeps through & not 5 minutes after I unplug everything, boom: black-out. Oh Florida weather… at least your behavior can be predictable.
Now I’m stuck with an otherwise delightful piece of machinery, the netbook; I say otherwise because I’m being forced to use it out of fear of electrical surges instead of by choice for convenience, & now it’s the only source of light in the room. With no internet & no access to important server-stored files, I’ve got nothing left to do but write a year late review of Fable III full of ad homonym & personal attacks.
If you’ve played the game, you’ll only have angry flashbacks reading my review so you probably should not… if you haven’t played it, take this as a warning. This game.. hurt my feelings. I have been emotionally abused.
Fable III; I played through it twice, & I previously played Fable II. The last game is something I remember fondly like a distant tryst with a pleasant conclusion… I wasn’t expecting much to be different in the third installment, I was just expecting more; more of the things that I liked. It’s difficult to think of the things that I liked about Fable III, even though my final play-through concluded this morning.
When did I notice something was wrong… I don’t know. It was like a creeping illness, the sense of something not being quite right, followed by a few stages of denial. I better know when the bad things started to drive me insane… which was less than halfway through the game. Enough prefacing, I’ll try to go through this systematically…
[tense disclaimer – I refer to “you” to mean a potential player of Fable 3 & also to mean the developers of the game, Lionhead Studios – good luck figuring it out]
THE MAP// As a fantasy map designer & a UI connoisseur [also an aspiring UI designer] I immediately noticed some fatal flaws with the design.
- Where the hell is the reference point?!?!?! I cannot stress enough how aggravating it is to try to find out where you are on a map with NO reference point. Sure in real life, there’s not always a reference point, but it’s a video game, people…. BLUNDER. I found myself having to run up & down streets in game just to be able to use the map functionally… I eventually gave up on using the map at all.
- Why isn’t the map a realistic representation of the environment? Everything on the map is a “toy” version of the world’s environment, which, I get – it’s cute, I understand that it’s supposed to be a “magical view” – but why can’t the detail be correct? You already modeled the map, why not just shrink it & stick it on the table? If I’m standing next to a house with a staircase outside, but on the map it shows 8 the houses the same – no staircases – HOW THE FUCK am I supposed to figure out where I am with no reference point? It’s a video game! I shouldn’t be GUESSING my location.
- No specific warp points. Although there might be several places that you could enter or exit an environment’s map, warping to that area will always drop you in the same place – sometimes OUTSIDE the area you’re trying to warp to, so you have to run the rest of the way there which may even include ANOTHER loading screen. The only time you can warp to a specific point within a map is when there is a quest to select. No quests available? You’re screwed, please continue walking.
- A home is not considered an acceptable warp point. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. You are stupid. I get it if you didn’t think about that the first time guys…. But seriously, if SOMEONE didn’t make this suggestion, you need new employees. If someone did, but others thought the idea was stupid.. you still need new employees.
- Quest selection. Several times I found that minor side quests, mainly personal character quests, would be absorbed by the quest roster & never appear, even if I had accepted the quest.
THE PAUSE MENU// Or lack thereof. Cute. Annoying. Time consuming.
The good things about it:
- The dressing room. Maybe I’m a girl after all!
- The armory with weapons display. Pretty sweet.
- The ridiculously large pile of money. Scrooge McDuck anyone?
The bad things about it:
- Glitch when interacting with anything in the main room [dog, presents, status] that disables the quick selection of rooms on the d-pad. LAZY.
- The poor lighting in the dressing room; annoying mostly when adding color to the costumes because they weren’t appropriate representations. I found myself dumping back to the world to see what my character actually looked like. Come on.
- Time consuming as hell. I’d rather click through a menu. I walk enough in this damn game.
Moving on to annoying in-game mechanics.
THE GOLDEN LINE// I love the idea of the golden line. What I don’t love is the actual golden line, because it sucks. It would tell me to run around in circles, I’m not shitting you. It would tell me to go over geometry that I could not cross. It would sometimes lead me to a map, then after I entered it, tell me to go right back out the way I came forcing me to load TWICE. It would sometimes take FOREVER to appear, which had me cursing the Fable III GPS satellite alignment lag; it wasn’t long before GPS meant Golden Piece of Shit to me. I couldn’t exactly figure out why this was happening, but sometimes the line would COMPLETELY disappear & the only way to get it back was to reselect the quest that the quest roster already said I was on. Pathetic! Not to mention my quest would sometimes switch on me without my noticing, so I’d start following the golden line to something I wasn’t even trying to get to. Yay.
THE DOG// The dog is stupid. Please Lionhead, just let it go, or actually make it better; stop making it worse. Even after I had the dog completely leveled up, it wouldn’t bark about treasure until after I was already standing right in front of a chest or key… if it was a real dog, I would have kicked it.. a lot. Except I only kick digital dogs, but Fable 3 did not give me that option. Frowny face. Playing with the dog or scolding it is COMPLETLEY pointless as the dog has no opinion of you, nor does interacting with it alter his abilities or your morality. In short, the dog is totally useless. Digging I suppose is useful, but once you’ve got 10k in the bank [maybe an hour’s worth of gaming] nothing that you dig up is going be worth SHIT. How many times are you seriously going to spawn Men’s Pajamas Nightcap in the dirt Lionhead?! How many?!!?!!!! The only thing that was even remotely acceptable to find in the ground was a diamond, which became moot after you had money pouring in from realty with 0 effort. Why should I follow a stupid dog that usually ran around in a few circles first, got stuck in geometry, & would often run in the opposite direction by the time I caught up with him, to dig up something practically worthless? Not to mention, half the time the dig spots were “hidden” in OBVIOUS dirt piles. Did I seriously need the dog to tell me to dig in that conspicuous pile of dirt?? Why can I ONLY dig when the dog is standing under me?!? How does that even make sense!!!!! I found dig spots faster on my own, then had to wait for the fucking dog to catch up. Ugh. Then the digging animation, I’ll address this now since I’m talking about digging, was stupid; most of the time I was pouring dirt DIRECTLY onto the dog. Are you kidding me? Not to mention that the animation never changed no matter what you were actually digging up, be it dirt, snow or sand; apparently there’s an immediate dirt layer underneath everything in Albion. This is just lame & lazy. Why even have digging. Why. Digging & the dog need to GO. I won’t even get into the racket of PURCHASING different dog breeds from Live because it’s just too stupid. Just to show a counter point, please consider the “pet” from Torchlight if you want to see this mechanic done RIGHT.
SIDE QUESTS// Probably one of my ultimate let-downs in this game was the variety of quests. There were the main quests, then a handful of monotonous side quests that got extremely boring. My major problem was the priority system that automatically adjusted to the quest hierarchy after warping or “taking too long”; after dealing with its’ bullshit for my entire first play-through, I decided not to do a SINGLE side quest the second time around. You know what I missed out on? Near mental-breakdowns & utter frustration; I was still able to buy everything I needed from Rule Road though! What does this mean… the side quests are pointless unless you’re desperately sigil-farming for the achievement of opening all the boxes on Rule Road. What a waste of programming. I’ll break it down;
- Delivering packages. This was astoundingly annoying on top of boring. Talk to guy 1, warp to here, talk to guy 2, warp back to guy 1, get a sigil. 2 loading screens, 1 sigil. FUCK YOU LIONHEAD. Another MAJOR problem with this kind of side quest: that quest hierarchy thing I mentioned earlier especially applied here, because if I warped to anywhere trying to deliver a package but hadn’t completed a looming part of the main quest, as soon as my load screen concluded, I’d have a happy little reminder telling me about the main quest instead of the quest that I was currently on. Add to this the absorption of personal quests by the quest roster meant that I could not reselect many side-quests that I had started. I thought I was going insane! I thought I was doing something wrong… But no, it was just SHITTY PROGRAMMING AGAIN.
