Product Type: Microsoft Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... tow, to wrest control of the kingdom from Logan. Why? Because you're a hero, apparently. How do you know? Because the long-forgotten Guild ... more
Fable III (Xbox 360)
Member Name: hogsflesh
Fable III (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Fun, amusing, nicely designed
Disadvantages: Buggy, not too much new functionality
In Fable 2 your character had to run around the fictional land of Albion having vaguely sword- and magic-related adventures, ultimately defeating a great evil. In Fable 3, you play the son or daughter of the Fable 2 character. Your elder brother, King Logan, has gone mad, and you must spend the first half of the game gathering allies to attempt to overthrow him. The second half of the game is slightly different, as you take your brother's place on the throne (this is widely announced in the promotional material for the game, including the blurb on the packaging and the instruction manual, so is not really a spoiler). You have to prepare your nation for an attack by a larger, nastier enemy, and get to choose whether to be a kind or tyrannical monarch. Up to a point.
Fable is supposedly all about the choices you make and how those have a (gasp!) *real impact* on the game world. This is one of its main selling points. Having played Fable 2, I was highly dubious about this, and so it proves. There is no more moral or emotional complexity in Fable 3 than in any other similar game. In fact, there's probably less than in more tightly scripted games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age. The supposed freedom is limited by the smallness of the world you inhabit, the sameyness of all the people in it, and the lack of variety in the things you can do. As long as you know this going in, you're unlikely to be too disappointed. Fable 3 is a fun RPG/fighting game, not the revolutionary new approach to gaming that it was announced as. Personally, I was more or less happy with it.
(An awful lot of people aren't, though, as a quick glimpse at the developer, Lionhead's, bulletin boards will demonstrate. They feel they were lied to and that Lionhead are only out to make a profit - fancy! - at the expense of the great gameplay the fans were apparently expecting. So if you liked the things about Fable 2 that I thought were a bit clunky, you could end up feeling ripped off by Fable 3.)
As with anything, there are good and bad points. In its favour, it looks lovely. The gently stylised aesthetic of Fable 2 has been maintained, and this for once feels like it would be quite a nice world to inhabit. The music is also very nice, and I can just run around for ages with my dog at my heels wandering through the hills and trees of Albion looking for treasure. Almost everyone you meet can talk, and the voice acting is generally good, although it relies a bit too much on celebrity voices. Zoe Wannamaker and Stephen Fry are back from Fable 2, joined by Bernard Hill, John Cleese, the grimly inevitable Simon Pegg, and the vile Jonathon Ross.
The game has a sense of humour that's actually funny, being pitched somewhere between Monty Python and Terry Pratchett. A lot of the humour is just based around the whimsical snippets of dialogue that drift past as you race through villages. Some of it is based on running gags from the earlier game. And there are some rancid puns (I was delighted that there's a village called Mourningwood). The game is pitched at the 16+ market, so there are racy situations (including a hilarious little tune that plays when you have sex).
Although I wouldn't have thought it would matter if you've not played the earlier one, you will probably enjoy it a bit more if you have. I'd forgotten a lot of Fable 2 - I only realised Stephen Fry's character had been in the earlier game quite late on - but it was nice to get the odd gentle reminder. At least some of the world is the same as in the previous game, although a kind of industrial revolution has taken place.
The controls are simple and fairly intuitive. This is in stark contrast to the earlier game, and is the source of much of the controversy. Over-complicated systems for interacting with villagers, or for using magic in battle, have been ruthlessly stripped back. While this makes the game undeniably easier to pick up, it has probably over-simplified things, certainly in the interactions department. Your default 'nice' action when first meeting a stranger is to have a sexy little dance with them. While amusing enough, this does get tiresome after a while, and you yearn for a more nuanced approach to interaction. Although promiscuous, my character didn't want to fall in love with *everyone*. They obviously had to make a trade-off between making the game easier and making it less complex, and have perhaps gone too far down the 'easier' route.
Any simplification in the controls, whether for good or ill, is rather undone by the new system of not using any menus - the chief game designer, Peter Molyneux, doesn't like them apparently. In games of this type, if you wander into a shop, you'll usually be presented with a list of things you can buy. Not here. You have to go and look at pedestals on which the items sit. This is irritating in the extreme. Also, when levelling up, you have to wander around a tiresome dreamscape opening chests with new skills in them (for instance, you can only learn how to interact with your children if you've opened the correct chest). This is plain silly and far from creating a more 'realistic' experience just slows the game down, and mentally takes you out of it completely.
The main storyline is stronger this time around, although the ending is still an anticlimax (not as much so as in Fable 2, but still, it could be a lot more impressive). But it's set up so you'll probably still have lots of little side-quests left to do once you've bested the big baddie. (Being monarch is just the same as being a regular adventurer, oddly enough, except you have to make a few decisions about taxes and stuff.) I played this for about a week, on and off (sharing my gaming time between it and Rock Band 3) before I'd had enough. It also does away with the incongruous darker elements of the earlier game - there are still some things that technically are nasty, but nothing quite as jarring as a cut scene lasting ten years during which you are enslaved and brainwashed.
Otherwise, you still have a dog; the insulting gargoyles are now insulting gnomes; and you can still bigamously marry lots of people, of both sexes. (Oddly, I couldn't find anywhere selling condoms in this game, so I ended up with a lot more STDs and children than in Fable 2). Really, it feels more like an upgrade than a true sequel - Fable 2.1, if you like. It gives players more of what was popular in Fable 2 while only tweaking the functionality in small ways.
The criticisms that were true of Fable 2 are therefore still true now. One of the main ones is the lack of variety in the fights. Not only are there only about five different types of enemy, they always spawn in exactly the same places, every time. The frame rate is prone to drop randomly, slowing the game down at times. And John Cleese's character seems to exist solely to try to persuade the player to pay for new downloadable stuff - weapons, or hair dye - which I find really annoying.
The game is reputedly riddled with bugs, with players complaining of game-breaking problems which occurred after they'd already put in 30 hours, requiring a restart etc. Happily I didn't find anything serious, although my dog was frustratingly slow to follow me sometimes, and the golden trail that leads you to mission goals kept disappearing. It's pretty disgraceful that Lionhead has released a game that's not finished, and even worse that, at time of writing, they're still saying vaguely that it will take 'a few weeks' to get a patch out. I'd therefore leave it at least six months before buying this (by which time there will doubtless be some decent downloadable content to buy too), as that will hopefully be long enough for them to fix everything.
That's the main criticism, I suppose. By releasing the game before it's ready, they've opened themselves up to accusations from people who expected more of the game. I don't think that it's a cheaply produced rip-off to keep the franchise alive at the expense of long-term player goodwill; but I can understand why some people do. I think to be honest that the things people want from this game won't be possible for at least another couple of generations of game console and probably won't happen even then (the curse of the so-called 'casual gamer'; you make more money by making simpler games with more obvious mass appeal).
If you go in just hoping for a fun, funny, appealing adventure that won't tax you too much but will make you giggle a bit, and which has enough novelty to keep you coming back until you're done, then you should like Fable 3 just fine. When it's fixed.
Summary: A fun game with flaws