The artistic world of Albion in Fable III is unmatched, a fusion of uncanny landscapes with chirpy forests and a jubilant soundtrack. This is a title that invites you into its world like a Disney movie, introducing you to a number of memorable characters that help expand your adventure through the mystical world. Yet, while Fable III does a wonderful job of attracting you to its alluring world, its sheer lack of complexity and overly simplistic gameplay mechanics make it a dumbed down process. Its predictability stemmed from its lack of moral dilemmas and generic combat, can make the entire experience feel hollow, even further entrenched by the absence of any emotional attachment to the characters. However, much in the same way as its predecessors, Fable III offers seducing aesthetics, making its magical world, at times, a pleasure to experience.
Our hero that saved Albion from evil forces in Fable III has gone on to have two children, one of which is made of pure evil. Once his time comes to take control of the kingdom, it’s your job as the younger sibling to build up an army capable of overthrowing your dastardly brother. You’ll be able to choose between either a prince or princess, and while the narrative in Fable III is executed more aggressively than in previous iterations, you’re essentially forced down the path of the good citizen, perhaps to balance out the actions made by your evil sibling. The quest structure dictates the actions of a hero as opposed to an evil do-gooder, as many of your tasks force you to do good things. That puts a serious restriction on one of the better gameplay elements in the Fable franchise, as for the first time in the series, the game essentially pushes you into a particular corner. If you had the intention of being a bit of meany, it’s a bit more of a challenge this time round, which is a bit of a disappointment.
There is a definitive lack of choice throughout Fable III, which can make the experience feel a little restrictive. Once you reach the throne and gain control of the land, you can turn your back on the people you once convinced to side with you, but everything leading up to that essentially has one direction. There is an undeniable execution of reality within the narrative, making it essentially impossible to become the leader unless you’re the good person the game really wants you to be. Furthermore, the balance between your good and evil actions is only ever dictated by what you do within the confounds of the quests. No matter how evil you are, once you get back onto the main quests, people treat you like as if you hadn’t just committed the most atrocious of crimes. There’s also limited consequence for your actions. Saving some chickens early on in the game, for example, opens up a chicken racing game. However, if you choose to kill them, the race is opened up anyway, so what’s the point of offering a choice?
The emotional “dumbing down” doesn’t end there. Interaction with characters has gone from being overly simplistic in Fable II to being limited and tedious in Fable III. While you can still make friends or create enemies based on how you respond to a person, the ways in which you can actually respond have been brought down quite considerably. You’re restricted to either a whistle or a game of patty-cake, which does little in helping build an emotional connection between you as the gamer and the characters on screen. There’s limitation in the way of learning new gestures, which takes a lot of fun out of the interaction. Furthermore, the lack of deep, emotional interactions makes caring for anyone you meet extremely difficult. Your dog, for example, is an invincible hound that guards you in battle, meaning those heartwarming moments Fable II when you healed or played with him are gone.
The combat in Fable III is just as it was in Fable II, but with a number of problems. Your three offensive abilities are mapped to three different face buttons. In the past, orbs would be dropped from a dead enemy depending on which ability you used. These orbs could be used to upgrade an ability, making up an upgrading system that was simple and seamless within the experience. However, for whatever reason, the upgrading system has been completely scrapped in Fable III, making it easy to forget about one or two abilities. Furthermore, your magic attack is severely overpowered, meaning you can take out a hoard of aggressive enemies with a simple push of a button. There’s also the issue of having to change skills mid-battle, with a slight delay leaving you open and vulnerable to enemy attack. This makes it essentially pointless to use any skill other than magic, especially if changing to a less-powerful ability leaves you momentarily weaker.
Thankfully, a new upgrading system has been implemented to replace the previous in-battle upgrade system. Every time you complete a quest, kill an enemy or complete any other task, you gain guild points, currency you can use to buy new powers. Each attack can be upgraded up to level five, and you can also buy new gestures and magic. There’s a wonderful attribute system that rewards you for completing certain objectives with particular weapons. For example, killing 300 enemies will reward you with money with every new kill. There are a number of these attribute-earning objectives, each of which are laid out for you to read and strive for.
Of the changes to Fable III, the improved pause menu is definitely one of the best. Instead of a traditional pause screen coming up, you’re sent to your character’s sanctuary, a place that acts as a safe house to save your game and do a number of other tasks. You can change your clothes and weapons; build up your wealth in the treasure vault, or head into a co-op experience with friends. A map in the center of the room can also transfer you to anywhere on the map, with small load times making jumping from one location to another an ease. This sanctuary is a great new addition, as it gives you an opportunity to relax, change your load-out or the appearance of your character, and even check out your trophies and leaderboard scores.
While Fable III might lack emotional drive, it’s a visually stunning game. The visuals from Fable II have been upgraded quite significantly, inviting you into a gorgeous world with its own unique look and feel. Each area has its own look and differentiating elements, making travel around the world that little bit more enticing. Taking a walk around Albion is quite the pleasure, as the world in Fable III is one to marvel at. While the human characters might be anything but memorable, the world is one of the game’s most memorable and lovable characters.
However, the technical structure lets the presentation down quite considerably. Your dog is supposed to point you in the right direction, but he does a terrible job of leading. He often gets stuck in the environment or just stands and barks at you without directing you. Humans work in a similar way, getting stuck by obstacles within the environment. Slowdown and texture pop in can also ruin the experience, with the framerate dipping occasional, mostly during the mini-games. Fable III is a gorgeous game with an evil heart, a game that fools you with its beauty, despite its at-times terrible technical detail.
Despite all of Fable III’s issues, it can still be a very fun game. It’s absolutely hilarious at times, and while the British humour might fall flat and seem a little dry for Americans, this is a game with a wonderful and lively sense of humour most of the time. The comedy does a wonderful job of keeping you interested in a way the character development can’t. You can still purchase businesses and properties, and while the game only rewards you with cash when you’re playing (your bank accounts continued to flow in Fable II even when you weren’t playing), you can still build a large fortune in Fable III. The map in your sanctuary also makes managing and repairing property less tedious. Making money in Fable III might be a little more of a challenge than in previous games in the series, but it adds a bit of a challenge and a better overall sense of achievement, which is great.
Fable III is going to take you around 20 hours to complete if you include all of the side quests, and the world is inviting enough and the story interesting enough to play all the way through. Despite its problems, Fable III is still a fun game to play, but it’s still a bit off being the superb experience we all know it can be. The co-op experience mixes things up slightly from the single-player one, but not dramatically, although you have to be careful so as to team up with someone that isn’t going to ruin your bank account.