Review: Fable III


Developer: Lionhead Studios
Genre: Role Playing
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Compatability: 12MB Minimum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p | Co-Op 2
Rating: 8.0

Peter Molyneux has a relatively tepid standing with the gaming community. On one hand he consistently oversells his games, but on the other usually delivers quality experiences that may not live up to his lofty goals, yet are great games in their own right. None of this should be new information to anyone reading this review but more so then ever Molyneux’s successes and failures figure into the quality of his game. Fable II was a breakthrough success both critically and commercially garnering over three million in sales and numerous game of the year nods. Fable III was touted as his crowning achievement taking all that the previous games did well, while changing the basic structures we have taken for granted in gaming and creating a wholly new experience. Fable III is not the pinnacle of his resume and while there are many things to love about the game, some of the newer design choices actually hurt the game instead of feeling like something totally new and fresh. Fable III is rife with the “one step forward two steps back” complex, and while the game ultimately succeeds, it is not without its rather glaring faults.

Fable III picks up fifty years after the completion of Fable II with you starting as the prince of princess of your late parent, the hero King/Queen (your character from Fable II). Obviously things start to go wrong and you are forced to flee from the new king, your elder brother Logan. From there the story and gameplay can be bisected into two distinct parts. First you play through the rebel portion where you are tasked with attaining enough followers to overcome the King, and the second portion of the game is after you have become the king. In the former the game plays just like any other action RPG, quest give rewards, towns are full of citizens who need help, and there are also treasures to find. One of the oddest design decisions was to make interactions a one on one experience. In Fable II the dialogue tree was open anywhere and a crowd would form around you if you were entertaining. In Fable III you must initiate interactions with a single NPC and you’re forced to sit through the longest half second load times between the conversations and your actions. It may sound like a nitpick but it effectively kills the desire to make friends with people. One of the biggest departures from traditional RPGs is the lack of an experience system. Well, kind of. While killing enemies does grant some tangible growth number, it is tied to the followers system instead of a traditional level up system. In the latter the game drastically shifts from an action RPG to a decision and consequence system that never lives up to its full potential.

The visuals in Fable III are decent.

The rebel part of the game requires your character to build up followers which really just acts as experience, even stat boosts and new conversation options require a set amount of followers to purchase. Instead of the traditional menu system to choose your upgrades, your character can visit the road to rule location full of chests which require a number of followers and grant the ability. It can be anything from increasing your attack damage, to different conversation options, to increasing your ability as a pie maker. After most major story threads in the game you are transported to the road to rule and as you complete the quest more gates are opened and more chests become available. While at first it may seem a novel way to communicate your character’s growth, after thirteen hours of playing a simple menu system would have been welcome. The road to rule is just one addition to the game designed to do away with menus all together.

Pressing the pause button will not bring you to an overhead menu where you can fiddle with options, look through weapons and gear, and increase stats, but will instead bring you physically to the sanctuary. The sanctuary acts as your information hub and the physical representation of your gear and weapons, which only require you to walk up and select them, is interesting and at first, feels fresh. Your money is also in the sanctuary along with the online components and the configuration options, all menu free. You can access the sanctuary at anytime by pressing the start button and your character is transported there for you to walk around and change anything that would be found in a traditional pause menu. At first you will find this new place to be pretty cool because seeing your gear before you propped up on manikins grants you a sense of freedom that most games fail to do. However just like the road to rule it does start to degrade. There is a diminishing return on the novelty and most of the time I couldn’t help but think that a simple menu would have allowed me to change my sword much faster. Taking away menus was one of the things Molyneux touted as changing the way we view games and while I can appreciate the sentiment, it just doesn’t always work out for the better.

RPG fans will surely like travelling from one village to the other, especially in the first part of the game.

After the rebel part and your coup d’état supplants you brother and you take the throne, you enter the King stage. This portion of the game is much different and while there are still some quests to take care of, the majority of the game relies on a constant stream of choices that must be made as the King. Here is where my primary problem with the game presents itself. Choices in games are still in their infancy and we are all too familiar with the polar opposites we are presented in game. Do you nurture this puppy back to heal or do you kick it as you walk by? Video games rarely venture into the gray. Fable III give you choices that are so polar opposite and then outline to repercussion in such a way that they stop being interesting. For example one decision you must take deals with opening an orphanage to help children or converting the orphanage to a factory and using the children for labor. My problems are twofold; one, why are these my only two options, the game has groomed me to become the king and kings have absolute authority. Why can I not tell the member of aristocracy to build both and that he and his fellow high society member will be the labor? It is just an example but if I am truly king then what is stopping me. Two, and this plays into the first, it breaks the fiction and makes the fact that you are the king almost irrelevant. Becoming the king was little more than a means to present the player with a series of starkly contrasted selections that do little to help the narrative.

It may sound like I am being overly critical of the game but I do not mean to be. I was looking forward to Fable III. I am a huge fan of the second game and the Fable series has become one of my go to collections. Most likely because I had such high hopes the faults were harder to overlook. This game really feels like a step backwards for the series. As I mentioned before there are many things to like. The graphics are just as impressive as Fable II and the minor upgrades are great. The voice work is still amazing and the soundtrack strikes a perfect balance between the lighthearted elements of the game and the more dark moments. Your character now has spoken dialogue, and as a detractor from the silent protagonist camp this came as an improvement. The combat is as intuitive and addictive as ever but is only hampered by the awkward road to rule system. I like menus and I like being able to access information quickly in a game and after the ten to thirteen hour main quest I just didn’t want to return to the sanctuary. On one hand we must celebrate the developer for taking chances at innovation but the results are not quite what we would have hoped for. Fable III is a worthwhile game but its flashes of brilliance are lost along the way.

Reviewed by jamespugh5 – December 1, 2010

The inviting fable style is in full effect and there are some pretty beautiful looking set pieces. While the updates may be minor the game still looks great.
Amazing voice acting along with a varied and high quality soundtrack help draw you into the world.
Fable III is not as good as its immediate predecessor but the game is great overall. Suspect design choices aside Fable is still a fun game.
Final Score



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