Microsoft Game Studios
The Fable series tends to over-hype itself, resulting in a lot of disappointed customers, but if you look at the big picture, every Fable has its merits and is worth purchasing at some point. Fable introduced you to a world of magic and adventure. Fable 2 introduced you to a better melee combat system and next-gen visuals. That said, Fable 3 is the one Fable game that you might want to stay away from. That is if you value your free time.
The biggest flaw is in the name, every Fable is a short story. This one is unfortunately the shortest of them all. I completed the story after 20 hours, and out of that, I spent about 16 hours roaming around, doing side quests, and playing with outfits and other distractions. That means the story is about 4 hours long, not including the 4 hours it takes to raise money for the “good” ending. You could argue that one could play back through the story a second time to see the evil choices play out, but that really does not interest me outside of accomplishing achievements.
The main story is essentially a short, semi-linear quest to rule Albion. I say semi-linear, because you do have choices to make and can get one of 4 possible endings. You will not find spoilers in my review, however. Just know that the choices are very easy to distinguish as bad or good, and the story will be over before you know it.
The introduction is brilliant, but after that, the clips do not stay interesting, and often, I found myself wishing I could skip the story, because it is simply boring! Sure, it starts with an epic tale, but it gets dull after the first hour or so. I found myself replaying the intro because I thought it was funny, so here it is:
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Fable 3, even though the game is broken. I played co-op with several random players and made some new friends. Everyone I played with agreed that combat was drastically improved over Fable 2, but I got in a heated debate over whether Fable 3 is the best of the three games, even if combat was the only factor. The truth is Fable 3 is a brilliant game that suffers from way too many headaches to be considered a finished product. Lionhead rushed Fable 3 out the door when they probably needed an extra month to sort the bugs out.
Every complex game you ever play will have its fair share of glitches, but Fable 3 takes the cake. Some quests simply cannot be finished if you let them be and go on about your business, and that would be fine if the game did not frequently remind you that you did not finish the quest. You do not have a way to cancel quests or restart them, aside from starting a whole new character. Other bugs include (but are not limited to) extreme lag when running around outside levels, permanent black screen after loading a level (usually happens when playing online), and being unable to move when entering your sanctuary.
The frustrations aside, Fable 3 is awe-inspiring. The visuals are gorgeous, perhaps too gorgeous for their own good, and the music is just as catchy as it was in the other two games. One could argue that the music is repetitive, but I like it. The combat animations are smooth and exciting. The character voices are great, and the character designs are top notch. The amount of customization possible is incredible, comparable to Skate 3 or Soul Calibur IV and, in some ways, Oblivion. You can do a lot of stuff in Fable 3, and if you like to explore, you will enjoy this game for a short while. My only complaint as far as exploration goes is the map, or lack of one, rather. You can still fast-travel, but I have to say that the original Fable had a better way of doing that, and in all honesty, I felt like I was being drawn away from the gameplay whenever I entered the sanctuary.
The Sanctuary is Fable III's revision of the pause menu. Instead of showing an actual menu, the game presents a private headquarters that can be entered on-the-fly, without any loading screen or wait. That headquarters is where you change your equipment and edit settings and see stats and so on.
Inside the Sanctuary is where you have a very nice in-game Xbox Live hub in the form of your Friends room. That room gives you options to control who can join your game, whether or not you appear online, and even lets you manage your marriages and business partnerships. There is also a way to play with a random player, but every time I tried that, it sent me to the same player, so either not many people play online or everyone else was already matched up – or the feature simply does not work properly, which is likely. Your Friends room is very important if you play online. Otherwise, you probably will not enter that room for anything except to see what is in there.
The single-player game is the same game as the co-op game, meaning co-op is inherently making the game easier. For that reason, I do not recommend playing online until you beat the main quest at least once. I made the mistake of playing online after only two hours. I got tons of spoilers, and the quests were much easier than they should have been. All of the battles were way too easy with the extra player, and I felt like I was cheating.
