The original Fable almost never released, but was one of the best selling games on the original Xbox, and stood at the top of the charts at Major Nelson’s blog as one of the most played games until the original Xbox servers were taken offline. Now Fable is in its third iteration, but has the series finally delivered on any of its lofty goals?
What’s It About?
Fable III is set fifty years after the end of Fable II, which was set a few hundred years after the end of Fable I. You are the son or daughter of the hero from Fable II, and your older brother is currently king. You are exposed to the extent of your brother’s tyranny in an opening quest that sets your resolve on revenge. Accordingly, you escape the castle at night with your mentor Sir Walter Beck and personal butler Jasper.
You soon discover that you are a Hero like your father and those legendary people of old. As a Hero, you are visited by Theresa the blind seer and set upon a quest to take the throne from your despotic sibling.
Why Should I Care?
Fable has this fantastic way of leading you along, making you push to do just one more quest before you turn it off, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 am and you have to be at work by 8. Fable III continues that trend with some notable quests, deep characters, and great exploration.
There is one rule that all adventure games should live by and that is to reward the player for exploring. Crammed into every nook and cranny of Fable III’s rather large yet dense, world are worthwhile prizes for exploring. If you wander just off the beaten path you’ll find treasure chests, keys, tattoos, and more.
The developers have taken a new, minimalist approach to the UI, getting rid of menus wherever they could. Instead of your traditional menus when you press Start, you’re teleported to the Sanctuary, where your character must physically travel to rooms to change weapons, put on different outfits, and view statistics. The effect is some aesthetic enhancement at the expense of convenience, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it.
The combat hasn’t changed much from Fable II. It’s still one-button combat, but with the addition of a glut of flourishes, it manages to stay fresh. Everything has been tweaked only slightly to make it a little more streamlined.
Earning money is always a huge draw in RPGs, and Fable II really lacked any money sinks. So while it was fun to get to a couple million dollars, the novelty grew old after you realized you had nothing to spend it on. In Fable III, there are a few notable money sinks; those being investing in more realty, paying upkeep to houses you already own, and keeping the kingdom’s treasury full after you’ve become the monarch.
However, not everything is absolutely perfect. The minimalist UI can feel really inadequate sometimes, and it’s often quite a pain to have to teleport to your “sanctuary”, then walk up to the map just so you can see your available quests. The quests themselves are great, but quest management is really a flop. Buying houses may be fun, but paying upkeep is tiresome and tedious. A “Repair all” option would have both accomplished the minimal feel Lionhead was going for while simultaneously allowing you to spend less time in menus and more time playing.
Another issue is that of frame rate. The game really struggles to keep up sometimes, and for me actually flat out froze a few times. A quick Google search will tell you that my case is not the exception here. Luckily the game auto-saves so it’s hard to lose much progress.
Finally, a Fable III review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Co-Op. This time around co-op is actually a joyous, not joy-less, experience. Your friend can drop into your game with his character, and you two can embark on quests and even romance together. Players connected to Xbox Live will see their stats compared to their friends’, which is a physically small yet psychologically huge feature that keeps you playing in an effort to 1-up your buddies.
In summation, the reasons to care about Fable III are numerous: a compelling story, diverse characters, a breadth of things to do, new and unique controls, and genuinely satisfying cooperation.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
The second Fable was a good game, but felt incomplete. Fable III feels like the game the developers meant to make. Fable III is basically Fable 2.5; there’s nothing really new here. That doesn’t mean Fable III is not worth your money; if you can get over the fact that despite its “Start a Revolution” tag, Fable III doesn’t change many game mechanics from former iterations, then you’ll find that all the things that made Fable II good are still intact.
Additionally, one almost doesn’t need to be reminded of the star power delivering the dialogue in Fable III’s story. With a cast including Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Shaun of the Dead), John Cleese (Life of Brian, Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Prince of Persia), and more you can bet on a story that is alternatively profound and humorous. All this is complemented by yet another fantastic score.
At the most superficial level if you want to compare value by time played, then you won’t be disappointed there either. While the intrepid hero may be able to sprint through the story in eight hours or so, it’s nearly impossible to avoid getting sidetracked chasing hidden treasures. A moderate amount of time spent playing this game is well over twenty hours.
In the end, Fable III is an easy recommendation. With an endearing, dynamic world and pure unadulterated adventuring, it will leave you with fond memories and a sense of accomplishment.