Star Trek Beyond – Review

Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot

In Star Trek Beyond, the follow up to the J. J. Abrams reboot Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise are three years into their five-year mission, and we get to catch up with the goings on the ship, their interpersonal connections and struggles, and their general daily lives. Kirk in particular struggles to find the meaning and purpose in their mission, and what role he truly wishes to play in Starfleet.

ST Beyond 04

He is not the only one among his crew pondering their place and role on the Enterprise, but before any of them find resolution, an escape pod emerges from a Nebula close to the star base Yorktown, with an inhabitant calling for help in rescuing her stranded ship.

Having the necessary technology to withstand the Nebula’s harsh environment, the Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission. However things are not as they seem, and the Enterprise and her crew are flying in to danger. What awaits for them in the Nebula? Will they be cunning, able, and united enough to face that danger?

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

Of course fans of the J.J. Abrams reboot will find a lot to love here. This film has the same charismatic cast, the same energy, the same humor, and they all live up to the standard of the previous films very well. This film has a great deal of action, both in space and on the ground. It has great interpersonal drama, character building, and character interaction. It will appeal to fans of the genre, of the franchise, and of action films in general.

Interestingly, I feel that this film will also appeal to fans of the classic Star Trek series perhaps more than the first two did. This film does not have the same wonky elements like red matter from the first film, ridiculously close planets, or magic blood. But more importantly, this film strives to include broader themes and philosophical underpinnings that felt largely absent from the previous films, even though they get a bit of a bad rap in that regard.

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

Star Trek Beyond manages to both avoid the weaknesses of the previous films and continue the good elements that made those two a blast to watch. It is clever, with an excellent script, witty dialogue, and a strong plot that has its own identity and purpose. The same excellent cast returns with some great new additions, and their acting is fantastic across the board, even when particular characters are not given much to do.

The action is thrilling and interesting, both conceptually and visually, and it feels impact full and meaningful. The humor is fun and never detracts from the plot, though, to be fair, one moment goes so over-the-top ridiculous and epic that I could see some killjoys feeling it ruined the seriousness of the scene. Some people just need to learn to have fun.

ST Beyond 11

What struck me most while watching this film were the intellectual elements that felt missing or muted in the previous two films. That is, this film has themes that apply to our current world situation, even if they are a bit simplistic in their examination. It was a pleasure to think about the ways in which the villain embodies a number of the problems in our current social landscape, and how his problems with the Federation and his conflict with Kirk speak to the rifts in our society. That wasn’t a line of thought that I’d felt compelled into after watching the other two films. It is refreshing.

ST Beyond 05

While no single moment met the heights of the first Abrams film, and while the villain isn’t as intimidating and powerful as Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Khan from the second, Star Trek Beyond has the most consistently good quality across the whole run time, and beyond that, it is the most “Star Trek” of all three. As of right now, Star Trek Beyond is my favorite of the trilogy, and there is no doubt that it is…

4.5-5 Rating - Awesome!

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

If you enjoyed this review, keep on reading for “The Long Take” which goes into more detail, but avoids major spoilers, and “Spoiler Talk,” where I can and will talk about anything I like. Don’t forget to support me on Patreon!

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The Jungle Book (2016) – Movie Review

Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot

Mowgli is a young child, or “man-cub,” orphaned in the jungle as a toddler with the death of his father. He is soon found by the compassionate black panther, Bagheera, who takes him to be raised by the wolf pack under the eye of their leader, Akela. There he grows up alongside the wolf pups with the loving guidance of his surrogate mother Raksha and learns the laws of the jungle, what it means to be a wolf, and how to suppress his human cleverness and his inventions and tools, his “tricks,” as the animals call them.

Drought comes to the jungle, bringing with it the “water truce” wherein no animal must eat another. At the watering hole, Mowgli first meets the intimidating tiger, Shere Khan, who hates humans and threatens to kill the boy the moment the truce ends. When the rains come, Mowgli finds he must flee to the man-village to avoid death by his menacing claws.

What follows is an adventure through the jungle as Mowgli makes friends, faces dangers, and learns who he really is.

