Fable is supposed to be the streamlined RPG. Simplified presentation and accessible controls with a classic story in easily navigated but deeply intricate world.
In it’s simplest form, yes, this is what Fable is about.
You are a destined hero, carving out your course in Peter Molyneux’s imagination as Albion’s (next) last savior. Only, your father (or mother) did it in Fable II and the Hero of Bowerstone did it in the original Fable. Ah but video games are always filled with heroes of time, much like a hero named Link will rise to defeat the evil sorcerer Gannon to save Princess Zelda.
Or am I crossing my source material?
Fable III, simply, is satisfyingly disappointing. It’s clumsily simple. It is innovatively mediocre. Where Fable II felt like a refinement of the original Fable’s formula of one button combat and moral choice interactions, Fable III simplifies that approach to a point of a choose your own adventure, except without the inevitable gruesome death.
The presentation Fable III is as sharp as ever with crisp sound design, richly detailed graphics in that signature Fable cartoon style. The script is well written and allows itself to be both engaging and witty, especially given the plethora of seasoned British actors cast in major roles including Ben Kingsley (Ghandi), Bernard King (The Lord of the Rings), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), and John Cleese (Monty Python). Also reprising their roles as Reaver and Theresa are Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker. Suffice to say, there is talent behind this tale.
The story starts off well enough. Rather than the tired rags to riches approach, you are the younger child of the hero of Fable II and your older brother is the tyrant who rules over Albion, oppressing the people and forcing you to escape from the castle and lead a rebellion against him. Early on, you are given the choice to choose between the life of a lover and the lives of protesting citizens, supposedly setting the tone for heavy choices to be made. However, this tone is gradually dispelled as the only real choices you have are being nice to gain favors or being evil to frighten people and…gain…favors.
As the first act of Fable III progresses you fight your way across the lands of Albion gradually gaining supporters for your cause and eventually making your way back to Bowerstone. The allies are decent characters, if not cookie cutter (with the exception of Ben Finn who has a decently entertaining back story told through discovered notes). Eventually you fulfill part of your destiny and seize the crown from your brother, only to realize that there is an evil far worse than the oppressive nature of your elder sibling (of course).
From here, Fable focuses on moral choices of oppressing the people to gain funds for the kingdom defense or assisting the kingdom at the expense of the royal treasury. While the game states that it will give you a year to amass funds for a war, sadly, it is only about five days.
The economy system introduced is back again allowing the hero to set rent and prices at shops that they purchase to line their pockets (or donate to the treasury), as is the iconic moral choice system to interact with townsfolk in good or evil (or neutral) ways. However, gone are the expression choices from Fable II as they are replaced with one button simplicity that chooses the action for you. Odds are, you’ll be dancing with a lot of people. Or burping in their face.
In an effort to streamline the system, Fable III opts to use an interactive Sanctuary as its pause screen where the player can walk around to view the map, outfits, weapons and achievements. While neat in principle, the system is cumbersome and a simple task of accessing the world map is a lengthy process.
This isn’t to say that Fable III is a bad game, it just does not feel as clean as Fable II did in comparison. Yes, there are a lot of items to be found and online interactions are the only way to unlock the entire arsenal. Yes, the graphics have improved significantly with nice outfits and no more hideous man-ladies that want to punish men to death by snoo-snoo. But for every small improvement that Fable III has made, the efforts to simplify an already simple scheme have resulted in making the game cumbersome and tricky to navigate. The golden quest trail is sketchy at best and many of the quests in the latter half of the game are disappointing and lack originality.
Fable III is a game we’ve all played before, and unfortunately, it has been executed better. While managing a kingdom is a nice touch to the moral choice focus, it is over far sooner than it should be. Ruling a kingdom should weigh heavier than it does as Fable III does not even hold a candle to the emotional weight of Fable II. Appreciate the game for what it is: a good action RPG that has a capable story and a nice world to explore. Too bad Peter Molyneux always promises so much more than that.
7/10 – It is fun while it lasts, but this is far from the pinnacle of this franchise.