- Escort. Give me a break. Do I really want to RUN somewhere, towing somebody that slows me down?! You want me to run through 3 maps & 2 loading screens, stopping to hold some douchebags hand after each fight. Why even have warping, Lionhead? Why don’t you just make everyone run everywhere all the time? This was ESPECIALLY bullshit because if you were not on an escort quest but warped somewhere holding someone’s hand… yup you guessed it: they warped with you.
- Hidden object. Well I already mentioned how stupid digging is, so that makes digging quests stupid. If you went through enough of them in a city you would notice that the dig spots get recycled. Yeah, that’s realistic. This also often required the loading of two maps all for one measly sigil. No. Not to mention, who buries shit randomly in the ground?! “I hid this outside the city; can you go & get it for me?” & it’s a fucking book. Shut. Up. They didn’t even give you the option to just sell the item for some evil points – for a game that places everything on the choosing of sides, this seems pretty obvious; in fact they want you to know that you CANNOT sell quest items.
RELATIONSHIPS// Here’s another excruciatingly pointless part of the Fableverse. I hang my head in my hand just thinking about it.
- Dating. This is directly related to the previous section on questing.
- Marriage. Why?!?! The only perk was getting gifts from your mate, but you could get gifts from EVERYONE whether they liked or hated you! That means it wasn’t a perk! So I have to go through relationship questing all to get a stupid, worthless item that I would have probably picked up off a villager I brushed past anyway?!! Stop… you’re hurting my brain. Add to that the ugliness of every single character model except you, which made marriage totally undesirable.
- Marriage home. WHY! I CAN’T WARP TO IT ANYWAY!!!!!
- Babies. They have no opinion of you & interacting with them which costs you sigils to even be able to do has no effect whatsoever on how they act when they grow up, or even what it says when you read their description… it’s arbitrarily determined, but only seems to be influenced by whether you’re good or evil yourself, & neglecting the baby doesn’t affect your moral standing either.
- Children. They were kind of cute, but didn’t do anything except demand annoying side quests or give you superfluous items. Why can’t they hand me a legendary weapon? Okay.. I don’t expect that… but I’m sick of selling men’s pajamas because people won’t stop gifting them to me, which didn’t make any sense ANYWAY because I played a girl! A little gem I noticed in the lazy programming formula which seemed to be random was the child’s race. Far be it for me to be offended by having a black child, but when the mother & father of said child are white… clearly someone is at fault: a programmer. It sparked a few hilarious comments on why the child was black, but it was mainly the discontinuity here that was annoying. Also, twice I noticed that my children would completely disappear from my family, forever, for no reason.
- Adoption. More discontinuity with this one! Immediately after adoption, the child would remain in the room right in front of you as if nothing had happened. You’re not even going to pretend that it disappeared to my home somehow even though you won’t let ME warp there?! You’re not going to force me to walk it all the way to its’ new home? & if you viewed the child’s info again directly after adoption, it was actually a DIFFERENT child!! Ohh Lionhead, you switched ‘em on me during the map screen, you chuckleheads… maybe you should have switched the model too. Lazy! I adopted 2 children & put them up with my lesbian wife in the castle… but still at the end of the game, some 12 MONTHS later by the game’s standards, those children were still running around in the same shitty clothes they had on at the orphanage, with the same dirt-covered model. So even though I adopted kids from the slums to give them a better life, not a single person not even my wife in a CASTLE can wash their faces or give them a new hat?????? *facepalm* This whole family system is broken & should be removed from the game, or made to have SOME kind of point. Also, if you chose to turn the old shelter into a whorehouse rather than an orphanage, the locked room which you need a key to access is populated by whores & orphans. Locked in a room together. I noticed that if you chose orphanage over whorehouse, those models would appear in the exact same room but with the matron npc, who appears outside in the street with the orphans if you choose whorehouse. I’m guessing someone forgot to delete the children’s models from the whorehouse. Sigh.