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

“The Jungle Book” is full of adventure, wonder and thrills, but it also does an excellent job of building characters and drama. There are valuable themes of identity, responsibility, family, and bravery throughout the film that kids and adults alike can benefit from. This is a film that almost anybody can enjoy unless they have something against talking animals or adventure stories. Beyond that, people who love to see the advancements of CGI technology and artistry would no doubt find the movie fascinating.

However, the movie would probably be scary for very small children. Forget how cheery and lighthearted the animated film from 1967 was. This movie, while still having moments of light-hearted fun, does not pull back from showing just how dangerous and scary the jungle can be. There is at least one jump scare, and the “villain,” Shere Khan, is a real monster. He is not afraid to kill or threaten violence, and proves to be a terrifying threat to all of the characters throughout the film.

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The movie is still made primarily for kids, certainly, but I would put the viewing age-range a couple of years later on than the animated film it shares DNA with. That said, I believe that kids should watch movies that can scare them, and all of the scares in this film are of a good, thrilling sort. It is simply something to keep in mind for those of you with younguns.

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

“The Jungle Book” is a beautiful movie. The CGI work is top notch, and after about five minutes into the movie I never questioned the reality of the creatures talking on the screen, and the jungle itself is vibrant and lush.

The film has much more than simple appearance to speak for it, however, as the voice acting is fantastic with terrific performances in every role across the board. From Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, to Bill Murray as Baloo, to Idris Elba’s Shere Khan, they all inhabit their roles. The young child actor playing Mowgli, Neel Sethi, is not perfect. However, I give him a lot of credit for acting when he is literally the only non-CGI character in the whole cast.

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The plot has many of the same beats as the 1967 animated Disney film of the same name, but tight writing links the events together in a strong narrative that makes every scene carry a weight and importance that simply wasn’t there in the original animation. This film also plays on the nostalgia of the audience for the animated film through the reappearance of a couple of its classic musical numbers, but only one of them really worked with the tone and purpose of the scene it appeared in.

The strong writing of the plot and dialogue comes together with the beautiful CGI and fleshed out characters to create a stellar product with only a few minor flaws. “The Jungle Book” is not only the best live-action remake of a Disney Animated movie so far, it is very possibly the definitive version of this classic tale. “The Jungle Book” is worth buying brand new.

4.0-4.5 Rating - I'll Take it!

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

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10 Cloverfield Lane – Review


Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot


In this “sequel”-not-a-sequel of the 2008 monster film “Cloverfield,” Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is a woman running from her upcoming marriage. This apparently happens after an argument with her fiance that has given her second thoughts. Driving alone on cross-country roads, she is sideswiped in a car accident. When she wakes up, she finds herself trapped in a bunker along with a man named Emmet DeWitt. They are kept there by the armed and physically imposing Howard Stambler, who insists that the outside world is no longer safe. What follows is a tension-filled dramatic mystery as Michelle tries to find out if Howard is telling the truth, and if not, how she and Emmet can escape.

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

I would not call this film a pure “horror” film. Instead it is prima a grim drama with some horror elements mixed in. It’s about how much trust, or rather how little, they have in each other and their intentions. The tension is thick and cerebral, coming mostly from the interactions of the cast and the threat of violence, rather than actual violence, though there is some of that, too. Normally, sequels are aimed at the audience of the previous film, but that strategy doesn’t really apply here. While “10 Cloverfield Lane” shares some thematic elements with its predecessor, there are few direct ties. Still, people who enjoy claustrophobic and nail-biting dramas will find a lot to like here while people only expecting another giant monster-filled story may leave disappointed.  

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is great at what it does, which is create tension between its main characters. There were several twists to the plot that I wasn’t expecting which served to pull me along on a rollercoaster of suspense. I was on the edge of my seat from the moment Michelle woke up in the bunker until the end. The script is well written, and the actors all play their parts well, with a particularly imposing performance by John Goodman.

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The ending, while enjoyable, changes the tone a bit, and in some ways it also changes the genre of the film. I think the ending might disenchant some viewers, but it worked for me.

There’s no question in my mind. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is worth bringing home as soon as it comes out on Blu-ray.

4.0-4.5 Rating - I'll Take it!

