28th October 2010 - Ah, the beloved Fable. The gaming universe of chicken kicking’s, innocent slaying, do-gooding and more has returned, with the biggest and boldest instalment in the franchise yet. We all know the stories and the turnouts of Lionhead exec Peter Molyneux’s high-held promises of the series, so the question on every ones lips is one of curiosity and worry; is Fable III all that its hyped up to be, or another crushing blow to our hopes and dreams?
Set a decent half-century after the events of the last Fable adventure, Fable III tells the story - or, Fable - of the Last Hero of Albion’s (that’s the second game’s protagonist by the way) children. The older of which, going by the name Logan, has now taken to ruling the land with an iron fist, complete with brass knuckles, leather gloves and a learned right-jab. You play the younger of the two, who after escaping Logans evil tyrannical dictations, goes on to start and lead a revolution against the king. And in true Fable style, how and when you go about this task are completely up to you. Playing through the story of this game is much more invigorating that the previous effort, as it actually has a gripping story that spans the land, rather than a personal vendetta of sorts.
One thing that should be made clear right up is that this is a Fable game, there is no doubt about it. It doesn’t try to be something its not, it doesn’t try to be something someone else is. Its its own monster, and should be looked upon as such. It comes in the territory of being a game anyone can pick up and play; its easy, simple and very enjoyable. The varied gameplay of combat and all the ‘Fable stuff’ that comes under its own banner is mercilessly fun to play, resulting in hours spent doing anything and everything you can. One of the major differences in this game compared to what we’re used to is the new simplicity and style of the game’s menu and levelling systems.
To be blunt, Fable III has no menus to be seen, besides the required options menu for changing screen settings and such. Press pause and you are instantly transported to the ‘Sanctuary’, a place of -what else?- sanctum. Here you are free to roam around and change clothes, hair styles, customise your colours, gaze upon all sorts of trophies from your adventures and view achievements. All of this is delivered in great style given the lack of menu’s, and is one of the games more innovate features. All of this simplicity and ease however, is most certainly going to turn away gamers looking for a more ‘mature’ challenge of what RPG’s have been accustomed to. This is why, as I said earlier, Fable III should be looked upon as its own game, not to be compared with the rest of the similar titles to which you may play - because simply, Fable is nothing like any of those other games.
The game itself of full of charm. And like most things in the package, we’re expectant of this. Still in the mix of things are the series trademark British humour, which blends well with almost every aspect of the core game experience. The main storyline and quests too, are coated with humour and vigour to soften the rather horrific and dark undertone of the land of Albion.
What say you, Molyneux?
Playing the game, one cannot help but to constantly compare the final package to that which we were expecting. Truth be told, there are a lot of things in this fine game that are not as grand as we were promised. Not as bold, and certainly not as innovative. For example, during the lead up to the games release, we were very often told of how gob-smacked we were going to be from Fable III’s revolutionary ‘Touch’ feature. Once the cake was out of the oven though, we have now seen it is not as moist as we expected. In fact, its dry and stale, and requires us to lead most ‘objectives’ around by the hand for a lot of quests, and where is the promised feature which allows the same button to be used to smack some sense into villagers and our very own offspring? Wherever it is, its certainly not in the copy of Fable I brought from the store. But not all promises were mislead though, with the games new levelling system, the Road to Rule, being a great addition to the Fable recipe. As you progress through the game, you earn ‘Followers’, which act as the games experience points. With these followers, you can unlock chests, of which hold the secrets to becoming the ultimate warrior. Want to open that one that upgrades your weapons? Go ahead! How about that one that allows you to fart on people and threaten villagers? Your choice!
When the first Fable game landed, it was actually praised for its graphical feats. The second was passed over, being nothing more than a completely average looker. This one though, really hasn’t improved much on what we seen with Fable II. The textures all seem recycled, like we’ve seen them all before - because we have, with the last two Fable’s. Same can be said with the character design and animation - its all old news to us modern gamers, and we want something more!
Some good news however, is that while parts of Fable III look like highly-technical child’s play, Lionhead still have what it takes to - and even more so than previously thought - create some of the best environments, towns and wonderful vistas in the gaming industry. These wonderfully varied environments, from the haunted forests and spooky mansions, to the freezing mountains, and every town, canyon and valley in between, have all been lovingly crafted hand-in-hand with some of the most effective use of greatly varied character and enemy designs I have ever seen. Its all part of the great Fable charm, and even though underwhelming with the graphical prowess, the game still looks just the way we want it to.
Its starting to be commonplace to include some Hollywood talent in games these days. But Fable is one series that hasn’t succumbed to this temptation. No, because while other developers are raiding the LA Phonebook for some voice talent, Lionhead have done the most effective thing they possibly could; they’re stayed on their side of the ocean and gone and grabbed the best that Britain has to offer. I am speaking of course, about the great John Cleese, the underappreciated (on our side of the vista anyway) Stephen Fry and even one of England’s finest young comedians Simon Pegg (you know, that fella from Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead?). With those three speakers leading a full cast of useful actors, Fable III has essentially become a beacon of all that is good in video games voice work. The all-British cast of actors and the overworked accents all lend themselves well to complement the humour that is bound, and in yet another fine example of just why the Fable series has one of the most unique and recognisable trademark charm in the industry today.
And what better way to top off the sound quality here than with another common commodity in the Fable series; a beautiful score that sets the moods and the creates atmosphere second to none in this type of game. Its nothing we weren’t expecting in terms of quality, but it does do well to fall behind the rest of the games upheld quality.
There is more here than you would expect in comparison to the previous titles in the series. What I mean, is that while the game comes across as an RPG/Action-Adventure, it is essentially whatever you make of it that defines it. You can run right through the game just like the previous two, and complete it in a very easy 10 hours, which is actually significantly longer than Fable 1 & 2 required. However, if you take your time and stop to breathe in some of that British humour and trademark atmosphere, you can easily spend 20-30, if not many more hours completing quests and just engrossing yourself in all the game has to offer. Couple this with the very high replay value of said quests and the main storyline, and you have a great little package that just begs to be experienced. It’s a game that’s full of choices, full of value and chocker-block with pure enjoyment.
The first Fable game was a great achievement, it was a masterpiece of a game. The second let a lot of fans down with underwhelming… well, everything. And this one was the instalment in the series which was to redeem Lionhead and bring the series back to the top of the range. To some, it has failed. To me however, it couldn’t have done better. Fable III may not be the greatest RPG of current, it may not be the best action game of current, and it may not even be the best anything of this generation. But with what it lacks on what most people define by being a great game, it makes up for it with the pure fun of the experience and the intense joy of playing it. Call me old fashioned, but to me that enjoyment is what matters most. Its highly addictive, has some wonderful features and it simply an all-round great game. To those that disagree with me, stop whinging and change the channel. But to those of who open to a classic adventure experience, dive right into Lionheads latest masterpiece; Fable III.
AAG SCORE: 9/10
+ Classic Fable Charm
+ Undoubtedly enjoyable
+ Great voice work and score
- Let down on a few promises
- Too little for hardcore RPG fans
- Still underwhelming graphics
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott