Friday, October 22, 2010

Fable 3: Preview


Part 1: The Fable series.

Sorry for the extended absence, just needed a few zero days to balance things out. Back to business! :D

First off, I decided to go ahead and skip the Fallout: New Vegas preview since I’m already balls deep in playing it, and just focus on the Fable 3 preview.

(I’ll write a full review of Fallout: New Vegas after my first playthrough, hopefully sometime next week).

                            Lets do this shit.

The Fable series:

Anyone heard of Peter Molyneux? Lionhead? They have developed quite the reputation over the last 5 years for some great standout leaps forward in game design. For example, the game Black&White put the player in the position of God, letting the player decide what kind of deity he or she would like to be. Sandbox at its finest you might say.

For Fable they decided to go in an interactivity direction. In standard RPG format you take control of a child (in both 1 and 2) who, through tragic events, is thrust into a world of swords and sorcery. What is not standard fair is the way the player can control what path the character takes through these stories.

Want to kill a bunch of villagers? Do it. Want to randomly give gold to the poor? Go ahead! The games (more so with the second iteration) had a marvelous way of altering the world around you to suit your playstyle.

The more standout ways would be: the physical appearance of your character (more and more evil and dastardly looking or more and more angelic), the way others reacted to you (was that the guy who killed everyone in Oakvale? Run away!), and (in the second game) the look of the game world itself.

Here we can see some aging effects, from 10 to 65. Amusingly enough you are the only one in the games that ages, a small oversight :P

There were some drawbacks unfortunately, mostly having to do with difficulty. With one spell you could dominate everything from the beginning to the end of the game, most skilled players probably won’t die once in either one. They were also quite short (both main stories could be completed in only around 10 hours).

**Spoilers if you haven’t played through 1&2**

Fable 1:

A good start to the series, but with some major flaws.

The game starts with some standard storytelling. See jack run, see jack play, see jack’s whole family killed and his world ripped to pieces. Take that jack! Although, there were some good points to the outset. Chiefly, it introduces the player to a few staples of the Fable universe, like aging and good/evil choices.

For instance, I came upon a poor adorable little boy being beaten up by a bully, and naturally I instantly had a dislike of the little tyke (that’s normal right?) So instead of defending the little guy, he got a knuckle sandwich from yours truly. The fact that the game gave an option to do this at all was a pleasant surprise.

I know I know, should have stopped about 100 villagers ago, but its just so fun! Tee hee!

But there comes another pitfall. The beginning gives a false impression that you will be able to make these choices throughout, and although every once and a while you will get a choice between naughty and nice, the game divides these up into ‘good mission, bad mission’ instead of presenting you with a situation and letting you resolve it your own way. You can still run around being generally evil or a saint, but it doesn’t seem like it pans out enough in the mission to mission grind of the game; like having to protect a couple of traders to continue the story forward, even if you would rather kill them.

The storyline itself was rather good, and it had a very satisfying ending (more so if you have the Lost Chapters addon). A lot of family ties, friendships, and people to love or destroy. The player could even get married!   

Silly guards, they just keep comin.

With all that said, in many ways it was actually a trendsetter. Mini games and physical scarring/change over time were done very well in Fable, and with its wide audience you are hard pressed to not find these features in RPGs these days. I’m not saying it was the first, but it did set a standard.

Fable 2:

A lot of improvements, some that really took it up a notch, but unfortunately some of the same flaws. (too short, and combat too easy)

The beginning will feel actually very similar to the first game, aside the graphical tweaks and new combat/interface. This extends all the way to the story, which is the greatest disappointment of this game in my opinion. Basically, the storyline is the same. By the same I mean your family is killed and the whole game is about revenge…. Sigh.

Great characters! Too bad they were paired with a cookie cutter storyline. 

Don’t get me wrong, much of the new parts of the game are great. I enjoyed the combat system (until I got an uberspell, then it was supereasy). It takes place 500 years after the events of the first game, and they give you many little hints and tidbits about the old game within the new Albion. This I always find enjoyable in an RPG, it really adds to immersion.  Finally, the storyline (although very easy to see coming) was done well, with good voice acting and interesting characters.

For features expansion you also get a new little doggy to play with! (awww) The guy follows you everywhere and helps with gameplay elements like finding treasure.

I named mine jerkface, it seemed to like it. 

To their credit Lionhead did really try to make this gameworld better and more interactive. Every decision you make in the game now has consequences on the economy and people. No longer can you walk into a village and kill everyone in sight only to return a few days later consequence free. Now most every action has an impact, including missions.

One early mission in the introduction has you decide between helping the authority figures in the starter town, or the underworld. If you help the underworld the town will later be basically a slum with obvious crime troubles and dirty streets, but if you help the authority in apprehending the criminals the town will be bustling with clean streets, buildings, and more markets.

Expanded are the generic NPC interactions, allowing you to dance in the streets to be liked by the nearby citizens (and to get discounts in their shops) or to be married and have children.

All in all it was (in some ways) a better version of the first game, but the obvious flaws that were not fixed and the papercutter story kept it from being a standout.

So…. the first iterations had much promise, and most of it they delivered. Fable has really made a name for itself.

Continued in Part 2: Fable 3, what we know so far.