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Jeremy Jastrzab
05 Nov, 2010

Fable III Review

360 Review | A royal disappointment.
Peter Molyneux would have probably made a great politician. Now the Creative Director of Microsoft Games Europe, the charismatic stallion continues to belie his reputation for under delivering, as his titles still manage to strike a chord. The Fable titles probably epitomise this more than any of his works, and now he’s up to the third title of the series. Somewhat typically with a Molyneux title, Fable III seemed to be the one to truly fulfill the vision set out by the creator. But, as always, it ends up short. Despite all that the game has going for it, it’s the issues that have remained and some poor design choices that stop the vision from being fulfilled.

Fable and Fable 2 were all about the journey of the Hero of Albion, from childhood to legend. Fable III has you instead leading the revolution against Albion’s tyrant King, Logan, before ascending the throne yourself. Set 50 years after Fable 2, you are actually Logan’s brother/sister (making you the Prince/Princess) and both of you are the child of the hero from the last game. However, as product and industry have taken over Albion, the land no longer has the heroes of yesteryear. Well, until the events that set the revolution in motion take over.

Yeah, now that's definitely not a tyrant King...

Yeah, now that's definitely not a tyrant King...
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While the games have never been about the epic tale, the story of Fable III delivers the darkest and most sombre tale yet, and the one with probably the best progression. It also has an interesting divide, where you first play as the rebellious, revolutionary Prince/Princess before becoming the King/Queen of Albion. And the circumstances around this are interesting enough to keep things going. Furthermore, the best part of these games – the British humour – is delightfully sharp as ever. However, while there are some fascinating characters, the story overall lacks scope and the grandeur that you’d expect from just a concept. It all seems a little too low-key.

And that’s really the big downer with Fable III. Everything seems so much lower key than the previous two games. It’s almost as if the urge for simplicity and accessibility has taken all the scope and grandeur of the game. While this pursuit has actually helped Fable III in a few ways, there are a number of things lost along the way. However, the real downer is the fact that the game has still been released in a technically deficient state. Early previews had given us hope that these issues could be fixed, but it seems the fixes never eventuated.

At its best, Fable III is a unique adventure, full of wicked humour, shenanigans, interactions, discoveries and a lot to do outside of the main story. It ups the ante at times, with some pretty crazy quests and funky discoveries. It has a flavour that just cannot be tasted in any other game, and there is no set play time, as it takes as long as you allow it to. If you allow it, you'll lose 20 or more hours to it. At its worst though, it’s a banal chore of a fetch quest with a serious case of the intermittent chug-a-lugs. The writing was on the wall when your dog seems like stapled-on feature, rather than a true companion.

You could just shoot them.

You could just shoot them.
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Some good design choices have been made. Realising that specialising in the one of three combat methods simply wasn’t viable, experience is earned solely through Guild Seals. Completing quests, killing enemies and befriending NPCs will earn you this new currency for experience. This experience can then be spent on the Road to Rule, where you exchange your Guild Seals for all the abilities and upgrades that you can get your hands on. These include strengthening your combat attributes, learning magic (which has been harnessed as technology) and all of the additional expressions that you’ll use to communicate.

This actually works reasonably well, as does the new ‘live’ menu. Instead of a traditional menu, you now have a sanctuary, where you can control all your management actions. So be it equipping weapons, changing clothes, picking quests, fast travelling, checking on your family (or families) or even managing real estate, it’s all done in real time now. It works well most of the time, though the micromanagement can get a little imprecise at times and there seems to be a lack of information on stats and minor items that you might be holding. It’s a good concept but not everything is there.

Fable III still manages to retain some of the spirit of getting lost in the world. The spirit that makes you forget for a moment about the quests and the revolution and just explore what the world has to offer. Go out and mingle with the villagers. Lose yourself down a pathway. Take that relationship quest. Get a labourer’s job. Get married several times. Make like Genghis Khan or Ramses II. If there is a problem though, it’s that the townships lack the endearing distinctions of the previous titles, while the world itself doesn’t seem all that big. It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough in the Kingdom of Albion to really keep you going.

Your majesty?

