The kingdom of Albion has taken a shift in evolutionary growth. An Industrial Revolution has reared its steam-powered head and has drastically altered the citizens of Ablion’s lives. Perhaps amalgamating this in-game cultural shift with their game production, Lionhead have also (d)evolved some of the basic elements of Fable’s gameplay. Altering some core RPG gameplay elements will appease some but will cause revolt amongst others. Similarly, the inhabitants of Albion are preparing for an uprising. There is growing dislike for Albion’s current leader, your brother, and it’s up to you to decide what to do about it.
Most of the gameplay mechanics that make a Fable game a Fable game
remain in this latest iteration. Your desires to be in a polygamous relationship or your curiosities about group sex can still be satiated - sex, relationships, threesomes (and moresomes) are all intact, although with the overly simplified take this game applies, you’re left asking for more. Social interaction between the player and the inhabitants of the world has been reduced to a mind-numbingly simple system. No longer do NPCs react accordingly to their personal traits, any nice gesture will do; no need to pay attention, just hold down the positive action button and let go when it’s full. It quickly becomes monotonous and boring with no thought needed. The same applies to marriage. Perform nice actions repeatedly, perform a relationship quest, perform some more nice actions, give wedding ring, move into a house and consummate your marriage. Job done.
Relationship quests also quickly become a monotonous chore, with such variations as “deliver this package” or “find this lost item” offering the bulk of your tasks - if you were you expecting some more variations, so was I. The worst part about these quests is that finding a lost item requires you to uncover it at a dig spot. It doesn’t sound all that bad but instead of creating a new dig spot for each quest there are only a few dig spots per area. And all quests pertain to one of these two or three spots. Boring.
Thankfully the quests improve once you overthrow your tyrant brother to become ruler of Albion. Aside from a series of more varied quests involving a little bit of dungeon crawling - among other things - your royal decisions affect the game world. Having an instant correlation between your decision making and the in-game world is a mighty pleasurable experience. This is where Fable III hits the ground running. Charged with ruling a city and performing day-to-day decisions all whilst managing your royal bank account, will all affect the game’s final outcome, and, whether you’re an evil bastard like your brother or Albion’s true Hero.
Now games in my mind should be at least mildly challenging. That’s not on offer here. The game is simply too easy. Too easy to beat enemies. Too easy to make money early on. And too easy to finish. It was easier to become a millionaire than it was to exploit the children of Albion’s lower class for labour (which by the way, if you are so inclined, you may do); all so much so that it dulls the gaming experience. I died only two times in 20 plus hours of game time and I completed almost all of the side quests. Even novice players will glide through this adventure.
Combat is basic, eventually becoming a spell charging exercise. You can beat almost any adversary by simply charging combined magic gauntlets and a promptly timed dodge here or there. Enemy tactics are lacking in variety to encourage your own use of different battle techniques and tactics. I’m unsure whether this is due to the dumbing down of gameplay or an oversight, but you can see where Lionhead have attempted to achieve something
Fable III’s visuals are sporadic at best. Ranging from brilliant bloom lighting as the sun rises and sets, to areas filled with dull, boring textures. Some of the underground cave/dungeon areas are standouts along with areas of the city of Albion. A distinct visual and character style reminiscent of Fable II is evident as are some tasty lighting effects.
Welcome to Albion. Would like some bugs with your pie? It’s not as bad as New Vegas but theres plenty of bugs floating around in Fable III. Whilst not destroying the gameplay experience, they are quite annoying. The glowing trail directing you to your currently selected quest gets caught behind the player often and disappears for periods resulting in you running back and forth as the trail struggles to keep up, only to fix itself randomly if you stop running.
On occasion characters talk over each other in key moments resulting in a mish-mash of voices, which is a shame considering they have such great voice-acting and scripting in place to flesh out the world and personality of Albion.
The visuals seem to have come at a cost also. Along with several other buggy moments throughout the game the frame-rate has a habit of occasionally dropping to an unacceptably terrible level. Slower than anything I’ve seen on a console for a long time.
If you can be bothered, once you’ve completed the main storyline you can expectedly continue exploring, collecting Owls, keys and plants. But to be honest, having finished the majority of quests, continuing on feels more like a chore than an engrossing or continued, entertaining gaming experience.
With all the negativity though, there are aspects of the game that have been carried out quite well. Customisation of your character is pretty in-depth. Once you get a hold of different coloured dyes you can change almost every aspect. Several different colours can be applied to clothing at once and each item separately. Your hair, tattoos, make-up and more can all be altered along with facial hair. So even though you are
a royal feel free to run around in your underwear with glowing tattoos and terrible makeup (Chad actually did – Ed.).
Thankfully the slightly askew humour evident in past Fables has been continued and this time it’s with the help of some great voice actors such as John Cleese. Dropping in moments of potty humour and smart-aresery sheds an awe of ease on what is an otherwise gravely dim situation. Ever wanted to join a ghost party?
Maybe I’m being too critical of the game, but being the third in the series, the problems I experienced really should have been sorted out, not exacerbated. Fable III lacks the necessary polish to be the A-List title it’s supposed to be. If the story was engaging enough, the gameplay well balanced and challenging, then Lionhead could be forgiven for other oversights, but alas, they just aren’t. With so many other great games out there, unless you’re a Fable fanatic, or you’ve exhausted all the other great games available at the moment, then this might be for you, otherwise it’s a rental at best.