Posted 2 years ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
I’ve missed Albion. Sure, the Fable franchise has developed some tarnish over the years, but that’s mostly due to the hype machine. I learned a long time ago that one cannot approach any of Peter Molyneux’s work looking for his grandiose promises to be fulfilled. We have to take the games for what they are and not what they might be. When viewed from that perspective, we get nifty titles that make an attempt at superseding genre definitions by just providing the player with a tangible experience. The Fable franchise is a prime example. The first game laid the groundwork and its sequel built on that foundation, enhancing the experience by leaps and bounds over it’s predecessor. Fable III does the same, although not quite as dramatic.
Those who’ve vacationed in Albion before know that the character they play in Fable II is a descendant of the Hero found in Fable I. There’s a 500 year gap between the two tales so Albion changed tremendously during the interim. However, for Fable III, we pick up the story a scant 50 years later, playing the child of our protagonist from Fable II. While Albion has seen some adjustments, most of them are structural in nature as the land has entered the Industrial Age. Steam ships weigh anchor in Bowerstone harbor, factories litter the industrial side of town, and the general aesthetic is one of a land that is maturing, although social sacrifices are being made for such commercial progress.
The land is...well...downtrodden. The current King has beat the citizens down with terrible living conditions, unfair laws, poor propagation of funds, and harsh punishments for those who break the law. From the outset, it looks like your brother is just a punk, a brat, a tyrant who’s taking advantage of his position to further his own personal agenda. This is where you come in. The game begins with a choice of gender, then your servant Jasper (voiced by the fabulous John Cleese) awakens you with the task of meeting with your childhood friend. You are the prince, the old King’s son and brother to the current King Logan. Racing off to meet your friend, it becomes apparent that there is a clear cask divide in Albion now. The castle is alive with noblemen and women along with guards and servants while outside the walls are the working class, whom aren’t very happy with Logan’s rule and are currently protesting it. Venturing into the throne room to question Logan’s methods, the player is forced to face the first moral decision of the game. This kicks off the adventure, as no matter what choice is made, the revolution has now begun.
Ultimately, Fable III is everything Fable II was, only enhanced, tweaked and much more streamlined. Gone is the clunky user menu of old, replaced by a slick Sanctuary that acts as a hub for everything the player may need. Just hit the Start button at any time and the hero will be whisked away to it. The center room provides access to the world map, laid out on a model table. All traversal areas can be found there along with any available quests, silver/gold keys that need to be found and the current condition of any real estate holdings, along with the ability to fast travel to any accessible location. Branching out from there are additional rooms that cater to weaponry, clothing, awards and accomplishments, and even Xbox LIVE connectivity. The Sanctuary is easily one of the best improvements of the game as I wholly detested the UI of Fable II.
The gameplay is fairly close to what we’ve all seen in Lionhead’s last entry. Players can use melee, ranged and/or magic attacks to defeat foes, all of which can be charged simply by holding the attack button down longer. There’s still a wide variety of weapons and spells to play with including swords, hammers, pistols, rifles, fire, ice, shock, etc... To be honest, beyond the snazzier animations (like the uber-kills), it played the same as before as far as I’m concerned. Although, the reliance on those attack-type sensitive targets and puzzling in general did seem to be toned back a bit for this go round.
Other familiar elements make a return with some changes. Players can still get married, be it with same or opposite sex partners and they can have children. New to Fable III is the ability to adopt children, allowing for same-sex couple to be parents. Also new is the methods for developing relationships. With Fable II, it was a matter of repeatedly using the citizen’s preferred expressions. Here, there’s a gauge that shows how a given person feels about our hero. Remember, the goal is to drum up support for the revolution and initially the people don’t trust you since you are related to the king after all. So everyone the hero comes across has a neutral stance. Only by approaching and interacting with the citizens via expressions will their demeanour change. Before the relationship shifts from Neutral to Friend, the hero will be sent on a fetch task. It may be to go dig up a certain item or deliver a note to someone in another town, either way, that person won’t be your friend until the task is completed. The same applies as the friendships develops into best friends or love interests. It’s a cool idea only marred by the repetitive nature of the quests themselves. It became less and less motivating as the redundancy set it.