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

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Deadpool – Review


The Premise:

This Ryan Reynolds passion project brings to life the Marvel comic book character Deadpool, the merc with the mouth, a hideously scarred joke-machine anti-hero. The character Deadpool is half the premise in and of himself. He is a fourth-wall breaking comedian with swords and guns. The movie exists not to serve up a novel story or grand idea, but so that Deadpool may exist.

That being said, there is a story here. Wade Wilson is a wise-cracking mercenary with a heart who falls in love with a prostitute named Vanessa. Just when it looks like they will live a happy life together he gets the bad news that he has rampant cancer throughout his body and little time left. When all seems lost, a mysterious organization arrives promising to not only cure his cancer, but give him miraculous powers.

Wade takes the chance and goes with them only to find that, while they do plan on curing him and giving him powers, they have a nefarious purpose to sell him as a super powered slave to the highest bidder. Wade gains his powers but at the cost of his appearance. Before he can be collared and sold, however, he makes an escape attempt, destroying the facility in the process. What follows is Wade’s revenge crusade as the masked “Deadpool” against the people who made him.


The Short of It:

This film is not for families with children. “Deadpool” is crazy violent, vulgar, sexual and revels in it. Do. Not. Take. Children. To. This. Movie. If you do, you are a bad parent, fullstop.

That being said, Deadpool is a hilariously fun action flick for adults. The plot and villain may be standard, but they all serve to highlight Ryan Reynolds’ infectious titular character, Deadpool, and act as suitable targets for his wacky humor. The action is fast paced but easy to follow, the humor is relentless and almost always earns a laugh, and through it all the movie manages to have more heart and passion than many other superhero movies. If you crave quality R-rated humor and action, I highly recommend that you go see Deadpool.


The Long of It: Continue reading

“Mass Effect 3” – Review

The most incredible space opera of our generation comes to a mostly satisfying close.

March 13, 2012 – Star Wars and Star Trek have long dominated the mindshare of popular culture in the science fiction realm. They had a right to. Both told epic stories from the small screen to the silver screen, exploring the wonders of the stars. But as time passed, with Star War’s fall from grace, the lack of Star Trek dominance on television, and with the rise of new media, other stories have stepped forward to take forth the banner of science fiction space operas. But none of them come close to the marvel that is the Mass Effect series.

Mass Effect 3 sees the return of the Reapers to the Galaxy, a doomsday warned of by Commander Shepherd and her stalwart crew, and now, with Earth and the Galaxy as a whole crumbling before everyone’s eyes, no one can doubt any more. Commander Shepherd must not only rally her crew mates, but now the entire Galaxy to fight off this dire threat to the existence of all civilization. It will not be an easy task. Shepherd will have to bridge over old animosities, bring peace to disparate factions, and forge alliances where once was open hatred and war.

The story that Mass Effect weaves is astonishing in scope, certainly, but equally as amazing is the quality with which it is achieved. Watching as Shepherd finds ways to bridge the gaps between the races is believable, and set in the foundation of information being built from Mass Effect 1 onward. The Genophage, the Geth, Cerberus – all of these issues have been present since the first game, and how they play out in the last feels natural and brilliant. What should be impossible is made possible, and the choices of the past come back to either haunt or strengthen Shepherd’s cause.

The game does a remarkable job portraying the costs of war.

The characters are similarly brilliantly portrayed. The dialogue, not just between Shepherd and the crew, but also between the crew mates themselves, is terrifically done. Each character is unique, wonderfully realized and either likeable or despicable based on their own terms. The authenticity of each character is never something questioned by the player. They have become real.

In my time with Garrus, Liara and the rest, I felt like I truly knew them. The new faces make welcome additions also. Vega, a character I was initially worried about, turned out to be a hilarious and colorful addition. Cortez provided another facet altogether, not prone to any stereotypes or bravado, he felt like a real person. This was especially important due to his status as one of the two homosexual characters in the game.

Old characters return, even if only for brief missions and cameos, and more often than not you’ll wish you could spend more time with them. Some of these characters have even moved on to different stages of their lives, and don’t rejoin the crew for believable reasons. Some have decided to settle down, others may be wrapped up in their own issues, and still others may be slowly waiting for death. You aren’t the center of these characters’ universes (for all that the game places such a responsibility on Shepherd’s shoulders), and that makes the world feel that much more real.

