From the first moment you step into Lionhead Studios fictional world of Albion, you know that this game is going to be magical. As the descendant of your Fable 2 character (if you still have the save game of the predecessor), you play as the prince or princess who soon realizes that you need to overthrow your brother from the throne. Although you are staffed with a few friends, you are really left to fight for your allies and this takes up many of earlier quests along with the ones that you can optionally choose from the villagers. The beginning of the game already has you faced with choices that will play out over the course of your journey, and are immediately heartbreaking depending on your reactions. This is what we have come to expect from the series and what personally keeps me coming back.
If you have played any of the other games in the franchise, you know what to expect. Along with the usual villager quests that get you limited amounts of XP, as you travel through on foot you encounter enemies to fight and they have used the standard X for melee, Y for firearms and B for magic. It’s very easy to pick up and master but you can easily add complexity by mixing spells together for different effect. Lionhead has also made speaking to villagers and interacting with them very much easier. There aren’t any scroll wheels to deal with here, just expressions laid out on the d-pad for you.
Your refuge and translucent socializing
When you press the start button, you are transported to the sanctuary. It is a room that pauses the game and allows you to look at the map and quick travel to where you want to be in Albion. There are also separate rooms for weapons, clothing, and for online preferences. When villagers give you presents they are displayed here for you to open and you can interact with your dog here and change his name while he sleeps in his puppy bed.
One of the coolest things is to see your friends running through the town alongside you, and even though it isn’t a visual version – just a bubble with their gamer picture attached – it still thrills each time. When you see a friend you can either gift them something or try to join their game in which that person can accept or deny you. Some of the achievements are Xbox LIVE only, so marrying a friend and having children together will earn you sweet gamer score. If you do not have anyone to do this with, there is an option in your sanctuary to join a random game.
As a woman, the scenes of getting married and having children in-game did affect me, (the music got to me during said cut-scenes) and I found myself caring about my family deeper than expected. Luckily my LIVE partner was my real partner, and that made it all the more sweet.
Instead of just calling it XP, when you complete a quest or kill an enemy, you receive guild seals. You can spend these on the “Road to Rule”, which is a winding road that has gates blocking off certain parts until you complete an area of the game. As you travel the road you can unlock chests that give you options such as expression packs, upgrades for your skills and also job upgrades. What really made it special for me is that after a gate opens it takes a “snapshot” of your character as is, (meaning if you are wearing a chicken suit at that moment, that is how you look) and has a statue at each point of entry. It was amazing to go back down the road and look at my different outfit choices.
The music as always is amazing and hits the right points when needed and is more subtle when not. The villagers are a different story. They are loud and yelling constantly at you and this certainly affected my feelings and I needed to get away from them and into smaller towns and out into the open. That being said, Lionhead tends to make many statements in their games and this just may be another one. The visuals aren’t that striking, but they are on par for what you would expect for a game of this caliber. I think they packed so much into this one that it didn’t leave room for graphics tweaks or seamless presentation but that didn’t change my feelings towards the final product one bit.
Every game can be unreasonable – even this one
My husband was plagued with the “Sanctuary Glitch” in where you push the start button and head into the sanctuary only to not be able to fast travel or back out of the menu. This happened every time that he hit start so there was no way to pause. Many people are reporting that the reason this happens is that you don’t listen fully to what Jasper is saying in Sanctuary and this glitches it out, thinking it’s still talking to you. No matter what makes it happen, it’s been widely reported and got my husband gave his copy to my brother two days after release. Luckily, I didn’t experience this at all. The only problem I did have were slowing down while running and fighting periodically throughout the game. It made things hard when fighting and annoying when running but it didn’t happen often enough for it to be a huge issue.
It isn’t perfection, but it is Fable in all its glory. I picked it up at midnight and didn’t put it down for a full 24 hours. I kept playing even through many changes that I thought were going to ruin the game for me (don’t want to spoil anything) but they didn’t, it just made me love it more.
When you are talking about an installment in a beloved series, people are going to condemn you for changes but I really see nothing here that didn’t build on what the franchise did great in the other games: Immerse you in a world that you don’t want to leave.
And guess what? You get to rule this time.
Whether you are playing good or evil, your choices affect everything around you and the best advice I can give a new player is take your time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Here’s hoping for downloadable content after Christmas. I can’t wait to dive back into Albion again.