(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 3 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 3.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 2.5 Stars
- Street Date:
- October 26th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- September 29th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Microsoft Game Studios
- Lionhead Studios
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
The Fable series has always been an odd duck. It’s an RPG without the nuts and bolts of an RPG, an action game without deep combat, and its most complex set of controls are for social interactions. What it does do really well is put you in a world full of magic and whimsy, where mischievous garden gnomes are likely to be as big of a problem as evil sorcerers. It’s a world where you can marry as many people as you like, of any gender you like, and if you get tired of them, sacrifice them to a pagan god. The Fable games may not be the most accomplished ever made, but they are certainly among the most entertaining.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Fable III takes place a generation after Fable II. You are the son or daughter of the last game’s hero, who was king of Albion until he had to go and die and leave everything to your brother, who’s been squeezing the kingdom for every last red cent. Things come to a head and you go on the run, determined to wrestle the kingdom back from your brother. But if you do, you’ll find more than you bargained for.
Fable III should be familiar to anyone who played the previous game. You roam the countryside, encountering oddball characters and going on missions of varying importance and hilarity. In between, you can make money by pouring beers, making pies, or playing the lute. You can fall in love, have children, buy a house, and as your esteem grows, even have statues made in your honor. There’s a lot to do in Fable III but as the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” No one element of the game stands out as excellent, which is why there’s such a variety. It may sound like fun to play the lute for a crowd, but after a few goes at it, you’ll get bored. The same goes for any activity the game makes you do frequently, including combat, which is thoroughly pedestrian.
So, you might be wondering, why play this game at all? Well, where Fable III really shines is in making Albion such a gosh darned fun place to visit. There are all kinds of NPC’s you can interact with, and it’s worth talking to just about all of them. The humor in the game is evident right from the opening scenes (your butler is played by John Cleese, for Python’s sake!), and it’s a streak that runs through the core of the experience. Fable III is frequently hilarious, and you’ll have more fun running around doing side-splitting side missions than you will with the humdrum main story.
That’s not to say the main storyline is wholly worthless. No, towards the end things do take a surprising turn as you manage to wrestle power away from your sibling and discover that you now have to manage this kingdom you’ve won. You have to balance promises made to various supporters as you waged your civil war, set the rate of taxation, and make other governmental decrees. Generally the more giving you are, the more people love you, and the faster the royal coffers drain away. Go the opposite way and you may have a ton of money and no one to share it with because everyone hates you. It’s an interesting twist that I wouldn’t have expected out of a game like this, and quite welcome.
The rest of the game isn’t bad by any means, but it’s a simple and shallow experience. Combat is easy to use, easy to master, and ultimately boring to get into. The social game is more developed, but even then it’s more about perseverance than anything else. You have a range of expressions you can emote, to the delight or dismay of passers-by. Make the right set of expressions and you’ll make a friend. Give a friend a few costly presents and they’ll fall in love with you. At that point you can get married, have some kids, or just have an orgy. The game lets you do this with men or women, so prudes be warned.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
In general, Fable III looks lush, with amber sunsets and velvety night scenes. Each area you travel to has a unique look, and everything is cartoonish and stylized, although not as much as in Fable II. Over the course of the game you’ll get many different costumes and tattoos you can use to personalize your character, and some of them even confer status bonuses. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from texture pop-ins and frame rate slow downs. It’s not frequent enough to be a huge issue, but it is noticeable.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Fable III’s sounds are squarely centered around continuing the quirky sense of humor that’s pervasive through the game. Every character (except yours and one played by Dame Judi Dench) are mainly played for laughs, and the voice performances reflect this. NPC’s you encounter walking around will exclaim in surprise to see you (especially as you become more famous), and some might even give you what for if you’ve been especially bad. It makes the world feel really lived in to hear so many different people with so much to say. Perhaps the best use of sound are in a side mission involving evil lawn gnomes who scatter through Albion and can only be found when you hear them insulting you from a hidden location. You can shoot them, but only if you track them down using the sound of your voice. Hilarious.
Fable III does feature a moral choice system, where you can choose to play the game as good or evil (or a combination of both), but in practice you don’t have much opportunity to be evil. You can kill people all you like, but on the whole the game doesn’t penalize you for negative behavior. Because of this, replay is limited, as it’s likely that your second time through will be very much like the first.
Fable III is far from perfect. In fact, in several fundamental ways it’s lacking the basic elements most gamers would require before buying a title. But while its mechanics maybe be derivative and shallow, the game is still a blast thanks to a great sense of humor and an interesting kingdom-management system that rears its head towards the end of the game. If Shadow of the Colossus is a one of a kind gourmet meal, and Uncharted is a juicy steak, then Fable III is undoubtedly popcorn; ultimately unsatisfying but we chomp away at it anyway.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
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