- Family size. One spouse & two kids. Sure, who cares really, since none of it matters AT ALL, but riddle me this Lionhead: why do you model 3 children’s beds in the castle, & tell me there’s no room for a third child??? In a castle?????? Discontinuity!
SPELLS// My main issue with this part was that I liked the way spells worked in Fable 2 better. For one, it actually forced you to pay attention to your timing, which made the fighting feel more engrossing. In Fable 3 however, you can just spam the b button whenever you want & accomplish death. Simplified, maybe; but now… boring. Thanks Lionhead. The transparent images for some of the animations were pixely & didn’t really look cool, especially the ice storm animation which looked like garbage – AND it forced the xbox fps to drop. There’s a spell I never used. The only spells worth buying, I’ll tell you right now, are Shock & Vortex because all the other ones are worthless in comparison.
- Shock . Stunned enemies for a short period of time & did dps.
- Vortex . Caused enemies to float in the air like a rotating shooting gallery, keeping them from attacking.
With those 2 equipped you merely had to spam the b button to kill everything, all the time, except bosses. Doing anything else was stupid because you could & often would take damage. I didn’t die & I used maybe 1 health potion the entire game.
MOBS// I never thought I would miss random encounters; that was until Fable 3. The exact same mobs always respawn in the exact same places. God that’s boring. I found myself running past 99% of these open encounters, & I’ll go on now to why.
+SIGILS// Here’s something completely unbalanced. Gaining ‘sigils’ is Fable 3’s “cute” way of ambiguating the leveling system into something “cohesive” with the game instead of just admitting that it’s a leveling mechanic. The rate at which you gather sigils is determined by the way that you collect them.
- Killing mobs. This is a classic video game convention that gives you experience. Fable 3 turned “experience” into sigils, so clever, but instead of gaining several or even 1 sigil per enemy… you gain portions of a singular sigil. Just to keep you from noticing that you’re only gaining 1 sigil, several small shiny orbs fly out of downed enemies & absorb into your body, insinuating you just picked up many of something. Aren’t you sneaky? & what does this ultimately do for the player? It makes conventional mob-grinding take 300% longer, hence why I ran past most encounters. Besides doing personal quests, killing enemies or entering dungeons was the worst way to collect sigils. GREAT.
- Side quests. Already explained why this is terrible.
- Main quests. These were the only real functional ways to gather sigils besides a teeny tiny handful of side-quests. My second play-through was much more enjoyable because I stuck to the core of the game & only did quests that gave me at least 15 sigils; anything less was a total waste of time.
ROAD TO RULE// This is directly related to the last section, as you level up here. Rule Road as I like to call it is Fable 3’s exceptionally time-wasting skill tree.
- Running. COME ON I’m SICK of running! Is there anything that I can do in this game that isn’t fucking run? How about riding a damn horse? Ahem.. instead of a conventional skill tree where the lines are represented between the skills, there’s a road. You run on it. Stupid.
- Portals. Getting to different parts of the road was ineffective as you could only warp to the beginning or the end, which didn’t matter anyway, because you would still have to run up the entire length of the road to remember which chests you hadn’t opened yet since there’s no mini-map or indication of which parts of the road you have or haven’t finished.
- Stupid chests. I’d say that about 60% of the chests had something completely retarded in them. Lute Hero level 4?! Are you serious?! Do you really think that ANYONE is still grinding jobs for money by this late in the game?! I’m mind-blown why anyone would waste their hard-earned sigils on this crap. Buying "expression packs" was utterly useless too... every expression besides the handshake has a longer animation... tell me why the hell I want to sit through extra-long animations to get ONE sigil?!!
This is all you need in order to complete the game without suffering any annoying sigil gathering:
- Gate 1. Fireball (1).
