Fable III Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Lionhead Studios
It’s time to return to the land of Albion once more and take a look at how it’s progressing five decades after the events of Fable II. The age of industrialisation has arrived and now Albion has taken on an almost steam punk look. Things aren’t looking so good for the people of Albion however. The land is ruled by your brother, King Logan, and of late he’s become rather twisted and a tyrant. He shows scant regard for his subjects to the point where he’s having them killed for no good reason. The time is ripe for rebellion in the kingdom of Albion then and it’s up to you to win the support of the people and sort out your evil sibling.
You can choose to either play as a prince or princess and once again you’ll be accompanied, as you were in Fable II, by a dog as well as your butler who will eventually look after your sanctuary for you. Without going into the storyline in any great detail so as to avoid giving any spoilers away, it will have to suffice to say that you’ll have to win the support of various groups of people in order to win their support in assisting you to overthrow your brother. You’ll win their support by completing quests for them and finally making them a promise that you’ll help their cause when it’s in your power to do so.
The main plot in Fable III is far more linear than the first two games in the series, at least for most of the game and fans of the series may find this a little surprising. There are still good or bad choices to make on your way through the game. Some may find these a little too black and white however with hardly any choices representing any doubt as to what the result of your actions will be (with only a couple of exceptions and one of these comes early in the game when you have to decide who to kill, a friend or some citizens of Bowerstone). It should be noted however that there’s a rather swift change in the nature of the game, which we can’t go into here for fear of spoiling the storyline, once you’ve succeeded in your revolution but suffice to say that it changes the game significantly and will surprise most people particularly by how quickly it all concludes.
Your main focus will be to rack up Guild Seals as you’ll need specific amounts of these to further the storyline and to purchase all kinds of upgrades for your characters. You’ll spend your Guild Seals on what’s known as The Road to Rule, a pathway that’s lined with treasure chests that contain all kinds of upgrades such as interactions, level increases for doing various jobs, dyes for your attire, melee, ranged and magic boots and so on for your character. A generous collection of side quests will allow you to earn these Guild Seals but you can also earn them by defeating enemies (even when not on a quest) and by interacting with villagers amongst other things. Completing quests is the fastest way to earn Guild Seals however and Fable III has quite a lot of quests that are not only enjoyable but also full of the rather madcap humour that the Fable series is well known for.
What seems really odd in Fable III is how you have to do chores for people before they will co-operate or be your friend. You’re supposed to be royalty so why do you have to do menial tasks for peasants before they’ll co-operate? You’ll have to dance with them, whistle at them, strike hero poses, hold hands (and there’s a lot of holding hands in Fable III) and even belch for them before they will trust you enough to let you run an errand for them. After doing the errand you’ll be considered their friend. In truth it’s tedious and you’ll find yourself being a lot less sociable in Fable III as a result of it. Social interactions aren’t the only tedious part of the game. You can still make money by purchasing property and renting it out along with doing jobs such as playing the lute, blacksmithing and making pies. The jobs are all dull affairs and as soon as you find more efficient ways of making money it’s unlikely you’ll bother with them much.
The combat in Fable III is disappointing. You could argue it’s too simplistic but the real problem is the unbalanced nature of the combat. It’s all too easy to simply use magic constantly because it’s far more effective than ranged or melee combat. Relying heavily on magic is definitely a soft option in Fable III but it works so well that it’s what most will use almost exclusively throughout the game. Should you opt to rely on melee combat you’ll find it nothing other than simple button bashing, which is satisfying but does become a little tedious. It’s rather interesting that in Fable III you have weapons that evolve as your character does. It’s an interesting concept but not one that really improves upon the traditional method of simply giving you mountains of different weapons to choose from during the course of the game.
Pressing the start button in Fable III won’t pause the game or bring up a menu. What it will do is to return you to your sanctuary where you can change your weapons and your attire, see what quests are available to you on the map table, check the skills of your character and those of his dog and it’s from here you can save your game too. There’s also an area that you can access to play co-operatively over Xbox Live by joining someone else’s Fable III world or you can let them into your Albion, if you so choose. You’ll switch from the game world to your sanctuary instantaneously which is a good thing but as smooth as the transitions are and as novel as the idea is, I can’t help thinking that its ease of use isn’t greater than simply using a traditional in-game menu.
The steam punk visual style of Fable III is quite a departure from the previous games in the series but it’s a look that actually suits the mood of the game. Indeed from a visual standpoint the game certainly has a lot of charm. Some of that charm is tainted however by graphical glitches, pop-up and a frame rate that isn’t as smooth as it could have been. The animations are generally fine and some of the finishing combat moves look impressive if a little gorier than you might expect in a game like Fable III.
Fable III does offer the option for subtitles but the game is only partially subtitled and it’s nowhere near as good as it could have been for deaf gamers. The subtitles are turned off by default, so you’ll want to enable the subtitles at the first available option by returning to the dashboard and then restarting the game in order to see the dialogue you would have otherwise missed at the beginning of the game. The subtitled dialogue does show the name of the speaker so you’ll be aware of who is speaking. There’s a lot of dialogue here that isn’t subtitled however and you’ll miss out on a fair bit of the game’s humour as a result. All of the peripheral dialogue isn’t subtitled. You'll walk past characters who say hello for instance and this speech isn't subtitled. Comments made by the people you meet are not subtitled for the most part. For instance you'll meet and shake hands with someone and none of their comments, or the comments that your hero makes are shown in text. You won't be aware that your dog is barking to alert you to enemies that are behind you as there are no captions. Your dog also barks to indicate he's found treasure or a digging spot for you and an icon will appear over his head to signify this. The problem is that sometimes your dog can be outside of your field of view so you’ll be unaware that he’s found something. Objectives and tutorial messages are shown in text.
There can be little doubt that Fable III will certainly please those who couldn’t get enough of Fable II. In many respects it’s a similar experience and that’s not that surprising given how popular the game was. Still it’s hard not to feel that the developers could have taken more risks and been more imaginative at times. As much as I enjoyed Fable II, I wanted Fable III to be a different and better experience and I can’t honestly say it’s succeeded on either account. That’s not to say it isn’t a very enjoyable game however but it could certainly have been of a lot better in its provision for deaf gamers. Fable III will rightly be regarded as one of the better Xbox 360 titles of 2010 but the rough edges the game has and the lack of innovation here mean it’s arguably the least memorable of the series so far.