STAFF REVIEW of Fable 3 (Xbox 360)

Thursday, November 11, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Fable 3 Box art Ah Fable?the epic tales and stories that takes place in the world of Albion. How I?ve missed you; how have you been? It?s been almost 2 years to the day that I played you last. Now that you?re back, have you been improved and brought me a new and engaging story to get enthralled into?

Fable III takes what core mechanics worked well in Fable 2 for the most part and improved on said attributes. Because of this, the overall general feeling I got from Fable 2 has returned, which isn?t necessarily a bad thing; if it?s broke don?t fix it right? Fable 3 takes the whole ?play however you want? assertion and rolls with it even further this time around. Do what you want, even if that?s being married to 8 different people, sharing your STDs, or amassing a fortune by being a ruthless landlord.

Fable has always been known for having top notch voice acting going for it (even if other aspect may fall short) and in this title it?s no different. For a few name drops to get you excited about the quality of acting you?ll hear I give you Stephen Fry, Bernard Hill, John Cleese, Simon Pegg, and even Sir Ben Kingsley just to name a few. As you can see, there?s no shortage of asounding talent here for most of the main characters, so know that the voice acting is absolute top notch throughout just like in previous Fable titles.

It?s been fifty years since the events transpired in Fable 2 and the son of Fable 2?s hero is now the king of Albion. The problem is that he is a tyrant for a ruler and the land is suffering because of his leadership and his stranglehold on every aspect of life. Rent is high, people are poor and starving, and even worse; all thanks to your brother, the King. Fable has always been about making moral choices (or lack thereof) and always having a consequence for your actions; Fable 3 is no different and your first real difficult choice will happen right at the start of the game. Regardless of your ?choice?, this puts events in motion that cannot be undone and starts the hatred you have for your ruthless brother. It?s not an easy decision but you vow you?ll have vengeance against him and his oppressing rule over Albion.

You escape the castle with your lifetime friend and mentor Sir Walter and so starts your quest of attempting to amass a sizeable army large enough to overthrow the King. As you come across other likeminded rebels, you?ll need to gain their trust and make promises to gain their support in your goal to become the new King (or Queen).

Fable III?s tale does not end when you finally revolt and amass enough followers to take over the throne; not even close actually. The first 2/3 of the game is doing your standard Fable gameplay of quests, marriages, etc, but the game drastically changes in the last bit once you have the crown. I won?t spoil anything as the King section is quite unique, but know early on that all the choices you made early on to gain followers will come back to haunt you. All those promises you made will have those people call upon you to uphold your world (or not). There are many reasons you may or may not keep your promises to these people, but know that you?ll have to make some extremely difficult decisions as Albion?s new King. Do the ends justify the means? Get ready to think long and hard how you want to rule and save Albion; something dark approaches and you need to be ready. You?ll make real decisions that tie hand in hand with equally powerful consequences.

I mentioned before that Fable 3 has the same type of feel to it, but what?s new? Well, one of the biggest knocks Fable 2 had was the overabundance of menus that were slow and generally unappealing. Long gone are the days of menus and your pause ?menu? is now called the Sanctuary. This is an area that you can freely move your hero around to the different areas to change them or any settings. Want to change your clothes, go through that door (or quick press of the corresponding Dpad) and you can mix and match all your clothes without any menus. The same goes for the Armory for all your weapons and more.

You also have a large map in the middle of the Sanctuary that is an overlay of all of Albion that can be moved and zoomed in and out of. From here you can even choose your current quest (that the glowing trail will show you were to go) and even teleport to the nearest area for your quest. The problem with this new quick travel method is that it becomes far too easy to get into the habit of teleporting to the Sanctuary, using the map, teleporting, do a short run, then teleport to the next objective or hand in. Rinse repeat and you lose not only a lot of game time but you don?t tend to explore nearly as much as you should in a beautiful world like Albion.

There?s no longer a health bar (or real HUD for the matter), no leveling up or skill tree for your attributes. All experience points are now clumped together and called Guild Seals which are acquired from killing and quests. These can then be spent on new spells, emotion packs, skill improvements and more. You?ll have to do a plethora of side quests and a lot of killing enemies if you want to unlock them all, so choose wisely from the beginning and spend those seals wisely.

A problem with Fable 2 was that people generally weren?t all that unique because everyone wanted the same ?end-game? weapons for the most part. They wanted the weapons with the best stats, regardless if it suited their character or not. Now as you level your weapons up with Guild Seal purchases, your Melee, Gun, or Magic will morph as you gain its levels. Identical weapons can look (and be) completely different due to many things such as moral affinity, enemy kills, and more. Certain weapons can be even further augmented with preset ?checklists? such as killing X amount of Balverines or Hobbes, doing evil acts, completing a certain amount of quests, or even spreading STDs. As you fulfill these requirements your weapon will gain the corresponding bonus and you can make your weapon almost unique to your character based on your play style. It?s an interesting system that will definitely add some more gameplay hours, but find a weapon you enjoy and you probably won?t upgrade very often.