Now, all of this said, the story and characterization takes an abrupt turn for the worse at the very end of the game. If you have already played the game, and do not mind spoilers, you can read my analysis of the endings At My Main Blog, as well as some further analysis of what went wrong at the Rough Writers Blog. I can hardly imagine a player who won’t be disturbed on some level concerning the endings, so I have to mention it.

To put it in vague terms, for those avoiding spoilers, there is little real choice at the end of the game for the player, no matter how the player has played the game. Paragon, Renegade, it doesn’t really matter, the choices are the same, with very small differences. Also, forget closure. There is little to none. There are positive things in the endings. Some good nuggets that I cling to. But they are largely outweighed by the flaws.

It is one thing to have a bitter sweet ending. Bitter-sweet is laudable, especially given the context of the Reaper invasion. It is another thing entirely to have no good endings at all.

Forgetting for a moment DLC and any other possible ways Bioware may still fix these problems, the question remains: Despite the ending, was the game worth it?

The answer is unquestionably yes. I laughed and cried my way through the entire game. The bonds I had built over three games, the emotional investment, payed off in so many little ways. The journey of getting to the end was incredible, and easily one of the best journeys in gaming and in entertainment period. Mass Effect is on the same level for me as Star Wars and Star Trek – perhaps greater. It certainly has more of my emotions twisted up in it.

“Story story, character character, blah blah… how does it play?” – You might ask (you monster). Well, it plays a whole lot like Mass Effect 2. Nearly identically. However, it must be said that some elements of the controls have been smoothed out, and some RPG elements dropped from the first game have made a return. There are a lot more and varied weapons again, with modifications to boot. The leveling system has also gained some needed choice and variety to let the player decide exactly how they want to fight.

Surprisingly, the Kinect works pretty well.

More importantly, the enemy variety and level design have received some significant improvements. The battles I’ve had in Mass Effect 3 were easily the most interesting and intense I’ve had in the series to date. For all its prowess, the Mass Effect series has been said to be an average third-person cover-based shooter, hardly comparable to the likes of Gear of War 3. But with this entry I feel that the series has finally stepped into the the shooter big-leagues, both mechanically and tactically.

The graphics are the best in the series, even if I’ve experienced more bugs than I recall from the first two. There will be multiple times when a conversation will suffer from an inexplicably invisible or flickering squad-mate, or times when Shepherd bugs out and starts flying around Iron-Man style. But in the end, these are minor issues, and nothing like the lag from Mass Effect 2’s Omega Relay sequence is found anywhere.

To top it all off, despite the departure of the last composer, the music of Mass Effect 3 hasn’t suffered one bit. The music is wonderfully done, perfectly tailored to each moment, and drives the emotional crescendos the game will be remembered for. If any game soundtrack deserves a purchase, this would be it.

Closing Comments:
I loved this game. For all the heartbreak I have over the lame endings, the journey there was worth every second. Staying up all night never felt so good. If you haven’t played this game yet, or its predecessors, what are you waiting for? You’re missing out on one of, if not the greatest science fiction space epics of our time. It’ll be hard for anything to top this for game of the year come December. The Mass Effect series has etched its name on my heart.

STAR RATING: (4 & ½ Stars)

Four and one-half Stars

For those of you who stuck around after the rating, I’ve got a extra segment for you called Spoiler Talk. It’s a segment in which I discuss what I thought of certain elements of the story or themes that are too spoilerish or high-concept for the main review. What I say here doesn’t ever trump my review, instead it might give insight into what exactly made me give something the score I did. So let’s get started.

Spoiler Talk:
I feel utterly drained. What a ride. For as much as Bioware has me frustrated about their endings, I must also thank them for the experiences I’ve been able to have through their artistry. I would not trade my time with the Normandy and her crew, my time with Liara, Garrus, Joker, EDI and the others for anything.

