Fable III: The Disappointments
Just recently finished Fable III (for the most part – more on this in a minute) and like the previous versions I have mixed reactions. A good story, good overall game mechanics, and the now trademark Lionhead action/humor mix are let down by some poorly conceived functionality and buggy behavior which raises the annoyance level to 11 by the time the game is complete. Here’s my top-5 issues with the game:
1) The dog
I know your constant companion in the Fable series is a key game mechanic but nevertheless I want the animal gone – or at least optional. This is because my experience with the latest generation is more of a constant series of annoyances rather than joys:
- If I’m on a mission to find or I myself find a dig spot, I’m required to wait until the dog shows up to be able to dig. Worse still it seems that roughly 25% of the time that the dog believes is knows a dig spot it’ll wander around, walk in circles, or end up losing interest without ever actually identifying the correct spot and allowing the human to actually do the work.
- The dog loves to bark announcing the location of treasure after I’ve already found it. This is by far the majority of the response so I’m very tired of the dog barking at me opening a chest. Yes – I know there is a chest here – I found it.
2) The “Glowing Trail” GPS
The glowing trail is supposed to be a player aid, but it can be incredibly annoying it the way it often “helps”:
- Often following selection of a new mission or after going through a load screen between regions (which happens all too often in this game), the trail simply does not appear for 30 seconds to upwards of a couple of minutes. This means I’m wandering about trying to figure out where the game expects me to go without any actual indication.
- At other times, the trail will point the player through buildings, over hills the character can’t possibly climb, take one through incredibly circuitous routes, etc.. All I can think is thank goodness my car GPS isn’t using this thing’s programming or I’d be headed for Baltimore in order to get to Seattle or driving through shopping malls in order to get to the parking lot on the far side.
- Even though it does screw up, it would be nice if the player could actually direct the routing by specifying a destination (because the maps are so bad – more on that later), but the trail only works for in-game missions which means I’m frequently led to areas during a mission which I would like to return to later only to find this a difficult proposition. In short, if the trail is supposed to be a player aid it should actually be made helpful.
3) The Maps (or lack thereof)
There is a pretty map table feature which allows for fast travel, mission selection, and business and real estate management. All of this functionality works fine but an unfortunate consequence of exposing this as a map is that it gives the impression that the user can navigate and understand the lay-of-the-land by reviewing the map details and just isn’t true in this case. The regions which can be zoomed into on the map table bare only q vague resemblance to the world the player moves about in, so attempting to figure out how to get from point A to point B using the map table to often an exercise in futility and frustration. You’d think that by version 3 of the Fable series Lionhead would have figured out how to make a map – but you’d be wrong. My guess is that they want to ensure the sales of strategy guides – what a pity.
4) Stupid Camera Tricks
In attempts to be cinematic, Fable III will occasionally move the third-person player camera to follow other action during a battle. This is nice and all except that it likes to:
- Move the camera away from the player to follow something while they are still being attacked – so now you’re trying to fight blind. This might be cinematic but it is not fun.
- At other times the camera vantage will change to spin around the player while some flourish or action is happening. Again – cinematic, but invariably when the spin stops the camera is left looking directly at the player’s face which is precisely not where I want to be looking in the midst of a battle. The camera should be looking at the still-attacking enemies so that one can continue the fight but instead you are forced to manually spin the camera again just to see what you’re fighting.
Another note to Lionhead: Please just stop screwing with the camera during battles – if I wanted a movie I’d be watching one and not playing a game.
5) Save corruption and other bugs
Perhaps the most upsetting of program features are those that undo your efforts. So far I’ve uncovered several glaring bugs (in addition to the bad behaviors already described here):
- I‘m a player who likes to play through games and uncover a lot of the possibilities. In the case of role playing games such as Fable, I enjoy playing through with both a purely good and absolutely evil character. In this case I played through Fable III first as a very good character, completing the main storyline as well as a number of the side quests and then attempted to start a new character for an evil playthrough. Upon doing this, Fable III damaged my first save game such that any time I attempted to reload the previous game I was left at a blank screen, only able to shut off the console. This was particularly annoying because I was only minutes away from completing the requirements for at least two achievements – which now require an entire new playthrough thanks to Fable’s self-corruption.
- One avenue of recovery might be if I had made savegame backups – oh, but Lionhead doesn’t allow copies to be made of the savegames so that’s not a possibility either. This BS with blocking backups of savegames I’ve had to deal with before – previous Fable games had this same annoyance and cost me a character in Fable 2 as well because I had the audacity to start a game on a console other than the one I normally use thinking I could actually move the save later like 99% of all other games… Epic fail yet again.
- Once I’d tried several attempts to recover my first Fable III character I found that at least I was able to pull him into a local multiplayer game (since my old save game didn’t have to be loaded – only the character data did). The only good thing about this was that it meant that I could give away all the character’s possessions and money – but that one revealed yet another bug:
After a while of gifting away items, the gift room got stuck in a mode of thinking it was giving away an item (hence the “Gift Item” count formatting string still shown, including the %1 placeholder) and yet the character would move around and act as if he was back in the main game world – including using the (B) button as Magic Attack and not the button to exit the room such that I was stuck in the room forever.
Lionhead: Fix these kinds of things in Fable IV and you’ll have a smash – but until you do I can only give it a 6 out of 10…