Product Type: Microsoft Xbox 360 games
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Fable III: Worth a Miss
Fable III (Xbox 360)
Member Name: LauraHannan
Fable III (Xbox 360)
Date: 01/08/12, updated on 01/08/12 (77 review reads)
Advantages: Some levels are excellent
Disadvantages: poorly paced, gameplay is subpar, plot has holes.
The latest instalment in Peter Molyneux's Fable RPG series, how does it hold up?
This unfortunately contains a fair bit of spoilers, since it's impossible to discuss the merits of the story without them, so be warned.
It the industrial era, and you are the sibling of the King of Albion, an oppressive, evil king. After a showdown in which your brother gives you the choice of having your love-interest or a group of protestors executed, you decide you've had enough of this nonsense and escape the castle to begin a revolution, guided by a mysterious prophetess. Along the way you discover that a nightmarish creature known as the Crawler is on its way to destroy the kingdom and everyone in it, and you must find a way to take the throne and stop the monster before it's too late.
The story in this section of the game is very well told, and the Fable world is beautifully crafted in all its self-referential glory. Many of the levels and set pieces that are incredibly tense. The level where you meet the Crawler is a nightmarish and terrifying level full of great imagery, sounds and the perfect atmosphere. It's one of my favourite levels in gaming history, and the level right afterwards where you escape, exhausted into the desert is fantastic too. Unfortunately, this just isn't sustained throughout the game.
Where it goes downhill is when you finally charge the castle and take the throne, about half way through the game. The story completely changes tone, pace and kilter, leading to a jarring case of gaming-whiplash. Instead of the epic showdown you were expecting your brother simply throws up his hands and is all "Fine. You deal with the gribbly monster trying to kill us all" and promptly saunters off. The throne is yours, and you must now rule the kingdom while waiting for the Big Bad Gribble monster to arrive on your doorstep. This brings me to my biggest problem with the story. It hinges around this great moral dilemma, of doing good things at the expense of not being prepared for Mr Gribbly (as you promised everyone who helped you get where you are), or being an oppressive git but being prepared (as your brother was trying to be).
My question is, why is this a dilemma? Why can't the king just explain to his subjects that a giant monster is on its way and he just wants everyone to buckle down and put up with a year of hardship, and he promises he'll rebuild that orphanage once the threat has passed? This option is never presented, for some reason the nobility decide to keep it completely secret.
Worse still, it's possible to side step the dilemma entirely; you are able to put your own personal funds into the war effort, meaning if you anally buy up every house in the land, rent them out and contribute your millions, you can be the Good King of Cake and eat it too. This leaves the moral message of Fable 3 being: if you want to solve all the world's problems, become a real-estate tycoon.
The combat is an over simplified rehash of Fable II and I. One piece of criticism the Fable gameplay designers have just flat out refused to listen to since the very first game is that the magic is grossly overpowered. Well, it's even worse in this game, as now not only will your fireballs of death kill everything with ease, but you can now combine it with your lightning bolts of doom just in case things weren't dying fast enough. This makes combat a pointless grind. Stand in crowd, hold B button until everything is dead, rinse, recycle, repeat.
Once you become king/queen a new game mode opens up where you make judgements on certain issues relating to the management of the kingdom, such as whether to shut down an orphanage to build a factory (where the factory owner is offering to grants profits to the war fund) for example. You can also do minor things like impose prohibition and set taxes. This has an effect on the world around you, for example less drunk people will be wandering around if you ban alcohol, and depending on your decisions your subjects will either boo or cheer you as you walk around (though one wonders why they are confident enough to boo you given that you probably can just have them executed). It's a nice feature but it is introduced a little too jarringly about midway through the game. Some foreshadowing would be nice. In addition it seems to make the second half the game very poorly paced, including an egregious example where the plot suddenly skips forward 200 days without warning.
Both the inventory system and the level up system have been converted from a list-based menu to some sort of weird alternate dimension hotel room inside of the player character's head. So instead of pausing combat and equipping a sword, you pause combat, are transported to the Land of Oz and must go fetch your sword from its stand in the weapon room. Call me old fashioned, but I don't get it. What was wrong with a menu system? This feature pulls you right out of combat and interrupts the flow of the game completely.
Finally, the ability to influence a crowd is completely gone. Now if you want to increase someone's opinion of you, you have to engage in a conversation mini-game. After you have increased it by a certain amount, in order to continue you must complete a randomised fetch quest for the NPC. Because that's the best thing about RPGs isn't it? Fetch quests? I genuinely never bothered with this element of the game. It seemed like tiresome busy work for no real reward. The game also places a large amount of emphasis on being able to hold people's hands and take them places which again, I don't really see the point of.
As a result of all these changes, you are left with a huge and colourful world to explore, but nothing actually fun to do in it. The most fun I had outside of the main quest was the pie-making mini-game. And that is not a compliment.
One thing you can always rely on with the Fable series is a star studded cast. Stephen Fry remains delightfully funny as Reaver (though I preferred the character when he was a pirate) and the likes of Michael Fassbender, John Cleese and Simon Pegg turn in great performances too. No idea how Peter Molyneux keeps managing to assemble such a cast for a video game, but I'm impressed nonetheless.
That said the characters themselves are largely forgettable. Though some characters (such as your mentor Walter) are well developed and interesting, a lot of them are just...meh. Most disappointing is the lack of character development given to your brother, Logan (Fassbender). He is revealed to be struggling with the exact same moral dilemma you face (be evil, get eaten by the Crawler) in the very last scene we see him in, but we don't really get any sense of how its affected him emotionally, whether he was redeemable or not and so on. Lots of opportunities were missed, and it's a shame. I didn't feel there were enough emotionally compelling characters to really carry the story even at it's height.
A lot of the problems surrounding the Fable series involve Peter Molyneux over hyping the game and its features so I always purposefully avoid all the pre-release material. This is my opinion of the game, coming in blind: you can probably give it a miss. If you are a Fable addict like I am, you'll probably buy it anyway, but for casual RPG fans or those who have never played the series, you can probably find a better game.
Summary: Give it a miss.