Fable III: A Revolution, It is Not

Fable IIIFrom the gross overselling of the original by creator Peter Molyneux to winning multiple Game of the Year awards with its second installment, the Fable franchise has seen its share of ups and downs. With the release of Fable III at the end of October, many people are interested to see if Lionhead Studios falters or again catches lightning in a bottle.

A Manner of Speaking

The first thing you will notice is that your character is no longer a stoic, voiceless avatar. Mere moments into Fable III, you will find your character speaking and emoting during cutscenes. While some people might find this takes away from the immersion of the game, I feel most will appreciate how it helps produce a richer narrative and enhances the story overall. For those that feel immersion will be an issue, take comfort in knowing that your hero isn’t a “Chatty Cathy” that just blabbers away constantly and is more likely to be the target of long-winded non-player characters (NPCs).

Long-winded NPC dialog is never really a concern though, as the writing for the game can easily rival any title on the market and the voice acting is second to none. With people such as John Cleese, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stephen Fry, Bernard Hill, and Simon Pegg delivering the dialog, you will never doubt the sincerity of the characters even when a situation takes a turn for the completely absurd.

The story has a charming way of going from strong melodrama to Monty Python-esque nonsense. The main plot serves up some very poignant moments that will literally force you to make life or death decisions, then moments later, you find yourself the miniature hero of three nerds’ Dungeons and Dragons adventure. This juxtaposition will help you not get bogged down in the typical video game trope of, “I know this person is only put in the game so I get attached to them and then feel sad when they are killed,” or Aeris Syndrome for short.

Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

While the story might be Fable III‘s greatest improvement, the most obvious and talked about addition in this installment is your hero’s Sanctuary. The easiest way to explain Sanctuary is saying it’s a 3D representation of a menu. When you hit Start, you are magically teleported to The Sanctuary and can quickly walk into one of the multiple rooms inside.

Fable IIIEach room is a physical representation of what would previously have been a sub-menu list. If you want to change the weapon that you currently have equipped, you walk into the armory. Inside, you will find display racks holding the weapons you have acquired over your adventures. You can equip them simply by walking up to them and pressing the A-button.

This new system is great for things such as weapons and clothing, but the paper and pencil gamer in me sometimes just longs for a list. For example, I have no idea how many potions are currently in my character’s possession. I am sure there is some clever way to figure this out, but I have yet to find it and the proud “hardcore” gamer in me won’t allow me to read the instruction manual.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid)

Most of the in-game management has been simplified. No longer do you attach gems to your weapons to modify things such as damage or gold piece acquisition. The weapons that you start the game with simply change depending on what you do in the game; for example, if you’re a righteous and moral hero, your sword’s appearance will change to represent that. Unfortunately, there is really no way to really choose how your weapon develops and the descriptions are rather vague at times, leaving you to wonder what exactly this new modifier does.

There are also some weapons that you can acquire during the course of your travels that will have feats to unlock new traits to the weapon. While the idea is interesting, the execution is a little off. If a gun requires you to kill 350 Hollow Men, they mean you have to kill 350 with that gun and not just while the gun is equipped to your character. This can make the combat tedious and limiting while you’re trying to unlock the weapon’s potential.

Fable IIIOverall, I find the simplification goes too far in many areas. Being a long time RPG player, I enjoy having lots of options. I like choosing my armor or weapons and having it affect my gameplay. Sure, some games don’t require that sort of depth, but an Action RPG like Fable III seems like it should have it. Hopefully in future games, there will be a way for the game to be streamlined, but offer backend depth for those who enjoy it.

The worst offender of over-simplification has to be the NPC interaction system. You can now only interact with a single person and are limited to the couple of interactions that the computer chooses for you. As a result, you will find yourself dancing with complete strangers when all you want to really do is whistle a little jig for them. Once the computer finally allows you to whistle, the villagers around you are no longer impressed by your performance. Your actions only affect the single NPC you’re currently interacting with. This, along with requiring the completion of a quest every time you make a new friend, really turns social interaction into a tedious task.

A Revolution, It is Not

When it’s all said and done, do I think Fable III is a good game? Yes, Fable III offers a rich storyline, fun combat that is very accessible, and a lot of style. Is it a huge leap forward in the way we play games? No, in some ways, this title actually takes steps back from ground that was tread in Fable II.

If you liked Fable II, odds are pretty high that you will enjoy Fable III. While it won’t receive the critical praise of the previous installment, Fable III is a competent successor and a fun video game. In this age of cookie cutter games and uninspired sequels, can you really ask for much more in a game?

[xrr rating=4/5]

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