I’m in sort of a corner here. I wasn’t shy to the concept of writing slander about Fable II no more than a few weeks ago, mostly because I played it to completion. Fable III, however, is a game that I’m told is roughly identical to its predecessor, though things have been simplified even further and nothing that needed change has been changed. While I haven’t played Fable III (and why would I, I hated Fable II), I made sure to read a number of reviews to get an idea of what’s up here. This is my moral decision: Not pretending like I know firsthand. So my morality slider inches closer to the Purity end while I give the rundown of Fable III.
Everything Fable III is attempting to accomplish hinges on the biggest new aspect of the game: You play as a king. Or rather, you eventually play as a king. The first portion of the game tasks you with building a rebellion force against your brother and then unseating him so you can step in. During this time, you must make deals with various rebel group leaders that you’ll be expected to keep at some point along the line. As promised, once you sit upon the throne and don the crown, you indeed must act as king of this land. But is it any fun?
Since this is a Fable game, and even more so a Lionhead Studios game, the morality meter is ever present. Everything you do results in some consequence, no matter how minute, that will affect how other characters respond to you or how you look or something along those lines. I thought it was terribly implemented in Fable II, and from what reviews have been saying, it’s about the same here, except this time you act almost like King Solomon as subjects come to you and ask you to give a solution to their problem.
In theory, this sounds like a fun twist. In practice, there’s about as much room for creative problem solving as there are menu options at a hotdog stand. Most of the solutions have only two possibilities with one clearly being “good” and one clearly being “evil.” For me, this isn’t a choice. If someone comes to me and says, “My employees refuse to work, what do I do?” I will think of something other than, “Bake them a cake” or “Slaughter their loved ones,” which is about as deep as the Fable games tend to get.
Returned is the combat, same as the previous game, and returned is the simplicity of the challenge the combat provides, which is to say there is zero challenge to this game. The penalty for death is practically non-existent, making this a game you can complete with your eyes shut. Sure, you’ll lose experience points, but when the whole point of the experience points is to make you stronger, what’s really at stake? Time? Who cares? Sure, it’ll take longer in a battle if you keep dying, but it balances with the time it’d take for you to grind for experience in the first place. Combat is a wash, so if you want the easiest game possible, here it is.
It’s clear that Fable III hinges on its writing and voice cast. Yes, the voice cast is good, but the writing is…about as good as Lionhead Studios can do: Passable but unspectacular. We’re getting to the point where some games are really spoiling us with excellent writing and amazing voice actors. This isn’t one of those games. Even John Cleese, playing your butler here, can’t save every clichéd line he spews in the strange replacement for a menu screen. For reasons beyond my understanding, the concept of a menu has been done away with something entirely baffling to my mind, so I don’t even want to talk about it. Reviewers are split on whether it’s a step in the right direction or a strong case for why Fable III is a mess. Either way, it’s pushing me further away from wanting the title.
In the end, I’m still undecided on where to go with this review. Personally, and this is just my perception of gameplay and trailers and promotional material, Fable III looks like a pretentious waste of time and money on a project that isn’t ready to be shipped yet. Outwardly though, Fable III is going to sell boatloads of copies and encourage Lionhead Studios to keep the franchise going. Make your own decision; I’m just here to give my findings.
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