Fable 3 Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Fable 3
Release: October 26, 2010
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Role-Playing
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Players: 1-2 players
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M

When Peter Molyneaux is pitching a game, he really goes for the gold. Sadly, those games never seem to live up to the hype. Such is the case with Fable 3.

Once again, Albion is dealing with a few problems. The biggest, it would seem, is Logan, the tyrant who controls the throne. As brother — or sister — to that tyrant, it is up to you to do something about it. When you do finally speak your mind, Logan sees this as an act of defiance and forces you to make an incredibly difficult decision…one that leads to the realization that Logan must be stopped. With a little help from a few friends, you are quickly set upon the path to becoming Albion’s next Hero and, if all goes well, its next King — or Queen — as well. In order to stop your tyrannical brother, you must forge friendships with key characters around Albion; gain their support and you’ll gain an army.

But becoming Albion’s new ruler is only the beginning. Taking back the throne leads to a whole new series of gameplay mechanics, not to mention some difficult problems to solve. In a way, Fable turns almost Simish in how you affect your world purely through the decisions you make.

Beyond the story, there are plenty of side quests. Like previous Fables, you can engage in various relationships, buy and sell properties and businesses, and just explore all of the nooks and crannies Albion has to offer. Although the main game will take between 10 and 15 hours, I don’t doubt that people could easily sink a solid day into exploring and wrapping up the loose ends.

Fable 3 has something of a two steps forwards, two steps back deal going on. Although there are areas of improvement, there are also areas where it just feels…devolved.

Where it’s good: Let me just start by saying that Fable 3 looks pretty, well…pretty. The world has a bit of a cartoonish aesthetic, but it’s vibrant and interesting. There are plenty of things to keep players occupied, and the world is captivating enough that it’s fairly easy to get invested and, dare I say, lost. In fact, it seems like that’s exactly what Lionhead was going for; a game that was more of an interactive story than it was an actual game. The combat is never very difficult, and yet it never feels lacking. It’s a cog in a greater machine. Fun, but not the core of what Fable 3 is.

It should also be mentioned that Fable 3 is genuinely funny. There are a few chuckle-inducing moments, mostly thanks to some stellar voice acting. I won’t go through and spoil the cast, but there are some fairly large names involved, and they really spice things up.

But, for all there good, there’s still some bad. First off, the controls feel a little…floaty. Running, normally a simple enough task, actually takes a little adjustment. Perhaps it’s just me, but I like my characters to be able to turn, not necessarily on a dime, but at least better than a semi pulling a forty foot trailer. Second, the camera is a little janky. There were many, many times where I would roll away from an enemy’s attack only to have the camera pointed away from my attackers, despite the fact that my character was still facing them. A little more polish would have done wonders. Third: the framerate was pretty spotty on a few different occasions. Okay, spotty might be a little generous. Just running through the world, the framerate would occasionally drop into the teens for no apparent reason.

And, although I realize that last paragraph was already a doozy, that was just the technical stuff; I have a few more problems with Fable 3. The first, and largest, is the Sanctuary. It’s true that Fable 2‘s menu systems were pretty bad (although I do feel that people make it out to be slightly worse than it actually is), but their approach with Fable 3 is just confusing. Instead of navigating menus, you push start and go to your Sanctuary, an other-worldly realm that holds your map, clothing, weapons, money, and more. It is only here that you can change your sword or rifle or spell gauntlets. Although it is a nice way to immerse players in the world of Fable, it slows things down. There is no reason I should have to push start, enter the Sanctuary, run up to the map table, find the town I’m looking for, zoom into it, and then choose a destination to fast travel to — and even then there’s no guarantee I’ll end up quite where I wanted. The Sanctuary as a substitute for a traditional menu is interesting and, possibly with some refinement, it could work, but here it’s just a little too clunky.

Finally, and this involves slight spoilers, the game takes a hard left once you finally become King or Queen. Instead of going on adventures, you now spend the last couple of hours making decisions from within your castle; decisions that will affect the final showdown and the overall outcome of the game. It’s not completely horrid, but after everything that came before, it does feel a little out of place.

I know, I know, I just spent a couple of fairly long paragraphs listing my gripes. Despite those problems, Fable 3 kept me entertained. It wasn’t a perfect game — far from it — but it was fun, it was interesting, and I was invested. I do think it’s a slight step backwards from Fable 2, sadly, but I don’t think it’s bad. And that’s how I would recommend this game; if you liked Fable 2 — especially if you liked it a lot — then you’ll probably enjoy Fable 3 as well. If not, well, give it a rent. It may not be for everyone, but if you like a good fantasy adventure that is more concerned with the story then it is with the actual gameplay, Fable 3 isn’t a bad choice.

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