Your majesty?
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The adventure of the revolution never reaches the heights of previous titles, as these are saved for when you’re the ruler. It isn’t until you become the ruler, that it seems like the actual game starts. Without giving too much away, you’ll make promises along the way and as King, you’re called on to account for them. You will actually have to make some genuinely confronting decisions, and the game will take you to task regardless of what you do. For a while, you will actually feel like your choices hold some gravitas, while your conscientious prior actions will potentially help you out. Unfortunately, this phase doesn’t last long and is almost completely ruined by an abrupt ending. While you now have untethered co-op both online and offline, only the host will get the quest completion and the henchman will have to settle for the minor earnings. Still, the experience is marred by technical issues at the time of writing.

In the end, there are two aspects that hurt Fable III: the oversimplicity and technical deficiencies. Fable III is at times, too simple. The relationship quests are the lowest form of fetch quest, which makes you wonder, why bother? The combat, while it has some nice context-sensitive one-hit kill, is without luxuries such as combos and lock-ons and as a result, often comes off banal. With a few basic smarts, you can get through virtually unscathed and your rechargeable health runs so deep that it’s almost redundant. The Touch system of interaction just doesn’t have the legs and taking out the expression wheel was a mistake. The cycling expressions don’t give enough variety and actions such as how to give gifts don’t seem to exist anymore, even though you find the items for it. Overall, the simplification probably has gone further than it needed to, which becomes clear when you know you can do something but don’t know how to execute it.

Probably the most disappointing and chore-inducing aspect of Fable III are the technical deficiencies. There hasn’t been enough improvement over Fable II, as the same areas of deficiencies crop up. The pop-ups, the slow-down, the glitches, they’re all still here. Your bread crumb trail gets lost, your quests mix themselves up and it seems like you need to lead your dog to the items that it’s meant to find. The worst part though, is that you know there is a problem when basic actions cannot be consistently performed, either because too much is happening at once or the game gets confused at what you’re focusing on. You can get through the game and still enjoy what it has to offer, but it can be a real chore sometimes. After begrudgingly putting up with Fable II, players deserve much better.

That's a lot of shiny going on there.

That's a lot of shiny going on there.
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Obviously, the technical aspects of the game are most noticeable in the visuals. Fable III retains the quaint art style of its predecessor, and on art style and attention to detail alone, the game is quite fantastic. There really is nothing else that it can be compared to. It’s a shame that the tech can’t keep up with it. Still, Molyneux shows that he has the power to pull the big names, with an excellent voice cast, including John Cleese (as Jasper the butler), Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg and Sir Ben Kingsley. They all play their parts superbly, and all the rest of the voices complement either the setting or the humour when needed. It’s all topped off with a superb composition. Again though, the tech gets in the way, with missing sound bites and people talking over each other.

For all that is good and unique about the game, for all the potential, for all the endearing charm and regardless of what promises have and have not been kept, for the first time in the series, Fable III is unable to transcend the sum of its parts. For the issues of design and playability, all the good aspects are enough to offset the bad ones. And as it stands, there really is nothing out there that will give you the same experience as Fable III. Unfortunately though, the simplification has just gone too far and the technical deficiencies can often make the game a chore. So once again, while you’ll still have you’re fun; we’re left to lament the unfulfilled potential of another Lionhead title.
The Score
For all the game has got going for it, which is still a lot, Fable III is unable to transcend the sum of its parts and we're left to lament what could have been. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Fable III Content

Fable 3 'Traitor's Keep' DLC announced
25 Feb, 2011 My kingdom for a traitor.
Fable III: Understone Quest Pack Review
27 Jan, 2011 Underdone.
Fable III voice cast announced
01 Oct, 2010 You may not have Pegged some of these people to be involved.
3 Comments
3 years ago
*scratches scalp*

So, what happened in the development studio between Fable 2 and Fable 3? Is this the result of some internal pressures to pump out a title just for the sake of it?
3 years ago
Well Peter did say this was the fastest he has developed a game icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
I found this game thoroughly enjoyable. Its rare for a game of this ilk to make you feel the impact your choices (good and bad) have on an entire population of a game world and i for one commend that it can induce players to feel a great level of inner conflict over what they should choose to do. Haven't had that since ME2.

In hindsight, the lack of polish is highly noticeable, especially if you don't fast travel and traverse Albion on foot. A few times in coop games that i was a guest in, my character wpuld lose all movement animations and look like a statue just floating around the game world. I couldn't do anything and had to restart but im sure it can be patched.

Fair score, good review - keep up the wordsmithing!!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/10/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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