As many of our readers may remember, during last year’s summer donation drive, as a donation challenge, Fable playing was listed as a donation goal should the readers have met the thousand dollar mark in less time than expected. To sweeten the deal, I said in July 2011 that if this goal were met, I would play through all three Fable games. While I was unable to fulfill this due to the 360-exclusive Fable II, I was able to track down cheap copies of the other two games, and so I bring to the Lusipurr.com readers a look at Lionhead Studios’ Fable III.
Fable III was released in October 2010 for the Xbox 360 and in May 2011 for the PC via Games for Windows and Steam. The storyline of Fable III is the story of the unnamed player character, the younger son or daughter of the protagonist from Fable II. Fable III follows the player as the player character leads a rebellion against his or her older brother, Logan, the tyrant king of Albion. Along the way, the player learns some (not really at all) surprising facts about Albion and about Logan and must later choose how to deal with these new pieces of information. The story of Fable III is fairly unremarkable, with little to say about it that is exceptionally good or bad. The major twists of the plot are all predictable, and the player’s moral choices throughout the game do virtually nothing to change the way events play out. The rebellion plot used here, while a bit cliched, is not a bad plotline, but storytelling inFable III is shallow and unrewarding. Additionally, the static and bland characters contribute very little to the plot. Like the narrative and characters, the dialogue and writing are also bland and unmemorable. Overall, then, the story elements of Fable III are empty and seem almost pointless. They are not particularly bad, but then they are not particularly good either. For a series so frequently hailed for its moral choices, the fact that the player’s moral choices do virtually nothing to change the plot of Fable III is somewhat alarming; morality in Fable III seems to matter even less than in the first game.
Gameplay-wise, Fable III is again fairly unremarkable. The combat elements are action-driven to the point that the game barely feels like the action-RPG the series was billed as, and there is honestly little to say. As with other games in the series, the player has three combat styles to choose from: melee, magic, and ranged combat. Unfortunately, Fable III is not a particularly balanced game; magic is the clear winner in basically any combat situation, as it has the most versatility and no cost whatsoever to cast. There are two notable mechanics to the Fable III combat experience, however, and one is good and one bad. The good mechanic that Fable III uses is “spell-weaving”, the ability to equip two spell gauntlets so the player can combine the effects of two spells at once. Sadly, Fable III also features a literal inability to be killed; if the player runs out of health, the character will fall down for a few seconds before standing. As a result, Fable III is insultingly easy, with even the chance of being knocked down being fairly low. The fighting in Fable III is admittedly solid, but the player’s complete immunity to dying removes all tension from combat situations. Leveling in Fable III is handled fairly well, at least. Leveling is done in an area called “The Road to Rule”, wherein the player unlocks treasure chests by spending “Guild Seals”, which are earned through combat experience, quest fulfillment, and interacting with the citizens of Albion.
Technically speaking, Fable III is decent. The graphics are smooth, and while the colors are often very bland, this is to be expected of a vaguely-British medieval European setting. The character models, unfortunately, are still extraordinarily ugly; the people of Albion seem less like humans and more like trolls. The voice acting has improved greatly from the days of Fable and the characters sound legitimately English instead of ridiculously cockney. The music is largely forgettable and does little to affect the game for better or worse. In a sense, then, the music is a perfect summation of the full Fable III playing experience.
The real issue with Fable III is not that it is a bad game. Fable III is a bit too easy, sure, but the mechanics are solid and it is decently fun to play. No, the problem with Fable III is the problem that the Fable series as a whole as long suffered from: the game has a huge amount of unused potential. The morality system could give players a number of options for how their character handles the rebellion against Logan’s tyranny, but instead, the story proceeds in the same direction regardless of the player’s choices. The gameplay is decent but could be better, the characters are forgettable, and the overall experience just seems flat. Fable III is not a bad game, but it is also certainly not worth the full price of admission either. In many ways, this is perhaps even more disappointing than if the game had been terrible. Fable III is a game that had great potential, but sadly did not live up to what it could be.