Fable 3 is the brainchild of Peter Molyneux, an eccentric game designer with a penchant for overhyping his games. The man is a legend though, with games such as Magic Carpet, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper and Black and White under his belt. He was also responsible for the amazing (and probably totally unrealistic) Milo demo for the new Kinect controller. Peter promised that Fable 3 would not suck. He also promised that it would actually be great. As it turns out, he was not far off.
The kingdom is in peril. The King of Albion does not seem to be a nice man, unlike the previous king, the hero from Fable 2. He is an oppressor of his people. His people have had enough. They need a hero. As the younger sibling of the king, the people turn to you to usurp the throne, take over from your older brother and save the kingdom! If only it was all that easy.
Good vs Evil
The selling point of the Fable series has always been the effect your choices have on you and your surroundings. You can choose to be a good person or a bad person, saving and killing as you want. Your choices do not change the storyline as much as it changes the world’s reaction to you. Choose to save a village from a balverine attack, or choose to kill the villagers yourself. Kill the villagers and the next town will either be very scared of you and stay out of your way, or be angry enough to attack you.
In theory this works out pretty well in the game. It kind of forces your hand to play the good prince, and save as many people as you can. It tugs at your emotions to make the right choice. But every so often I found myself doing something just a little naughty, to make sure I didn’t miss out on potentially fun things to do.
As the prince or princess of Albion, you need to gather a force big enough to overthrow your brother. Yes, you can play as either a prince or princess, and this has an effect on the storyline, but not nearly enough to play through the game again. The changes are small enough not to worry about, but back to the story. You need to overthrow your brother, the king, by building an army. You travel from town to town and convince the common townsfolk to follow you. And how do you convince people that you, of royal blood, can be trusted? Simple, you run errands for them!
The game in general can be split into three parts: combat, errands and social life. Combat consists of three disciplines: melee attacks, magic attacks and gunpowder weapons. As you use your weapon for good or bad, your alignment shows in your weapons. Be good and the swords will start to glow white with pretty blue lines for instance. All of these combat modes can be upgraded through opening chests on the Road to Rule.
The Road to Rule is a big progress bar disguised as a level. As you progress through the storyline you keep shooting back to the Road to Rule and open some chests. These chests costs Guild Seals to open, and the best way you can get hold of some of those? Errands! The Road to Rule also shows you who in Albion is backing you up, just in case you forget.
So, you run a lot of errands in Fable 3, as you do in a lot of other RPG’s. Except it’s a little bit more to ask a prince or princess to deliver a hat to your friend in the neighbouring town. The bigger the task, the more Guild Seals you unlock. The errands vary from saving entire towns from balverines, to the completely mundane like finding a drunk man’s engagement ring for his wife. In the sewers. And you are the prince of the land. Yes, I was shocked to get my feet dirty!
Friends with benefits? Or spouses?
But a man must marry and he needs a ring. So too does the prince (I am going to stop saying princess after every mention of prince, as you get the picture by now), and he can even find a wife in any of the towns. You can swoon a girl by dancing with her, or whistling a tune, or even playing paddy cake with her. The social interaction in Fable 3 revolves around expressions. These expressions are also unlocked in the Road to Rule, and give your prince some new tricks to influence people, either by bad expressions like pointing and laughing, or good expressions like hugging people.
Influence someone with enough goodness, and they become your friend, fall in love with you and can even marry you, regardless of your sex. Very politically correct, you can have gay marriages. Buy a house, have some kids, and be a good dad, or divorce your family and pay alimony. That will cost you money though, and money is not as easily available to a prince as you might think.
Money can be made in a few ways. Buy property, fix it up and let it out. Or take an honest trade of baking pies, playing the lute or becoming a blacksmith. All of the trades are mini-games similar to most music games, and progressively give you more money depending on what level you are at. The easiest way to make some money is also the slowest unfortunately. Your dog can spot some treasures along the way, some of which are bags of money or jewels that can be sold. If your dog does not perform, you can train him up by reading some books.
Every silver lining has a dark cloud
And this leads me to some of the problems with Fable 3. First of all, the promiscuity of the prince has no effect on the actual game. You can have as many wives and kids running around the land as you want, and have multiple marriages at the same time, and nobody cares. There is even a statistic for the amount of simultaneous sex partners, not something to aspire to.
Also, the game does not look nearly as good as I had expected. It is pretty bland and some of the levels leave a lot to be desired. Some of the animations are really well done, however. Your dog will run alongside you and seem pretty lifelike, chasing his own tail, only to be completely weird the next moment and run stiff-legged through the air. The environments are not inspiring enough, and I often thought: “THIS is what I am risking my neck for? I don’t think it’s worth it.”
The action can also be a bit boring and very repetitive, so it is good that you can spice it up by combining some of your spells. Mix up some tornado and fireballs for fiery tornados and you expel your foes in all new ways. The gunpowder weapons feel very underpowered and I hardly ever used them through the entire game.
Fable 3 does a great job of making you regret some of your decisions. Towards the end of the game (I am not revealing too much, so read on) your decisions through the game will be called upon. If you promised some town’s military support, then you can later choose to go against that promise. It’s not a simple case of being good or bad all the time, and breaking that promise could actually save thousands of lives later on.
The humour is sometimes completely whacky but yet hilariously funny. Paying attention to some AI characters will have you in stitches. For example, while in a bar, two characters are discussing the beer the one just had. After a few moments they realize the beer was on the table when they arrived, and just because it’s yellow and foamy it does not mean that it was beer at all!
Fable 3 will not disappoint fans of the series. It is mostly more of the same with a few added features. It is by no means revolutionary, nor is it a must have for every Xbox 360 owner. What it is though, is a good game that a lot of people from different gaming backgrounds will enjoy. Long live the King!!! (or Queen, depending on who you are, now leave me alone!)
The good: Real choices have real consequences.
The bad: Immoral behavior and promiscuity sets very bad examples.
The ugly: Wondering if this ugliness is really worth fighting for…