As gamers, it’s easy to sometimes forget that certain words have other meanings. Take the word ‘port’ for instance. It can mean the left side of a ship, the places where boats moor or a kind of alcohol that fits best with older people. When we gamers hear the term ‘port’ it’s usually followed by a cringe and bad memories of inferior game adaptations akin to the feelings of watching the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Well aware of this rather negative preconceived notion in regards to ports in the gaming world, Lionhead Studios has already pre-emptively assured PC gamers that the PC version of Fable III isn’t a port; rather, stating it’s the best version of the game (check out the dev diary video here
). They qualified this boast with claims of a redesigned control system, hardcore difficulty mode, a graphics overhaul and some additional content.
So instead of rehashing what Chad has comprehensively covered in his Xbox 360 Fable III review
, I’m going to focus on Lionhead’s PC-centric claims and the differences between the two versions. Suffice it to say, you can safely assume that all of the tonal praise, such as fantastic voice acting and solid comedy, and gameplay elements (whether they work or not) are present in the PC version of Fable III.
Lionhead hasn’t told porky pies when they said that Fable III has had a visual upgrade. While things aren’t exactly of Skyrim quality, and the character models (particularly their faces) aren’t really anything to write home about, the world itself is better looking and the stylised cartoony charm really shines through here. Some bland texture gripes aside, it’s when you step outside that the game world comes to life. The trees are hypnotic as they sway in the breeze and water looks fantastic both during the day and at night.
Best of all, this prettiness doesn’t come at the expense of loading times. One of the biggest gripes with the last two iterations of Fable on the Xbox 360 is how long the loading times were and how easily this could destroy immersion. Loading times are fast on the PC, particularly when compared to the Xbox 360 version, which makes it a whole lot easier to get into the flow of the game; even though this was my second time playing the game. Couple this with the pretty environment, and I felt a whole lot more compelled to explore the world of Albion than I did on the console.
There are, however, some graphical oddities that crop up from time to time. Distant backdrops such as the initial look at the industrialised Albion are still bland, the mystical disappearing-and-reappearing dirt during the digging animation is the worst seen in a game, while clipping problems are rife. This latter problem is unfortunate when it clashes with how well the game engine otherwise handles physics across the board. Whether you’re interacting with the citizens of Albion in social niceties or felling hordes of foes in slow-motion cinematic glory, the physics are handled in such a way that they add to the immersion and make combat look infinitely more badass.
The Xbox 360 interactive ‘Start’ menu has been replaced by a PC interactive ‘Escape’ menu that is initially jarring, but even more responsive than its console counterpart, making it more impressive in its simple revolution. The addition of a save room, complete with mannequins that sport the outfit you are wearing when you save, is a nice touch that I don’t recall being in the 360 version.
While the ‘redesigned’ controls for the PC version certainly get the job done, Fable III still feels like a game that is best enjoyed on a gamepad/controller. If anything, the keyboard/mouse controls make the game even simpler because of how easy it is to position your fingers on the numerical keys for the money-earning mini-games, as opposed to the speed and accuracy required of your thumb on a gamepad/controller.
Speaking of the difficulty, the so-called ‘hardcore’ difficulty really isn’t hardcore at all. Sure, you might have to use potions to regain health that doesn’t regenerate, but if your invisible health meter (seriously, why does this game not have one?) is depleted, the only penalty is losing your progress towards your next Guild Seal (which is ridiculously easy to earn back). Couple that with a dodge that seems to avoid every attack and the ability to perpetually block without needing to direct it towards your attacker, and there wasn’t really a noticeable jump in difficulty between normal and hardcore.
Fable III is at its best on PC, but the gameplay faults that Chad mentioned in the Xbox 360 review
are still very much at play here. Despite some welcome attention to detail in this port, it’s still not enough to raise it to the heights of ‘must play’ for an action RPG whose charm, humour and some genuinely interesting ideas aren’t strong enough to battle against how unchallenging it is and how repetitive a lot of tasks can become.