- Gate 2. Landlord pack (2). Melee lvl 1 (20). Ranged lvl 1 (20). Magic lvl 1 (20).
- Gate 3. Melee lvl 2 (40). Ranged lvl 2 (40). Magic lvl 2 (40).
- Gate 4. NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!
- Gate 5. Entrepreneur Pack (5). Vortex (40). Spell weaving (50).
- Gate 6. Melee lvl 3 (60). Ranged lvl 3 (60). Magic lvl 3 (60).
- Gate 7. Nothing again!!!!
- Gate 8. Melee lvl 4 (80). Ranged lvl 4 (80). Magic lvl 4 (80).
- Gate 9. Ugh. Nothing.
- Gate 10. Melee lvl 5 (100). Ranged lvl 5 (100). Magic lvl 5 (100).
That’s a total of 998 sigils, & you could even do it with less if you didn’t pay to level up any of your abilities but magic [the only one you really need]. However, if you don’t buy anything superfluous, you should have enough sigils to buy out each major portion of Rule Road long before they allow you to move on to the next section, so out of boredom you’ll probably purchase all the main ability upgrades.
WEAPONS// I wanted this to be something that I liked about the game… but again, I’m woefully disappointed.
- Not enough weapons appeared in my game. To experience more weapons you are FORCED to play online, so if you don’t have an XBLA account, Lionhead doesn’t care – they enjoy screwing you if you haven’t noticed already. I ended up running around the game using all of maybe 3 different weapons because I was never given SHIT. The weapon shops NEVER carried anything different for me, & once I made the unfortunate mistake of purchasing a weapon shop, I could no longer buy ANYTHING from them; I imagine this was a glitch, but considering that I played this game a year late, it’s extremely pathetic that this glitch was never fixed, & I’m disgusted.
- Boring weapons. Fable 2 had WAY cooler weapons! They were actually “loot!” The weapons in Fable 3 are anything but loot. Yeah that’s right, you’re hardly EVER rewarded for opening a regular treasure chest. Why does ONE EMERALD need to be in a treasure chest?!?! Just put a picture of an emerald on the ground!!! What’s with the whole pretending that one crappy piece of shit is worth someone lugging a heavy chest to a hidden area?!?! *drags hands down face, groaning* None of the weapons were particularly special, like having any cool effects, but they could be “leveled up” by completing vaguely described requirements, like this one: “Kill 100 hollow men.” Okay. With what? Like, in general just kill them? Or kill them with this sword specifically? Dumb. Also gaining any extra features to a weapon often had laborious requirements that were way too much of a pain in the ass to actively pursue & really had to be gained over time; the problem with this is that you had to stick with 1 weapon for SO long to get it leveled up that it destroyed the desire to carry or even purchase other weapons. There was also almost NO weapon variety whatsoever; a sword or a hammer? A pistol, or a rifle? That’s all you guys could think of????
- Legendary bullshit. Here’s something funny about Fable 3… there are scripted chests that you need keys to open which is the main way that you gain legendary weapons. However, the legendary weapon inside the chest is RANDOM. Yes, random. 1/50. Which means that you might explore your ass off to get enough silver keys to open either a completely useless chest full of gold [reset your game & don’t open that chest], sigils [reset your game & don’t open that chest] or a weapon that you don’t like or MIGHT NOT EVEN USE EVER. If you don’t buy any of the ranged chests in Rule Road, Lionhead don’t give a shit, they’ll put a gun in that legendary-weapon-chest you worked so hard to open. Here’s the even MORE bullshit part if you can believe there is one: random only means random once you create a save file; once you’ve made a save, all the chests are set & no matter when you open them they will always have the same “random” weapon inside them, so even if you save before opening a chest then open it again 1000 times, you’ll never get anything but the same “random” weapon. What the fuck. I hate you. My second play-though I didn’t dick around gathering silver or gold keys; I didn’t get a single legendary weapon & didn’t have a shred of a problem beating the ass off this game in one sitting. What does this mean? Legendary weapons are a complete waste of time. This game is seeming to have wasted a lot of my time, but in my defense, I was sick – if I wasn’t, I probably would have quit playing in favor of doing something fun. I also started my secondary game, under the same profile, on the memory unit instead of the hard drive, & guess what... all the "random" treasures chests had the exact same garbage as the chests from my first play-through. I can't even fathom.
