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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he original “Fable” was an enjoyable fantasy RPG that toyed with the concept of good vs. evil. “Fable II” evolved that idea into a much more sophisticated system that allowed players to explore the moral grey area in between. In “Fable III,” however, the ethical choices that you make don't just affect your in-game character, but the player as well. Whether you're a hero or a villain seems to be a moot point at this stage in the series, because most people already know what path they're going to take before they even begin. That hasn't stopped Peter Molyneux from trying to persuade you otherwise, and although it isn’t quite a game changer like its predecessor, “Fable III” is still a completely immersive experience that will have most people racked with guilt long after it’s over.
It’s been 50 years since your Hero from “Fable II” saved Albion from its demented ruler, uniting the land and forging a kingdom as its new sovereign. In the years that followed, the country has flourished under your reign, with its people enjoying peace, prosperity, and the rise of industry. But when the keys to the kingdom are passed on to your eldest child, Logan, the country once again falls victim to an unforgiving tyrant. Talk of a revolution has begun to spread among the people of Albion, but in order to overthrow Logan, they’ll need to rally behind a new Hero to take over the throne. That person is you, the youngest child of Albion’s last Hero, and the only one capable of winning the support of the people. But even if you do take the crown from your autocratic brother, you’ll find that ruling a kingdom isn’t as easy as it looks.
Before you storm the castle and become king, however, you’ll have to convince the people of Albion that you’re serious about change. Each group of followers requires that you make a promise to right the wrongs brought upon them by your brother, and in order to gain their trust, you must first collect a certain number of Guild Seals, which you’ll earn from completing quests, defeating enemies in combat, and interacting with followers. Those Guild Seals can then be used to open chests (containing combat and job skills, expressions and more) on The Road to Rule, an otherworldly area that measures your progress in the game. You’ll be automatically transported to The Road to Rule every time you win over a new group of followers, but you can also manually travel there by pressing up on the D-pad whenever you have new Guild Seals to spend.
And when you're not roaming around Albion or upgrading your character's abilities on The Road to Rule, you'll be spending a majority of your time in The Sanctuary, which acts as the Prince’s secret headquarters, complete with your own personal butler. The Sanctuary is like a one-stop shop, with a 3D world map for managing quests, keeping tabs on families and properties, and fast traveling to cities; an Armory that organizes your weapons and magic gauntlets; a Dressing Room that contains all of the clothes, hairstyles and tattoos that you’ve acquired along your travels (and three custom mannequins to save outfits for future use); a Treasure Room that boasts your various trophies and achievements, as well as an ever-growing pile of treasure to represent your finances; and the LIVE Room, where you can search for friends to play with online.
Co-op has also been vastly improved since "Fable II." Players now bring their own character, items and gold with them into their friend’s game, and anything earned while out adventuring together is split down the middle, except for items found in treasure chests and dig spots, in which case both players receive it. Additionally, you can now marry another player, raise a family with them, or even start a business. The only thing you can’t do is kill them, although you can see where that might become a problem.
Combat, meanwhile, has remained relatively the same with the exception of a few minor tweaks. You still only use one button for each style of attack, but it’s now a lot easier to string together different styles, resulting in more fluid gameplay. Melee and ranged weapons also evolve based on how you fight with them, earning improved attributes and changing in appearance, while magic gauntlets can be combined to create an attack called spell weaving that combines the effects of two spells into one.
Unfortunately, “Fable III” isn’t without its faults. The graphics are a little rough around the edges, characters’ mouths often don’t synch with the dialogue, and there are some serious frame rate issues that caused several choppy moments throughout my game. There’s even a problem with the camera zooming in on enemies during combat that leaves you open to attack because you can’t see what’s going on around you. The final act of the game – where you take the throne and must pass judgment on a series of issues, along with worrying about the kingdom’s treasury – also isn’t as strong as it could be. While many of the choices you have to make aren’t easy, it’s hard not to feel like a lot of them are lose-lose situations. That’s obviously the point that Molyneux is trying to make – that ethics come at a price – but it's one that isn't very easy to swallow.
Still, even with some of these setbacks, “Fable III” is everything that fans of the series have come to expect. The introduction of hand holding isn’t quite as revolutionary as marriage, sex, kids, or even your faithful dog, but it’s a smart addition that takes the level of immersion another step forward. The trademark humor is also still very much intact – from the opening cinematic, to the dialogue and items like a wearable chicken suit – and it’s one of the only games around that actually rewards you for allowing the NPCs to ramble on. Add to that a top-notch voice cast that includes John Cleese, Simon Pegg, Ben Kingsley, and Michael Fassbender, and you have yet another well-rounded adventure in Albion that does something most games can't – it gives you a conscience.