Overall, the co-op experience is like nothing else. You could consider Fable 3 as a multiplayer Oblivion. Each player is able to interact with every other player. Those players can trade items and money and help each other with quests and other objectives. Yes, some achievements require a second player, but unlike Fable 2, the achievements are much easier and do not include co-op battle or expression achievements. Also, unlike Fable and Fable 2, the expressions are very limited. If you thought Fable 2 was limited, you will be extremely disappointed in Fable 3.
The combat left something to be desired. I thought Fable had pretty nice combat, but it was flawed. Fable 2 improved on the combat, but it was far too easy and never quite provided a boss battle. Fable 3 continues down that path by having a slightly more fluid combat system with slightly more menacing enemies yet also providing next to no challenge. As long as you buy plenty of health potions and know how to roll around, you are set.
The combat has a few new toys to experiment with. Weapons offer tasks to complete which reward you with unique weapon upgrades. The magic can be mixed and matched in 15 different combinations, excluding using each spell on its own, of course. That form of magic casting is called spell-weaving, and it is the single most interesting feature in the game. Combine Fireball with Blades to make fiery blades, or combine Vortex with Ice Storm to create a hurricane effect. Spell-weaving definitely kept me interested in combat for a while.
Melee combat has improved, too, but it is still way too easy. Like Fable 2, you are invincible while blocking. Nothing can hurt you. The hardest battles to fight using only melee are against large hordes of enemies, and that's the only way melee combat is ever interesting, but every once in a while, you get to see your character do a flashy stunt instead of the standard attack. The flashy stunts are what make the battles seem interesting, even when they are very boring.
Ranged combat has become simpler. In Fable 2, you could zoom in on an enemy and aim at specific body parts. You could even knock the weapon out of someone's hand. In Fable 3, you no longer have any of that. You just point the character in the general direction and press Y, that's it! Thankfully, the random stunts apply to ranged combat, as well, so you do get to see some cool battle animations in the mix if you keep using the same weapon.
The whole morphing weapon thing and the good/evil angel thing really do not play a vital role in the story or in the gameplay, and you probably will not use your morphing weapons, because the other, non-morphing weapons cause more damage and have interesting objectives associated with their upgrades. The morphing weapons are supposed to get more powerful as you use them, but I did not notice much of a change and decided to invest time into upgrading non-morphing weapons instead. Every weapon changes slightly as your stats change, mind you, but the changes are not very noticeable and do not affect the way you fight.
You see the evil wings in those Gamestop commercials, but then, when you finally unlock them, they do not offer anything interesting. Sure, you get a new expression to try on villagers, but that will not stay interesting after the first or second try. Heck, I thought all the expressions got very repetitive, and I failed to grasp why a man would like me to randomly do the tango with him. Fable 2 had better emote options and a much more intuitive way to use them and even had an achievement to sync an emote with your co-op partner. Fable 3 claims to focus on interaction between characters, but it was really just more of the same. The only new dynamic was the ability to hold a character's hand, and that did not work well.
The clothing looks a lot better this time around, and your Dressing Room is a very nifty feature, but everything is purely cosmetic, aside from needing to dress a certain way for specific quests. Clothing is not in abundance, there are only a few clothing shops in the game, and you will not find much variation in what you find during your adventures. However, the clothing you do get is either good-looking or funny-looking. You also get many colors to dye your clothes, and you may even dye your hair. Yes, your facial hair, too. If that sounds the same as Fable 2, do not worry, there is more clothing in Fable 3, but you will have to make a considerable effort toward finding it.
The side quests are fairly interesting, and there are a lot of collectible items. You got silver keys, gold keys, legendary weapons, gnomes, clothing, and gems -oh, and money. Heh. The only problem I had with side quests was loading levels. Loading screens are frequent, and they take what seems like forever.
If you are patient enough for the quests and stock up on plenty of health potions, Fable 3 offers a lot to do and should be a piece of cake, but the first Fable is still my favorite, even if nobody can play it with me. I think the glitches were easily the worst part of Fable 3, but there were few reasons to keep playing after 20 hours or so, so I felt that it was not worth its current price tag of $60. Wait for it to descend into the depths of the bargain bin or just rent it.
Quick note: At the time this review was posted, the PC version was scheduled to be released March 31, 2011. If the PC release date changes, this note will be updated.
Update - February 13: The PC version is now slated to be released May 31, 2011; not March!