Developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Fable III is the third installment in the popular Fable series. Although essentially a streamlined action RPG centered on choice, Fable III is far from a normal RPG. With more emphasis on living in the world than on combat and leveling up, Fable III feels like a journey to another world, rather than an epic quest filled with scripted combat and emotion.
Gameplay consists of the usual trinity of RPG elements: questing, combating and equipping. Along with the storyline quests, mostly optional side quests become available ranging from simple fetch quests, to exploring a haunted house and taking part in a giant game of chess. Combat is real-time and divided into magic, firearms, and melee. However, instead of having to choose a class, all abilities are available from the beginning of the game and can be woven into satisfying combos. And what would a RPG be without new gear? As you explore the world and gain gold, you’ll find chests filled with loot and shops selling gear which can easily be equipped without having to worry about level.
Similar to Fable II, both local and online two-player co-op is available. While it’s not as bad as Super Mario Galaxy’s “girlfriend mode”, the second player doesn’t receive any rewards other than gold for helping their friend out. When you complete a quest in a friend’s world, you’re still going to have to do it in yours. It’s still pretty fun if you have a friend over or if one of you has already beaten the game, but it feels like they haven’t really improved co-op from the last game.
Like the first two games there are a limitless amount of options. But like I said above: every action has a consequence. Yes, you can drink as many alcoholic beverages as you please, eat pies and red meat while murdering villagers and even visit the local brothel (I know I did). But the results of that kind of behavior (while not encouraged in the game or by me) can be pretty repulsive. Bulging waistline, drunkenness and devil horns do not a good hero make. And while immorality is an option, so is purity. Eat your veggies, drink your juice, and stay...pure... (if you catch my meaning) and the final results will be much more appealing. Not only that, but good and just behavior is smiled upon by your subjects. But of course, you can always remain somewhere in the gray area between good and evil. Neutrality is another choice that you have.
I don’t want to spoil the story, as it’s one of the better parts of this title, but I did find it a tad cliché. Lionhead traded the rags to riches for sibling rivalry, different from what they’ve told before, but still something we’ve already heard. Like the game's predecessor, the aptly titled Fable II, Fable III begins with the choice of between a male or female hero. The character's elder bother, Logan, is the King of Albion; a man whom everyone is convinced is vile, greedy and cares not for his subjects. This is where your character comes in. After some pivotal events take place within the castle, you, your godfather, your butler and of course your loyal dog, make an escape during the night to start a revolution against the cold-hearted King and put you on the throne of Albion. It’s full of witty dialogue and emotional twists that kept me interested and wanting more, because as cliché as it may be, it was an interesting change from the usual Fable story. But I could still understand if hardcore RPG fans aren’t as impressed; it’s certainly not a massive, epic tale full of heroes and villains. It’s a personal story about a man thrust into a conflict, overcoming obstacles and rethinking what is right and wrong.
But what would a (debatably) good story be without sound? Quieter, yes, but it also would run the risk of being text heavy and devoid of emotion. Lionhead has really pulled out all the stops and included the voices of Ben Kingsley, Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Zoe Wanamaker, Bernard Hill, Edward Hardwicke and my personal favorite, John Cleese. All characters were voiced, from the hero to the random villagers throughout the world. I did notice a few repeated voice actors among some of the villagers, but they were so well-voiced it never bothered me. Music was appropriate and high quality, but didn’t leave any lasting impact on me.
As with the other entries in the series, Fable has an incredibly simple control scheme. The four face buttons are used for sprinting/rolling and the three combat moves. The two sticks are used to control the camera and character movement. Give the controller to anyone over ten and they’ll immediately understand the basic idea. It’s simple, responsive and natural, exactly how a game should control.
I can’t talk about the morality score concerns without once again mentioning choice. Apart from the violence and language, most of the other problems can be avoided or embraced depending on the player’s choices. Violence and blood can’t be avoided and are both present in very generous amounts. Extra violent executions occur when positioned right, characters gush blood when hit, and cold-blooded murder is possible. PG-13 level language is used throughout the game, along with using the Lord’s name in vain and there was one time I could have sworn the F-word was used. As mentioned before, alcohol can be consumed with the side affect of screen-blurring “drunkenness”. In addition to the ESRB descriptors, I found magic, possible homosexuality, required rebellion (it is the main storyline after all) and multiple occult references.
Although I’m generally not a fan of sexuality in games, I feel Fable paints a picture that is somewhat true to life. Because while characters can be promiscuous and have sex before marriage (or with multiple prostitutes), the option to marry is present. The flip side of this is homosexuality, bigamy and unfaithfulness. Nearly all adult characters can be “romanced” regardless of what gender or marital status. Multiple spouses can be kept at once, as long as they don’t find out. Sex is off-screen with moaning and innuendos being heard throughout. In addition, unprotected sex is shown to have consequences in the form of STD’s (of which I contracted twenty, don’t ask). They don’t affect anything, but it blended well with the overall choice-and-consequence theme.
While playing this game, I had a hard time putting it into a genre. It has tons of light RPG elements and heavy emphasis on story, with tons of quests, but at the same time it was far too easy and has a relatively small amount of content compared to what other RPG’s have. But I finally figured it out. It’s an adventure game disguised as an RPG, perfect for people who want to play all those awesome looking RPG’s that have been coming out in the last few years but can’t get past the complicated inventory management, level grinding and confounding story. I doubt hardcore RPG fans will be happy with this title, as it’s lacking in all the aspects they like, but it’s not for them. It’s for the person who wants to play an RPG but can’t. Fable III is easy to understand, easy to play, and easy to master. You can be who you want; whether it’s the nicest person who’s ever lived, or a murderous, barbarian who is only doing this for the power. If you don’t mind the lack of challenge, depth and content, this one might be worth your time.