The upgrade system has been fully revamped. Eschewing the old attack-type colored orbs, everything is based on your relationship with the people. Defeating enemies, acting out the proper expressions with the inhabitants of Albion, and completing quests will all add social coins to your treasury that can then be spent on chests found in the metaphysical Road to Revolution. Progress down this “road” occurs as the storyline is advanced. Scattered around each segment are chests that contain pretty much every element of the game. At the beginning the permissions the player has is fairly limited. New expressions, weapon proficiencies, even the ability to purchase real estate are all unlocked by these chests. It’s an interesting approach as it makes you develop relationships with the people and complete minor quests as well as controlling the pacing of the game. Unfortunately, this kills some of the roll play elements as far as weapon usage is concerned. One could go through the entire game using nothing but ranged weaponry and yet still have a fully maxed out melee skill. There are changes for how much a given attack is used, but they are more aesthetic than anything else.
Heroes won’t get far in Albion without some coin in their pocket. For Fable III there are four available jobs: pie maker, blacksmith, lute player and of course, real estate baron. In Fable II, the jobs were pretty much a waste of time as the pay out didn’t equate the work involved, so real estate was the only viable option. The same could be said for Fable III, although the jobs are much more enjoyable, employing a colored bar that tasks you with hitting the corresponding button as the ticker moves across it. The pay out is improved as well and players will find themselves working these jobs...until they unlock the ability to buy houses and businesses. Land ownership is still the most profitable way to go, but it isn’t without it’s own set of responsibilities. Properties will degrade over time, requiring an investment in repairs. You could go the slumlord route, but keep in mind that once the condition of the property reaches zero the tenants will refuse to pay the rent.
At this point in this generation’s console life cycle, one would expect great visuals, especially coming from such a high profile developer. But beyond the standard pretties (which look great mind you), the land itself is a real treat for returning Fable players. No matter where you go, everything will carry a familiar, yet not familiar vibe to it. Landscapes have changed and architecture has evolved. The sound design saw the same amount of love as not only is it supported by an all-star cast such as the aforementioned John Cleese and the returning Stephen Fry, but the ambient sounds are as impressive as ever. From the rush of a waterfall to the wide variety of chatter heard on the streets of Brightwood, the ambiance created by the sound design is as vital a component as the visuals.
For the online connectivity, henchmen have returned. Fortunately they have seen some changes as well. Xbox LIVE players can now get married and have a family or even invest in properties together. The entire adventure can be run cooperatively with a buddy. It’s much closer to the online component we’ve been hoping to have. However, this was one feature that I was unable really sink my teeth into as it was unavailable when I played through the game.
Remember when Fable II launched and everyone said it was the game that Fable should have been? Well, the same line of thinking could be applied here, to a lesser extent. Essentially, Fable III is a much improved version of Fable II. It’s more contoured, better balanced, and a lot more focused on experiencing the main storyline than its predecessor. However, to accomplish this, it did end up sacrificing some of the randomness that we could play around in. The options are all still there, but it doesn’t feel as independent of the primary journey as it did in Fable II.
Not that this is necessarily a negative. The story Lionhead crafted is loads better than anything they’ve done before. We venture all around Albion, drumming up support, making political promises and meeting familiar faces all in an effort to overthrow Logan. That covers the first two-thirds of the game. The last third gets a bit more interesting, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Finally, the shift of having all the side activities point back at the main story really drives home the concept of “experience”. You don’t run through the environment, defeating enemies until you see the end credits. You experience a journey. An adventure that will span from one end of Albion to the other and beyond. And isn’t that exactly what we’ve been asking for in games like this? I know I have been. Fortunately with Fable III, Lionhead has finally given us just what we wanted: an experience.
+ Henchmen are more fleshed out
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Fantastic voice-acting
+ Story and gameplay combine to provide an experience
- It’s still Fable. Folks who didn’t like Fable II will find nothing here to change their mind
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Release Date : 2010/10/26
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios
Developer : LionHead Studios
Category : Action-RPG
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10