Reviews

Fable III – Review

Release Date: Out now!
Developer: Lionhead
Publisher: Microsoft
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: Yes, 2 player
Multiplayer: Online co-op mode
PEGI: 16

It may have been a year since Fable II but in-game it has been a whole fifty years since the events of the previous game and Albion has changed for both better and worse. The world has now entered the industrial age. Bowerstone has steam-powered ships in the harbour and a grimy industrial zone pumping out fumes.
But the land is under the rule of a tyrant. Logan, eldest son of the Hero you played in Fable II, rules Albion with an iron fist.
Albion is ripe for revolution and as the younger brother or sister of Logan it’s up to you to become a Hero, lead a rebellion and claim the throne. But will you prove to be any better than Logan?

Fable III is much more morality focused this time around, a fact proven by a hard choice in the first half hour of the game. Along the way you’ll make many such choices that define both your character and weapons. Four weapons are given to you early in the game and these shape themselves on a multitude of your actions. Kill innocents and your sword may begin to ooze blood, treat people well and your hilt may transform into a silver thing of beauty. A great many things affect the weapons meaning you should end up with something fairly unique by time the games credits roll. That’s not to say the game skimps on other weapons though. There are 50 legendary weapons to find but not all are available in your game-world, instead you’ll have to swap weapons with other people over Live to collect them all.
Each weapon has three upgrades to fulfill by doing certain things such as killing enemies or even getting fatter.

The first part of the game is classic Fable. You quickly escape your life and begin recruiting allies for your rebellion by completing quests and making promises which you’ll keep or break later in the game.In typical Fable fashion you’ll be put into dark dungeons and miserable caves quite often, it’s a little disappointing to note that it uses many of the same mission designs as Fable II and even the original Fable. But still, it’s hard to deny the charm of this classic gameplay.

The second part of Fable III comes in the closing hours of the game, and is the true icing on the cake – you become ruler of Albion.. It sounds simple enough, but a major twist forces you to begin making so very important decisions as you have urgent need to swell the royal coffers, but to do so requires  morally questionable choices. At this point it could be said that the game actively encourages you to become a tyrant and every decision has a an impact on how your people treat you. These don’t have quite the physical impact on Albion as they could have but a few do affect the world. But it has three major flaws: The first is that the property system make this final section far too easy if you abuse it leading to the moral choices losing gravity.The the final section was also far  too short, it could have easily added in a good few more hours. And lastly, the ending level comes with no warning yet every other instance where you would need to stock up was forewarned, this one was oddly not and led to me feeling rather annoyed as I had a large donation ready to put into the treasury.

Combat remains as simple as ever, a single button each for melee, magic and guns with more emphasis this time on blocking and dodging but it rarely proves challenging and many people won’t ever get knocked out throughout their play. It may be simple but it still feels fun enough to play even if it is essentially button mashing. However, having the block button mapped to the melee button feels a little clunky and feels more like it should have been placed on a trigger instead.
Fable III has also added finishing moves to the mix and these look suitably brutal. You’ll still be seeing new moves ten hours into the game. It’s also fair to mention that melee strikes have dodgy hit-detection, especially when fighting on slopes and I occasionally got locked into charging magic without meaning to.
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Lionheads wish to make Fable more accessible and streamlined has also impacted on both the RPG elements and menu system. It’s almost impossible to refer to Fable III as an RPG, it’s now close kin to an action-adventure game as levelling up as been replaced with a system that see’s you walking along a metaphorical road where you can buy chests with Guild Seals which act as upgrades to your abilities.  Each time an important event is completed a new gate along the road opens revealing more chests. It’s a unique and interesting system and feels more natural to just staring at a menu fool of numbers.
Now instead of hitting the start button and being greeted with a cumbersome menu, you’re transported to the Sanctuary which is a series of rooms such as an Armoury and Treasure room which you can walk around freely. It’s a great system and does help to keep you feeling immersed in the world. Weapons are displayed in dummies as are clothes allowing you to view them much more easily.

I loves my hammer.

In a fairly large change for the series your character now has a voice as well. The actors for this character are well done but the voice is used far to infrequently giving the feeling that they should have just kept him/her mute. But other top quality acting comes in the form of John Cleece as your personal butler and other big names such as Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross all adding their talent to the game. For the most part its superb but is let down by some poor voice cue’s leading to some clunky sentences.

Fable III has also included some of the most fun side-quests in a while such as being shrunk down and placed into a Role-playing board-game and listening to the players talking above you. Others include tricking chickens whilst dressed in a chicken suit. They’re inventive, fun and provide a great distraction from the doom and gloom storyline.

Fable III sadly fails to fix many of the series flaws. The graphics while improved are still lacking on a technical basis with clunky facial animations, some flat textures and the occasional juddery animation. Lip-syncing is often out as well. The bread-crumb trail which leads you around still tends to get so dim you can’t see it or disappears entirely while the game catches up with itself. Your dog will often become completely confused when it senses treasure leading to some annoying moments of going in circles waiting for the mutt to pick it up again.
New flaws have also turned up. Interacting with villagers now requires you to hit A which goes through a split-second loading and also requires you to hit B to back out giving you the split-second load again. It feels much clunkier than Fable II’s system.  Plenty of glitches and bugs exist in the world as well giving the impression that the game needed more time to be polished before release.

And now I have come to the end of the review. At its core this is Fable II with some great new things added in, but they needed to fix the old flaws which they did not and it’s hard not to feel saddened by that fact.
But Albion is as funny and charming as it ever was and I still found myself lost in this unique world as I led a rebellion and became King of Albion. It may not be an RPG anymore, but Fable III is still a damn fine game.

The Good:
+ Albion is still an incredible place.
+ Seeing my unique weapon shaping itself.
+ Being King is good!

The Bad:
– Balverines are scary.
– Damn you surprise ending!
– Plenty of little bugs.

Scores:

Graphics: 7
Charming and pretty art design but Fable III is behind the times in technical detail.

Sound: 8
Great voice acting and the classic Fable music are all spot-on, but some poor dialogue pauses are irritating and voices will sometimes repeat or overlap.

Story: 8
Simple, but very effective and well told.

Gameplay: 8
Simple but fun combat and the classic adventuring are still great, it’s just a shame that being King or Queen doesn’t last long.

Lifespan: 8.5
Around 10 hours for the main story if you breeze through without stopping to see the sights, grab the weapons and have a family. Around 20-30 hours to see and do everything.

Overall: 8
Fable III isn’t much different from Fable II, but it’s fun, charming and never takes itself seriously. And who wouldn’t want to pass judgement on whether to build a brothel while dressed as a giant chicken?

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3 replies »

  1. The review seems very balenced and picks up on its good points and occasional flaws.

    It is a shame you could not comment in depth upon the multiplayer side of Fable 3, as I know many a player these days can be swayed to purchase based on how well the software company catered for this element.

    I feel that £40.00 may be a little steep for what sounds basicaly simular to an “addtion” to fable II.
    It comes across as little more than an unpolished DLC.

    On a very bright side, I was very attracted to the voice cast, as Mr Cleese and Mr Fry, are an extremley worth while bonus.

    Overall, I think I may err on the side of caution and spend my limited funds on a different title. Maybe after a few months I will pick Fable 3 up at a cheaper cost, which will ease the burden and allow me to enjoy this game.

    • Hmm I can definately see your point there Sean. I’m half and half on whether the core gameplay was better in II or III. I think combat was better in II as III as some dodgy hit detection.

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