LOADING// This “feature” didn’t even work from inside the game!!!! Even though it had an option in the menu! It didn’t do anything!!!!! You can’t dump out to the main screen from the game, you can’t select games as everything autosaves, all you can do is hit the gem & go back to the dashboard. Then you get to sit through the unavoidable opening logo animations & game loading, yay!! What exactly is the point of only allowing one save file, Lionhead? Cuz no one ever in the world shares an xbox?! No, I know, it’s because you want us to use our own profiles, so we HAVE to buy multiples of your utterly stupid dlc. You are dicks.
DLC// I will touch on this since I just thought of it. I suppose the main problem with most DLC for games is that it’s all completely worthless garbage!!!!!!!! If it isn’t a totally new level, I’m not going to pay you for it. How dare you charge people for shit that should already be in the game… of course, corporate bad-guy companies like EA aren’t the only ones money-grubbing, Lionhead knows how to do it too, & they hid behind Microsoft on this one. Too bad that everyone knows that you’re full of crap. Get ready for this great excuse… Microsoft “made” Lionhead, “forced” them, to make superfluous costume dyes cost Microsoft Points. Give me a fucking break. But here’s the best part of that! The ones that cost real money were the only colors that anybody actually wanted! What a dick move!!!! Not to mention that I felt personally damaged because the colors were cream, teal, hot pink & black; those are 4 of the 5 colors [white] that I would ever want use. Scheming assholes.
There’s probably more that I couldn’t stand about the game, & what little there is to like is short & sweet. But my power just came back on, so I can bring my review of this heart-wrenching, unmitigated disaster to a close.
CONTINUATION// It may reference your Fable 2 game a few times. This is cute, but overall totally pointless & wasted.
BRITISH HUMOR// I’m not a big fan usually, but the sarcastic, satirical nature of the British fantasy jokes that abound in Fable are the only thing worth playing the game for. I’m serious. You get some chuckles. You pay for them with mental anguish.
VOICE ACTING// Well it seems that Lionhead finally decided to spring some extra money somewhere, & they did so on the VAs; there are some famous actors here & there… but I really wish they would have paid more programmers & play-testers to save this game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Through & through, I kept expecting, maybe even praying, that it would get better, like a Nick Cage movie. I was in denial for a long time, I even had myself convinced that I was crazy & was playing the game wrong. Eventually I gave in to that foreboding sensation that the game was, indeed, ashamble. My overall feelings are of sadness, neglect & abuse. I invested my time in this game because of its’ predecessor, but Lionhead basically stabbed me in the heart; instead of welcoming me into the familiar open-arms of the Fableverse, I was thrown into a concentration camp of torture as I tried to obey the game’s wishes & still have a good time. When I finally resorted to playing the game MY way, I beat it in about 14 hours & had a decent experience.
I feel bad for anyone in my previous position, having to stumble blindly through the irritatingly ramshackle world of too many people’s ideas; cohesion was almost completely lost for me in this game, as I felt like I was playing totally different games sometimes. I’ve lost sight of the Fable experience, but I blame Lionhead for that.
On word of the poorly programmed launch version of Fable 3, I decided to hang back & wait for it to get patched… but I waited a year & if anything got fixed, I’ll be damned, because the game is just short of totally broken. Lionhead killed the Fable franchise with this game as far as I’m concerned. Too many things need throwing out. Many things need going back to the drawing board. I won’t be excited to see Fable 4 without these glaring necessities addressed.