Developer: Lionhead Studios
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Pros: Co-op has been vastly improved; menus are history, replaced with in-game inventory swap; vistas straight out of a painting; oddly hilarious thanks in part to John Cleese; Loads of quests/sidequests to do; Albion is a joy to explore
Cons: Besides the initial decision, choices are VERY black and white; the block button is the same as the hit button; frequent frame rate drops; Job mini-games are lacking
Fable has come a long way since its launch in 2004, but always kept one thing true: for every action, a consequence. This central idea has evolved yet again in the third installment in the series, correcting a few faults while evolving the world of Albion to an exciting place to explore.
The Butterfly Effect
Fable III takes place 50-60 years after the events of the previous game, in which your previous hero has died and left his children on the throne. The oldest child, Logan, has become a tyrant in Albion, instilling fear and oppressing the people of the world. You are cast into the role as the youngest child, a prince or princess, who must lead a revolution against his brother in order to save Albion.
The story is much improved this time around, offering a compelling tale no matter what path you choose. A bulk of the game lies in you leading the revolution, with the other half as king and ruler of Albion. The beginning alone offers a morally gray choice for you to make, and gave me high hopes for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, only a few of these situations occur, with most moral decisions drawn right down the middle. As a king, I expected a few more difficult decisions than; Should we allow child labor? It's more an invitation to laugh at misfortune than truly act as a ruler making tough decisions. Though a missed opportunity, it does enough to satisfy.
The morality system still has the same effect as before, with a few nice additions. Your morality now affects the appearance of your weaponry. Be good, and your sword will be etched in holy engravings and emit light. Be evil, and it will turn dark and drip blood. A full morality allows you to have either angel/demon wings burst from your back in combat, throwing enemies back and striking fear in smaller infantry. It's a nice subtle touch to add satisfaction in your choices.
Albion, The Land of Opportunity
If you play Fable to stay on the main path...you are doing it wrong. The best aspect of the Fable games is the ability to go off the breadcrumb trail to explore the world set before you. Past Fables have offered plenty to do, and the this game is no different.
Visuals in the game have been vastly improved. Character models are more detailed, lighting in caves and the open worlds are awe-inspiring, but it's the environments themselves that are a marvel to behold. Snowy mountains, vast deserts, and industrious cities all contribute to the unique land that is Albion. Subtle effects like trees blowing in the wind and the glisten of light off of waves in the water are a nice touch, that help to make each setting like a vista out of a painting.
If sight-seeing isn't your cup of tea, then expect plenty to do. For completionists, there are loads of items to collect; including destroying 50 garden gnomes, collecting Legendary Weapons, finding silver keys, etc. The casual player may enjoy strolling around town drunk, raising hell in a village, or finding the most ridiculous outfit to fight evil in. The possibilities are endless, allowing you to step back from the main path for a few hours. The only lacking area are town jobs that all consist of the same repetitive button pressing mini-games to earn gold. It does not provide much incentive, and I ended up sticking to home ownership as the main source of revenue.
Reading is for Nerds
Menus have been completely thrown out for a new in-game item system. Pressing the start button no longer brings you to the main menu, but throws you into "The Sanctuary". This allows you access multiple items typically included in an RPG, but laid out in a more organized manner.
Rooms branch off to allow access to different areas. The armory holds all of your weapons/spells/guns, the wardrobe allows access to all outfits/tattoos/hairstyles, etc. In the center lies a map, allowing you to zoom into areas and warp directly to certain places, granted you have already visited them.
The system works surprisingly well, allowing you to hop in, switch weapons, and hop right back out to the action. It's a welcome change to the messy menus most RPGs tend to contain.
In addition to a menu change, experience is also handled differently. You are transported to a dream world called the "Road to Rule", and can open chests scattered across it, given you have enough "Guild Seals". The seals are earned as you progress through the game by combat, interaction with villagers, etc. It takes quite a few to open all of the chests, and each contains various power ups to tailor your hero to Magic/Melee/Ranged.
Something very odd occurred while playing Fable III, I was laughing a lot more than usual. This is in part due to the incredible voice talent the game contains. Every villager, main character, or baddie has something great to add.
It's a nice break from the serious tone of the main quest to hear a Gnome statue in the distance openly taunting you. Giant chicken costumes, great villager interaction, and other areas just add to this. Not to mention that having John Cleese voice your butler makes visits to the Sanctuary even more enjoyable.
Combat: One Spell Forward, Two Backstabs
Most of the game has been restructured, except for that whole "combat" part. It's still a cinch to get a hang of, which actually becomes the problem later in the game. You still have one button for melee, one for magic, and one for ranged; allowing you to stream together various attacks seamlessly.
A big improvement came in the form of restructuring the spell system. Instead of a clutter of spells, you may only have two in the form of gloves that you wear. However, you can weave spells together. Take the vortex spell and combine it with the ice storm spell and you have an arctic tornado of death. With a good handful of spells, combinations are limitless, and can be switched at any time in the Sanctuary.
The unfortunate element of the combat is the actual simplicity of it. Small baddies go down easy, big dudes hit hard and take longer to go down, etc. No real enemy takes a certain approach to tackle; just hit that button like there is no tomorrow. It doesn't help that the button you hold to block, attacks....you couldn't throw a shoulder button in there for me?
It seems odd that so much was done to restructure and fix the menus and spell system, that the combat was simply transferred over. Sure there are satisfying, slow-mo finishers that trigger on occasion, but it still feels sluggish.
With a Little Help from my Friends
Co-op has been vastly improved. No longer do you need to be restricted to one screen. You can now move independently from one another. No longer are you stuck as a mercenary; your character, including all his/her items and equipment, will be transferred to the other player's game.
There has also been an improved system for interaction. You can form a business partnership with the Xbox Live player, and split earnings with each other. You can even go so far as to marry and have a child with a Xbox Live player. With achievements attached to this action, it is really odd to run by a 13 year old's character orb with him screaming for someone to impregnate. Had Dateline taught you nothing Lionhead?
Still, it is nice to have the drop-in, drop-out system in place if the world of Albion gets too lonely.
Fable III made some great improvements to the system from Fable II, even if a few areas still feel snubbed. Despite the occasional frame rate drop, the game is a solid RPG all-together. The new co-op and menu-free inventory is a welcome addition, and classic Fable gameplay still remains.