Fable III is publisher Lionhead’s latest action-RPG, released in October of 2010. The Fable franchise has a fairly large pedigree in the gaming world, being a major franchise for the Xbox, and the brainchild of luminary Peter Molyneux. The previous games were preceded by a rather large amount of hype, mostly by creator Molyneux, touting features that wouldn’t actually make into the game. However, once the games were released they were highly praised for their engaging worlds and emphasis on decision making. The only real foible of the Fable games is their inability to live up to the hype. Does Fable III reverse the trend?
The story of Fable III is by far its greatest asset. The story begins 50 years after the events of Fable II, in the Kingdom of Albion, the series’ primary setting. You take the role of the son or daughter of the previous monarch of Albion, the hero of Fable II. You’re brother is the current King of Albion, Logan, who has become a despotic tyrant. It is up to you use your hero powers to rally followers to your side, against Logan. Once the revolution is over, it will be up to you to decide the fate of Albion.
The various locations you travel to are all well realized, exhibiting a unique culture all their own. Also, the main plot has some appealing twists that should keep you engaged. However, the real hero of Fable III is the writing, specifically the dialogue. The sentence level dialogue is among the best in all of gaming. The Fable writers can cram more characterization and exposition in a paragraph then most others can in ten pages. On top of that, the writing can be very funny, in a real, laugh out load way. It’s a shame that the game’s ending is so, well… awful. It comes out of nowhere, makes little to any sense, and once you trigger it you can’t go back. The ending is a huge letdown, and will undoubtedly taint your recollection of what was otherwise a charming and engaging story
Gameplay has never been the heavy focus of the Fable series, and this third installment doesn’t change that. You spend most of your time in Fable III either talking with NPCs or fighting with enemies. The one-button combat system from Fable II makes a return, where each of the three combat styles (melee, ranged, and magic) is completely controlled by one button. Melee and ranged combat has some charge attacks and dodges you can use, but you can just mash the buttons 99% of the time. Magic continues to be overpowered, but now you can only use one spell at a time. You can combine spells now, but the more interesting ones from Fable II have been turned into potions, so really it’s a choice of whether you want enemies to explode or fly backwards (or both). The combat is easily breakable, you will probably only need to upgrade your weapons once, it is extremely easy and it quickly becomes a chore.
You power up your character a bit differently in Fable III, ditching the old XP-orbs system from previous games. This time around you gather “Guild Seals” and spend them in the “Road to Rule”, an ethereal world filled with chests which contain upgrades for your character. You get seals by competing quests, killing enemies, and talking with NPCs, and it’s that last option which is Fable III’s most vestigial feature. Fable III allows you to win the support of the people by interacting with them. This usually involves holding a button for three seconds in order to dance, sing, or make some other gesture. It’s trivial, boring, and completely pointless. The other social features of this game are also pretty uninteresting, especially since the addition of fetch quests to the equation makes exploring the game’s social aspects even more unappealing. They’ve added some more co-op this time around, but it still isn’t a central part of the game. Fable III’s gameplay is a complete mess, and is definitely the worst in the series.
The graphics of Fable III is a bit of mixed bag. Artistically, Fable III is on very solid ground. The various cultures of Fable III all have a unique style, especially the depiction of industrial Bowerstone, the capital of Albion and the game’s densest location. However, the downtrodden themes of the game resulted in a washed out color palette, an about face from Fable II’s vibrant hues. Also, the large number of graphical glitches is very distracting, especially when your weapons clip through your clothes as you walk. The graphics in Fable III are an issue of execution, not conception, and some more polish would have greatly improved them.
The sound of Fable III is very solid. The soundtrack is a mix of orchestral tracks, while not memorable, weren’t offensive in any way. The big star of the game is the voice acting. All the voice actors, from the leads to the bit players, do their jobs at a very high level. The voice talent on the rolls is staggering, including John Cleese, Michael Fassbender (the Brit from Inglorious Bastards), Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, and others. The star of the show is, yet again, Stephen Fry as Reaver, one of only two characters to return from Fable II. Fable III is most certainly a joy to listen to.
There is a level of replay value in Fable III, but it is not without an asterisk. The ability to play as either a “good” or an “evil” character allows you to play through the story in different ways. However, the auto-save system makes it so once you make a decision it is permanent, requiring you to replay the game completely to make a different choice. The game takes maybe 20 hours to complete, and once you finish it there isn’t much post-completion content. There is some DLC, mostly new cosmetic items, but one new quest pack, “Understone”, does add a few hours to the game’s length.
When Fable III was first released it received fairly positive reviews form the gaming media establishment. However, with the hype subsided, and the real merits of the game made visible, a different picture presents itself. Fable III isn’t a great game. It’s not even a mediocre game. It’s a bad game. The large number of bugs, flaws, bad design decisions, and half finished features reeks of a production that ran out of time. While a great story can make up for a few gameplay flaws, nothing could fix what ails Fable III.
Story ———— 4/5
Gameplay ——- 1/5
Graphics ——– 3/5
Sound ———– 5/5
Replay Value — 3/5
Overall —– 3/5
Fable III is available on the Xbox 360 and PC at Milwaukee game stores.