Fable III plays much like its predecessor. You have an overworld map sprinkled with important locations which you can fast travel to once discovered. The game isn’t overly big so don’t expect Grand Theft Fable. But the locations are varied enough to give the impression of a living, breathing world. You have your cities, your forests, the usual assortment of caves filled with treasures and monsters aplenty that nobody seems to have bothered to clean out before you came along. Its a wonder people in RPGs ever get anything done, what with the amount of beasties cluttering the countryside.
Speaking of combat, fighting in Fable III revolves around 3 types of weaponry. You have your melee combat, swords, axes, spears and whatnot. (The whatnot is particularly effective.) As previously mentioned, the Fable universe recently discovered the joys of blowing people away, so for ranged combat you can either wield a pistol or rifle, the former providing rapid firepower but low damage and the later doing harder hitting damage but sacrificing rate of fire. Then there’s magic, which gets the short end of the stick this time around. With guns already providing you with ample long range combat effectiveness (you can actually play the entire game using guns only, save for a few sections where it’s strategically better to use melee) there’s simply very little reason to use your magical abilities. Spells are nowhere near as devastating as well placed bullets and taking the time to charge up your spell for truly massive hits is just an invitation for a monster to take a bite out of your leg while you’re busy chanting.
Combat is only one half of the Fable equation. A large portion of your time will be spent kissing babies. And I mean that in the utmost seriousness. Raising an army to overthrown your despotic sibling means shaking hands and knocking on doors. Every single NPC in Fable III can be interacted with in a variety of ways. Major questlines will yield you most of your major allies in the war against your brother but to win over the people, you need to dance with villagers and flirt with comely maidens. (And some not so comely ones , beggars can’t be choosers and you’ve got a war to win.)
Fable III’s social aspect resembles The Sims in many ways. Your toon will pose, dance, boast and perform various pantomimes to win over potential allies. The rewards for doing come in the form of experience points… or a wife and child if you’re particularly unlucky. Yes, Fable III allows the possibility for romance to blossom. If you and you virtual bride decide to do the deed without protection, well there’s a good chance the stork might drop a bundle of joy on your doorstep. And yes, the game actually makes you click a little slider bar to decide whether or not you want to use protection. Practice safe virtual sex, kids, mmmkay?
Once you have a family , you need a place to stay. (Otherwise, prepare yourself for some major wife agro.) Which brings to Fable III’s economy, which is as broken as in previous games. Remember how in the very first game you could visit the local shopkeeper then buy low and sell high until your purse overflowed and you could literally buy any piece of gear in the game without too much effort? Well, Fable III takes this a step further by turning you into a real estate mogul. You’re the Donald Trump of Albion only without the dead Tribble on your head and your political aspirations stop at King.
Yes, you can buy 90% of the homes in Albion. After you choose the swankiest one to move the family in, you can charge rent on your remaining real estate and make a fortune. Money is automatically deposited in your purse every 10 minutes or so, meaning you can turn the game on then…I don’t know…go have a social life or something equally fruitless…and return to find yourself several thousand gold pieces richer. Yep, Fable III rewards you for doing absolutely nothing.
My kinda game.
This economic problem wouldn’t be so frustrating if it didn’t rob the endgame of its gravitas. You see, unlike most games Fable III doesn’t end once you defeat the big bad, instead you now find yourself sitting on your brother’s throne (oooh, still warm) and must now either fulfill or break all of your campaign promises. The game wants to make these choices difficult. Do you rebuild that orphanage you promised one ally or build a factory on top of it? Unfortunately, all of the decisions you’re presented with come down to how much money you were able to save during the course of your play through. Moral choices tend to vanish when you can throw money at all your problems. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, unless you’re a gazilionnaire.
Fable III is not a graphical marvel. The engine powering the game is workmanlike, at best. Providing decent textures and environment variety while never truly melting your eyes. The upside of this is superb game stability, no crashes or game ending bugs to report. Even with a ton of carnage occurring on screen, Fable III runs smoothly with no stuttering. Character design is charming, NPCs dress in Renaissance clothing and wear bouffant hairdos, like something out of a fairy tale, which is appropriate for a game titled Fable. NPC variety is minimal, faces and body types repeat ad nauseum, which can lead to some weird moments with your virtual significant other. After I divorced my first wife and married my second, I felt a bit odd to discover that I’d actually married the same darn NPC, only with a different name. That was an awkward dinner table conversation, lemme tell ya….
Voice acting is decent. With erstwhile Python John Cleese providing the best vocal performance as the hero’s trusty butler.
The Verdict: [rating:4]
Fable III follows the typical Peter Molyneux formula: it’s a game that does everything mostly well without necessarily re-inventing the wheel. It plays great, is good a few laughs and overall won’t make you feel like you’ve wasted 15 hours of your life. I recommend it without reservation.
Now I have to go tell the new wife she’s much prettier than that other NPC I married…
Your humble reviewer ,