It’s been a long time now since it came out on 360, but since I only just finished it last week, and the PC version is due to be released in only a week or so, I can finally get round to reviewing it and it won’t be too late or random.
I played the first Fable game on PC, and while it was OK, I was never really impressed. Everything felt too constrained and narrow, and I kind of got bored of it, but I certainly loved the ideas involving of your character growing from a child to a man and having real effects on the game world depending on your choices. It wasn’t necessarily a brand new concept though, and so I wasn’t particularly blown away by it.
The only things I really remember are that I saved a child from a bully in the childhood intro, killed a giant spider thing and then took its head to the town center to show it off to the villagers, and finally, that I got a mustache. I never finished it, and this disappoints me, but thankfully Fable II came out for the next generation of consoles and I had a good blast of that; I even finished it!
Fable II was very different, it seemed. It felt a lot bigger, had more content, allowed you to do a lot more, and generally just seemed a whole lot better. I actually really enjoyed Fable II, and I had a whale of a time hoarding all the properties in the kingdom, generating rental income from the tenants of the homes and the businesses, doing my part by working at the blacksmiths or serving pints at the pub, killing bandits and rescuing innocent villagers, upgrading my abilities, and become a big bad-ass (who was also the nicest guy in the world).
With a decent enough story and enough to get through to keep the whole thing really entertaining, I loved Fable II and I could have played it again (if I hadn’t traded it in toward whatever my next game was…) So imagine my joy when I heard only months after Fable II came out that Fable III was already in production!
Fable III was a big fat disappointment. There, I said it. It wasn’t groundbreaking, it wasn’t unique, and it was essentially Fable II, but not as good. How the hell could that be possible? Well, I’ll tell you. The entire thing was basically a re-envisioning of the second game, with the exact same engine (no discernible improvements, at least), the same world with some things switched about to keep it all fresh, and the same exact combat system. Seriously, nothing new about it at all except the plot and story. In fact I think the only addition to it may have been the ability to combine two spells at once, instead of just the one. That didn’t create any kind of super-spell, though (like even indie-game Magicka managed to pull off, immensely), but it just fires both spells separately. Ingenious…
Despite a fairly decent cast of voice actors, paying tribute to particular comedy legends such as John Cleese and Jonathan Ross by having them grace the content of the game, there is nothing else particularly interesting about the game. It pains me to say it, it really does, because I was both extremely excited to play this installment in the Fable franchise, and had high hopes for new and improved game mechanics.
Sure, all of the same things were fine, because they pretty much did the same thing as the previous game, but certain elements were, as I said, worse off. It may sound like a trivial issue, but an example or two of these less than pleasing changes are that the character interaction, between your hero and any random villagers has gone a little strange. In Fable II, interacting with a villager happened on the fly, with no cutting or changing of camera angles; you simply pressed the button to interact, and you would immediately be interacting, on the spot. In Fable III, however, choosing to interact with someone forces you into a sort of… mini-game. The camera goes black for a moment and positions you facing the villager, so you cannot move or run away unless you hit ‘B’ to cancel the interaction. There is also no challenge in getting the maximum benefit from a particular action, where in Fable II you would have to hit the button at certain moments to get the best possible outcome from a gesture, like laughing or juggling, in Fable III you simply hold down the big green ‘A’ button until the circle fills up and goes ‘ping’, telling you in the most simplified way that you gone done it good. Wow, what a sense of achievement. Even interacting with your dog (surprise! you have a faithful dog companion in this one, too!) has been simplified; where you could throw a ball anywhere you choose and watch your lovable pal run off to fetch it, Fable III forces you into interaction mode, lets you throw the ball, and then doesn’t offer any semblance of seeing the dog actually collect it. Now, as I said, these are certainly trivial issues, but why on earth in a game whose franchise and dev team (Lionhead Studios) has always been about progress and innovation, have they taken a step back and made things more suitable for idiots? It’s beyond me.
Another thing they’ve changed is the inventory system, and let me tell you, it’s the most god-awful piece of shit I’ve ever seen in an RPG. There’s no real inventory window or box, nothing useful at least. Accessing your inventory consists of hitting ‘select’ on the game pad, appearing in a room that is maintained by John Cleese’ character who may as well be called ‘Jeeves’, and then walking into another room, depending on whether you want to choose a weapon, change your clothes, or view your trophies, and then walking up to a physical (virtual) representation of the weapon or spell you want to use, and then pressing a series of buttons to select it, then backing out of the strange inventory world to return to the actual game world, to continue your quest. Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but that is bullshit! I read somewhere that it was supposed to be more intuitive, but you can cheerily go smear peanut butter on a dogs offal and then lick it off if you honestly want to tell me that it either works well, or was clever. Nobody needs to see innovation in such a useless, time-wasting way as this.
Phew! That was quite a rant… I guess that was what really got to me the most. Something being the same… but worse. It makes no sense! This angered me, and in fact is why it took me so long to finish the game. I played it for the weekend that I bought it, and then out of sheer disappointment put it down and never played again for about 4 months.
Right, so I’ve had a good complain about the similarities and misfortunes of Fable III compared to Fable II, and I think that was rather important. But, in all fairness, it really isn’t a terrible game at all. No, really, I know I absolutely went off on one there, but I actually enjoyed the game once I got past my own barriers of picky-ness. I had a sword, I had a gun, I had magic, and there was a story, what more do you really need. Once I reminded myself of this, I managed to pick up the game again and get back into it, plowing through the whole thing in about 8 hours. I bought up every property I could find and afford, did every possible quest (there’s a surprisingly small amount), and then made it through to the very end.
Guess what, being a nice guy to everybody (like I always do in any kind of morality game) actually did NOT pay off this time, not to mention it gave me what was a bloody terrible ending. Without being too spoilery, your wealth at the end of the game makes a huge difference to the outcome of certain events, and having little or no money (or even 3-million gold’s worth of DEBT, like me) severely affects the ending for the game world, and the process leading up to this point actually allows for quite a few cool physical changes to the game world that you can explore and enjoy (unless like me you just want the game to be finished so you can get around to reviewing it and telling everybody how annoying some of the stuff was).
So there you have it, it’s been mostly bad, but there’s certainly been some not so bad, but I honestly have little more to say about this game. It’s taken me long enough to get round to doing this, and so I’ll end this review on the following:
Fable III is not a terrible game, heck it’s even worth playing. Just remember, if you played and loved Fable II, the similarities and pointless differences between the games are more likely to stand in your way of enjoying it than to boost it. Do not pay more than £15 for it.
That is all.