The other big change to combat is the drastic change to how magic now works in Fable. In past games if you wanted to cast your really powerful spell, you had to charge it till it go to the specific tier and then let loose, sometimes having to wait 10 or more seconds. Magic has been completely revamped and I quite enjoyed the change. The spells you can cast are based on what gauntlets you wear. So if you want to use a fireball, you need to wear that corresponding gauntlet. Eventually you?ll be able to wear two gauntlets and this is called Spell Weaving. You can mix and match any two spells to fit your play style (I got through most of the game with Electricity and Ice, then switch to Electricity and Blades when I unlocked it) for some devastating effects. Sadly, there are only 6 different spells (for a total of 15 combinations) so it will feel slightly more limited from the previous game. This is for good reason though; there?s no more Slow-time spell as this is now designated to a potion you can use; the same goes for Summon Creatures. This will be a drastic change for some but the combat overall has been vastly simplified (almost too much in my opinion) for almost anyone to enjoy without too many problems.

The other major change I found instantly is how you interact with other characters and villagers. The famous Expression wheel has been scrapped and you?re now limited to what expressions you have learned (and bought with seals). You also been to interact with an npc, then the options you have will show up that you can perform. You may know 10 different ?good? expressions, but it?s random which one you get to perform, unless you want to keep doing them to cycle through. This felt like a complete step backwards in the wrong direction as you don?t have the same control you used to have. Sadly, it?s no longer as easy to run up to someone and fart or burp in their face anymore.

Other changes that you?ll notice are some smaller things like potions and how they are rationed. Now you?ll only get the health potion option when you are low on health and can actually use it. The same goes for specialty potions, you can only use these in combat, so the inventory system is much more context sensitive. You also can no longer earn money by not playing (or exploiting the system clock); you need to be actively playing to collect your rent.

I was so excited when I found of Fable 2 was going to have online co-op?..and then I experienced the mode and was more turned off than anything. The problem was that when you went to someone else?s game, you were basically a sidekick and no longer your Hero and couldn?t progress your own character. That and having to share one camera was absolutely terrible. This made me nervous for the co-op announcement in Fable 3; would it be just as bad and awkward? Luckily no, it has been improved (though still not as much as I?d hoped). You are no longer tethered to one another when playing with someone else online and you can actually separate and do your own things (though I?m not sure why you would be playing co-op then with someone) and you are your own Hero! No more henchmen and sidekicks. While it may still not be perfect yet (as you can really only gain gold from helping someone else in their game) it is a step in the right direction and it?s no longer a chore like it was previously.

Spend the few extra gold coins and you can pick up the Collector Edition that has a bunch of extra?s all encased in a gorgeous and thick box that looks like an old leather-bound book. Along with the authentic looking novel comes a specific extra quest, new area, new dog breed (which you can now change anytime you want), an outfit, and in a hidden compartment in the bottom of the case is a Guild Seal Coin that has a good and evil side to help you make those tough decisions along with some Fable 3 playing cards. For the 10 extra gold coins, it?s not that bad of a value for what you get.

So what else do you need to know about Fable 3 before deciding whether to get it or not? Well, there are issues, and they can be abundant at times as well. There are massive pop-in issues when scenes go from one to the next, sound bugs like characters talking over one another (not when meant to), your dog still gets ?lost? and won?t show you the proper place to dig sometimes, the gold sparkle trail will sometimes not even show up for some reason, there are times where there are very heavy frame rate issues, to the point of being frustrating, and it has even hard locked my Xbox on three separate occasions. Yes, there are a lot of bugs, most of which can hopefully be fixed with upcoming patches, but nothing was major enough to be a deal breaker for me (though the hard locks got me very close) as I was still enjoying my jaunt through Albion in my quest to become King.

The game in general is extremely easy and getting the achievement for not dying once in the main quest isn?t a challenge at all. On the flip side, this shows how improved and simplistic the combat has been changed to. As the saying goes: Easy to learn, hard to master; sadly there?s nothing to master as it?s not very difficult at all.

Stick to the main quest and teleport everywhere and you?ll be done the main story in about 10 or 12 hours which is standard fare, but indulge yourself in some of the very unique and interesting side quests (though many will be the standard fetch or kill X amount of enemies) and you can easily double your play time; even more when you play online. I found the ?ending? to be decent, I just wish it was longer and I could take back some of my actions once I realized what the consequences were, but that?s life.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Fable 3?s imaginative and engrossing plot (and subsequent twists) along with its revised gameplay and core mechanics, as a whole package I simply didn?t feel it was an epic in tale or scale that Fable 2 showed us. I wouldn?t take that as too big of a knock against Fable 3, and I can safely recommend it without worry. Those that enjoy the Fable series will find a new tale here to enjoy for a few dozen hours but here?s to hoping that Fable 4 will finally have an online mode that will keep the game in my system for months as opposed to weeks while keeping my interest.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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