Now, to be sure, the endings were pretty bad. Not completely bad, but certainly mostly bad. As for the why’s and wherefores, well I talk about the endings in some detail at both my Main Blog and over at the Rough Writers Blog, as I’ve mentioned before. I won’t be going into any more detail here. I feel like I’ve talked the subject into the ground.

But there is so much to say otherwise! I saw Earth burning, and civilians dying. I saw Palaven burning too. I saw men and women determined to fight for their worlds, and their lives, struggling against beings the size of skyscrapers with power that would make them seem gods. I cured the Genophage. I witnessed the death of a Reaper at the might of a Thresher Maw. I brought peace between the Krogan and the Turians. I passed through a virtual tron-meets-ghostbusters world.

I fought an evil, badass Space-Ninja.

I witnessed the advent of true sentience in the Geth, and brought an end to their long conflict with the Quarians, leaving them both to build their lives together on their newly shared home world. I built an allegiance spanning the whole of the Galaxy, and fielded the grandest fleet in history. I spurred the creation of the mightiest scientific project ever conceived of.

But more importantly… I saw old friends again, and made new ones.

I joked with Vega in the cargo hold. I comforted Cortez over the loss of his husband. I befriended Traynor and watched her turn from an uncertain tech to an irreplaceable crew member. I helped Jacob save his new life protecting a scientist he loved. I helped Wrex move beyond past hatreds on to a brighter future. I witnessed Jack’s redemption and acceptance of new responsibilities. I brought Tali home, where she saw her world for the first time unhindered by her mask. I helped Miranda save her sister from her father. I said goodbye to Thane one last time. I saw Legion sacrifice himself so that his species may evolve to something greater. I watched Moridin find redemption through aiding the Krogan he had wronged, and die in the process.

I watched EDI find meaning in life. And then I watched her and Joker find love in a bold new future, where synthetics and organics are one.

I became best friends with Garrus. A cool-headed, determined and heroic badass, and one of the most amazing characters in gaming, or any other medium. I’ll never forget that time with the Sniper Rifles at the Citadel.

"I'm Edward Cheever, and Garrus is my favorite character in Mass Effect."

My Shepherd worried, mourned, laughed and loved with Liara, and saw her turn from a scared and naïve scientist into the powerful and determined Shadow Broker. And only my Shepherd will ever know her softer side – who she really is at heart.

I sacrificed myself to try and provide a better future for the Galaxy, for my friends, and for Liara – evolving all life to another plane, beyond the dichotomy of synthetic and organic, to something new, something different, something beyond our imagination.

To put into words what all this means to me would be to diminish it. So while Bioware may have failed to bring closure to this life, I will let this simple record stand as a memorial to my Shepherd, and the experiences I had living these experiences through her.

Thanks Bioware. Thanks for what you’ve given me.

“Fable III” Review

Albion needs a Hero. Albion needs a King.

Jan 5, 2011 – I sat upon my newly won throne, looking down upon the former king, my brother, the man I had despised the most these past months. It was he who oppressed the peoples of Albion. He who betrayed everything our family stood for. He… who sentenced her to death. I knew now what had driven him to such evil, and the weight of that responsibility was bearing down upon me, but still I hated him. He looked up at me, seeing the emotion behind my eyes, and I could see his certainty, determination and even… relief, behind his. I held his life in my hands. A life I had sworn to snuff out in vengeance. And I felt pity for him. I decided to be a better man than my brother that day and do for him what he did not do for Elise. I spared his life.

Though he didn't deserve it, the Jerk!

Fable III is a game built upon promise, choice and consequence, and it meets the challenge of doing these things admirably. The first half of the game is dominated by political intrigue, alliances and rebellion. The second half is dominated by what happens after you win the crown. You are called upon to make moral decisions and either keep your campaign promises, or break them. While moral quandaries are nothing new in videogames, keeping or breaking the promises made in a bid for kingship is a novel concept that is rarely explored in videogames, and while Fable III isn’t built to treat it with the true gravity such a situation might call for, they manage to capture it to a degree yet unseen. Furthermore, these decisions are not all black and white. Do you keep the promises you’ve made to your followers now, and possibly doom them all later, or break your promises, earn the enmity of your former friends, but save all their lives? Lionhead Studios, and its charismatic leader, Peter Molyneux, have created a very good follow up to Fable II, and while the game still has many of the problems of its predecessors it manages to chart new waters to create the best Fable experience yet.

