Fable III Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Microsoft – Developer – Lionhead Studios – Genre – RPG – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
Fable has always been a game that has given you control of a world, allowing you to choose as to how you treat its denizens but Fable III goes one step further and allows you to become the monarch of Albion.
Fable III takes place fifty years after the conclusion of the second iteration of the series. In that ensuing time, the once idyllic land of Albion has moved into the smog and hardship of the industrial age. If this gives you the idea that it’s a darker game, you’d be right, though its trademark British humour is still very much intact, I’m glad to say.
The unnamed hero’s brother, King Logan, rules Albion with an iron fist and after he forces you to make a nasty choice early on in the game, the hero and his or her closet companions decide a revolution is in order. It’s a reasonable enough story, but, like any previous Fable, it fails to match up with the best RPG narratives. The highlights are undoubtedly the moral choices that are thrust up on you as well as the sense of humour.
One side quest makes a joke of clichéd game design, and another has you luring chickens to their pen whilst dressed as a chicken yourself. The latter are just a few examples of the sense of humour livening up otherwise ordinary quest design, and to spoil any more would be an evil deed that would perhaps affect my moral standing.
The section you become king or queen of Albion tasks you with, on top of the adventuring, solving the difficult problems that Monarch’s face from day to day, not least of which is preparing for an attack on Albion. The choices that you must make often have a bearing on the outcome of the coming battle – you must decide if you want to spend your gold on keeping your people happy or to save it for the defences of your land.
As always, you’re able to interact with the people of Albion by using gestures. These range from the rude – belching, scaring people and such – to the kind that includes a heroic pose. Disgusting or nice, all the gestures are animated with charm and a lovable sense of fun. Improving your standing with an individual will initiate a relationship quest, of which are boring and challenge free fetch quests that, if you want to marry someone, you will have no choice to do.
Since Fable II, Lionhead’s aim for Fable was for anyone to be able to play and not feel intimidated by complex mechanics and such, and Fable III further simplifies over its predecessor. Menus are out and the progression of your character is no longer marked by a level. Some will welcome these changes whilst others will scoff at just how simple everything is.
The gold trail system that leads you to your objectives, your dog that barks whenever in close vicinity of treasure and the lack of true death are recurring elements from Fable II that once again will divide opinion, with some feeling that Lionhead are gripping their hands too tightly, whilst others will feel welcomed rather than intimidated by its lovely, gentle nature.
Equipping weapons, changing your clothes and such is no longer done through menus but is carried out by pressing the start button to warp to the Sanctuary, a multi roomed area that houses all of your equipment. To equip weapons and clothing you simply walk up to them and choose the equip option and that’s that. Those that find menus a little fussy will be delighted at this completely painless process.
The sanctuary also contains a helpful map system that allows you to fast travel to any previously visited area, view quests and buy and rent a building, or sell one you already own.
The combat system has somehow been made even simpler than Fable II and could probably be picked up by a monkey. All three methods of attack: melee, magic and ranged are all mapped to an individual button, holding any one of these buttons will produce a more powerful version of the respective attack. Blocking is achieved by holding down the X button without moving, whilst Items are accessed via the D-pad. You can also equip two spells at a time, of which combines their effects in combat, conjuring up a more damaging magical attack.
The game’s equivalent of XP, Guild Seals, are amassed not only in combat, but also by completing quests and improving your relationship with the townsfolk. Gaining so much doesn’t level you up in the traditional sense; instead you must visit the road to rule, a path filled with treasure chests. Opening a chest costs so many guild seals and will grant you a bonus to your abilities, increasing your melee strength or giving you some friendly gestures (to improve your relationship with people) for instance.
Weapons will also grow more powerful by completing certain tasks, amongst them are killing so many enemies with flourishes, or defeating so many of a particular type of enemy. Achieving the tasks will grant you bonuses to the weapons whenever you use them, such as earning lovely, shiny gold or losing weight with every attack you connect with. It offers a degree of personalization to your rewards.
It’s not Lionhead at their most inventive, but Fable III is a great game with a well realised world. Much like Fable II though, this third iteration brings changes to the game of which will be divisive to those that played the previous entry in the series. With that said, it seems as if the Fable series is never going to be a series to please everyone, but whoever said that everyone needs pleasing all the time?