And John Cleese Is Your Butler!

The land of Albion is caught between two worlds, the past and the future. It is a time of industrial revolution, a Dickensian world where orphans work in sooty factories, mercenaries carry flintlocks and muskets, and the aristocracy rides high on the backs of the lower classes. You are the prince, brother to the king, and you worry about the people of your kingdom under his ever more tyrannical rule. When you confront him about it you are forced into an evil decision of life against life, and so the fire of rebellion is born in you. But you need allies, and so you travel the countryside, winning the support of the impoverished and disenfranchised. With their aid, you will overthrow your brother, the tyrant, and bring peace to Albion. Or so you might believe. But there is another threat that nears Albion. One far greater than any mortal foe you’ve yet faced.

YOUR FAMILY!!! Well, actually no, something even worse than that, but still...

The story of Fable III is the most well-developed, intricate and interesting to date, and the world is unique in videogames, taking place during a time rarely visited. The characters are well made and feel unique, with distinct motivations and great voice acting. The fantasy elements are very much present, but all the more enjoyable for their uniqueness in Albion. This isn’t a land of sword-and-sorcery with wizards and elves around every corner, and I find that to be refreshing in a time when fantasy in videogames is either World of Warcraft or Dragon Age. Really it’s more similar to the high fantasy of The Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire, though obviously much lighter-hearted.

The plot is actually quite good.

Fable III goes a couple steps further than just providing a great tale for the main story; it also provides a number of side quests, most built to add to the humor and charm of the game and provide a fun distraction. Sometimes these little quests provide as much or more satisfaction than the action in the main story, with particular standouts being quests such as being sucked into the table-top game of a bunch of nerdy wizards, acting out the plays of a long-dead playwright in another dimension or playing deadly chess against a psychopathic treasure chest. The variety of the side quests are hardly lacking, and hours could be spent doing them alone. You can even complete many of them after the game (assuming your choices haven’t closed them off) relieving people who want to finish the game first and deal with other things later.

Will you be evil or good?

One change that will be either loved or hated is the way the menus and upgrading is done. The menus are all represented in three-dimensions by the “Sanctuary” a special place that acts as a sort of Bat-cave or Fortress of Solitude for the Hero. For those of you who don’t get the references, think of a very spacious and multi-roomed closet. Inside you see the actual outfits, weapons, multiplayer elements and wealth you accumulate. Some will hate it on principle because they will say it slows down the pace of the game. In truth, it doesn’t slow it down that much, and there is no lag whatsoever when you press the start button to go to the sanctuary. Furthermore, there are ways to skip through the sanctuary that should make complainers happy. What the Sanctuary adds is immersion and interaction, which I’m actually quite fond of.

You can choose various weapons and upgrade them through use.

Similarly, the Road to Rule is a mystical road that you can travel to which represents your plot progress as well as your upgrades in the form of chests that you can open with Guild Seals. Guild Seals simply represent your Experience points. Again, it adds a nice sense of interaction and atmosphere. By never seeing an actual menu the game pulls you in more effectively. If only the loading screens didn’t work against that in their own way.

You will suffer the loss of allies and friends along the way.

If there’s one thing all the Fable games have managed to do well in spades, it is their charm. The design is beautiful and whimsical. Characters walk a fine line between pomp, formality and ridiculousness. The music is floaty and enchanting and the world is full of a particularly British humour. Just watch the opening cinematic to see what I mean. Perhaps it is something only possible in the hands of a British studio, much like the outlandish and weird nature of games like Bayonetta is only possible in the hands of the Japanese. No matter how it is accomplished it is one of the game’s greatest points and always makes the Fable games worth playing. Fable III follows in that tradition, but like Fable II it still cannot quite grasp the full fairy-tale feel of the original game.

The opening cinematic really is fantastic.

But the game lives up to its heritage in unhappy ways as well. Fable III tried to ditch the tedious nature of RPGs by eliminating the health bar (a welcome move in my book,) but they failed to eliminate the true perpetrators of that particular fault. An easy way to gain Guild Seals (Experience Points) is to make friends with villagers and accept friendship quests from them. The problem is, these quests are essentially currier or fetch quests. The wonderful variety found in the other side quests is completely lacking when it comes to these friendship quests, making their completion an exercise in boredom. Worse is the job system which is fun for the first five minutes and a chore for the next five hours. It might not have been such an issue if you got more money for each success, or if your final victory in the game wasn’t so closely tied to your royal funds. Essentially if you don’t buy every building in the land, don’t do enough jobs and don’t save up through hours and hours of game time your ability to get the best ending is utterly screwed. While the mechanics of the idea aren’t utterly broken, it turns much of the latter half of the game into a chore, bringing your process to a halt.

Peter Molynuex is a great guy, but his vision doesn't always work out.

Like the previous games, the graphics are good but iffy at times and plain buggy at others. Textures pop in and out, character models sometimes spawn inside of one another and I saw more than one Balvarine stuck in a tree like a transporter accident out of Star Trek.. These glitches aren’t anywhere near the technical travesty of a game like Fallout: New Vegas, but they can be very upsetting when encountered.

Furthermore, while many of the moral choices are presented in interesting gray terms, you’re still essentially funneled down either the good or bad path. It isn’t a dire criticism of the game as it does harken to that fairy-tale element that I enjoy so much about these games, but it should still be noted.

Despite that qualm, the moral choices are still the heart and greatest strength of the game, providing structure for the plot, and creating world-changing consequences. Should you preserve the natural beauty of Bower Lake, or should you drain it to build a mine for funds that could save the Kingdom? If you choose to drain the lake, you open up a whole new area to explore and new quests to take, but all at the expense of one of Albion’s prettiest sights, hidden items at the lake and your morality meter. This is only one choice that can literally change the game. As king you will find yourself very much in charge of your destiny, and never more responsible for the denizens of a virtual world outside of the Sims games.

Dream of Freedom, little chickie.

Closing Comments:

Fable III is not going to change anyone’s minds about the Fable franchise or Peter Molyneux and his unique vision. What it does do, however, is provide the best Fable experience yet, by telling a great story with lots of charm, humor and wit. If you’re up for rebellion, high fantasy, political machinations and kicking chickens while wearing a giant chicken suit, then you really have to try out Fable III.

STAR RATING: (4 and ½ Stars out of 5)

Four and one-half Stars

For those of you who stuck around after the rating, I’ve got a extra segment for you called Spoiler Talk. It’s a segment in which I discuss what I thought of certain elements of the story or themes that are too spoilerish for the main review. What I say here doesn’t ever trump my review, instead it might give insight into what exactly made me give something the score I did. So let’s get started.

Spoiler Talk:

“Damn it! Why didn’t I choose to let the villagers die instead of Elise? And why do I have such an emotional reaction to the death of a character I hardly know?” That was the quandary I found myself in less than a half-hour into the game. “Surely,” I thought, “I’ll still be able to save her. They won’t kill off a character who is obviously so important to my main character, right?”
Actually, they absolutely will. And now I think I know why I had such a strong reaction. The whimsical nature of the world of Albion, the charm and humor, all seem comforting and safe. But this belies the tough and real choices, some of which have no fully good outcome, that riddle Fable III. I wasn’t prepared for it, and it shocked me in a way that games rarely do. I was tempted to restart the game then and there, but instead I soldiered on, and that shock and pain became a part of the story of my rebellion. I became attached to the story.
It is a testament to how good the team at Lionhead are at giving their creations character that I already felt I knew Elise for a long time after such a brief span. There isn’t a main character in the game who doesn’t feel wholly unique, and if not realistic at least likeable.

Or hate, whichever is more appropriate, actually. Hm... love to hate?

In retrospect it might come across as a cheap way to grab the audience, killing off the girl like that. But it was my choice that sent her to her execution, and so it gained so much more weight and importance for it.
It was the little (and sometimes big) tugs of emotion that really got me hooked, and it’s those same emotions that will have me remembering Fable III in the years to come. That experience won’t be the same for everybody, but the experience did inform my final score.