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PLATFORM:  Xbox 360 (PC on the way)
ESRB

RATING: M
DEVELOPER:
Lionhead Studios
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios

Peter Molyneux’s latest action RPG simplifies its familiar formula and drags the setting from medieval times into the industrial revolution. While this means for tremendous advances in important fields like firearms and child labor, you’ve still got mythical creatures like hobbes and balverines and other fantasy dorkery mashed into it.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this sequel is how inexplicably addictive it is. Ask someone why they’re playing Fable 3 for two days straight and they likely won’t be able to give you a good answer why. “I married someone and had a kid and was trying to keep my family happy!” “I was digging up treasure with the aid of my yappy dog!” “I became a champion lute player!” Each singular thing doesn’t seem fun or special by itself yet when you start playing you won’t be able to put it down.

Welcome back to Fable.     
     
THE PITCH

You are royalty, either the son or daughter of the hero who became king in Fable 2. Your father has died and left your older brother in charge of the kingdom, and he’s gone a bit mad with the power. Townsfolk spread rumors about public executions, enemies of the state have been jailed, poor people taxed to starvation and whining about their kids getting steady jobs in factories. (The nerve of some people.)

Of course, it doesn’t really bother you too much- you’re a pampered little rich brat with a faithful dog, butler, and significant other and life is good in the castle. Like most people you only get involved with the cause when it directly affects you, when your brother makes you choose between the life of your significant other or a group of villagers.

This is the first of many choices you’ll make throughout the game, but either way you decide to leave home. You’re not by yourself! Along with your faithful if annoying canine companion you also have the aid of two loyal family friends- your mentor and combat trainer Sir Walter Beck (voiced by Bernard Hill, better known as Theoden from Lord of The Rings) and their faithful servant, Jasper (voiced by none other than John Cleese). You rely on them to help you look to the neighboring towns for allies in your fight against your brother.

You’re also greatly helped by the appearance of the same prophet who appeared to your father, a ghostly woman that reveals that you’re a hero and gives you a cache of unique weapons and a Sanctuary you can be mysteriously whisked away to (which is actually the game’s replacement for a menu screen). So begins a story wrought with uprising, tough decisions that decide the fate of a nation, and fart jokes.

THE PLAY



Fable 3 has more of a focus on action than the other titles, and also simplifies the RPG elements of the already simple series. Your character will change depending on what you use in combat and what choices your character makes. Drink a lot of beer, get fatter. Shoot enemies with guns, get taller. Get knocked out a lot, since there’s no way to die in this incredibly easy game? You’ll have a scarred, rugged character. 

The game keeps things interesting by featuring a lot of different types of melee weapons and guns to play with, each which can be upgraded by fulfilling various weapon-specific achievements. Some are combat related like “kill x number of enemies” and some relate to your character, like “have a foursome”  or “lower your morality”. The appearances of your weapons change along with the abilities.


CHUDTIP: It’s smart to keep changing up between magic, gun, and melee attacks.


So besides killing off entire generations of creatures and mercenaries, you’ll spend most of your time talking to people and starting up quests. This is where the game shines- the quests are frequently hilarious and almost always quite creative. For instance, there’s the one where you join a bunch of people playing a pen and paper RPG and get inserted in their world, facing foes such as demon chickens while the dungeon master looms huge over the environment you’re in and gives voices to all the characters you meet. There are missions that let you help a man insult every single person in the country, hunt down a group of lawn gnomes with potty mouths, and dress up as a giant chicken in a Shakespearian play.

It highlights one of the points of the game that no one seems to discuss- how very funny it is. It’s helped immensely by the fantastic voice work by famous British actors (Cleese has TONS of great one-liners) but really, it’s a very silly game that doesn’t take itself seriously. The jovial side quests do clash a bit with the main quest, which gets very serious and dark (no pun intended) at certain moments.

Unfortunately the morality system is the usual good/evil black/white nonsense that you’ve come to expect from most games. There are a ton of important decisions you’ll make in the game, particularly in the last few hours of the story, but you know which ones are the “right” ones.

Another annoying aspect is the joke of a character interaction system. For those who don’t know, you gain friendships and enemies by choosing to play with them or annoy them by hitting a single button, listening to their annoying The Sims-esque back and forth. When you talk to someone a group of icons pop up showing which ways you can interact with the character- laugh at them, hug them, etc. It’s time-consuming and annoying to do so.

Here you go, folks, here’s a handy guide for how to become romantically involved with someone in the game! Find an attractive villager and press A to interact with them. Hit the button for the nice gestures (typically also the A button) and hold it for many seconds till the controller vibrates and it hits the sweet spot that gives you the most points, then watch the animation between your characters and see their friendship meter go higher. Then do it again. Then do it again. Then when the meter is finally full you go on a fetch quest to gain the character’s friendship, go back to the character, and start holding buttons again so you guys can become best friends. Then do it again to go on a date. It’s frustrating and overly long, and you will never feel stupider than sitting in front of your tv playing rounds of patty cake and tickling in order to gain a new friend. You’ll wish for someone to come by and smack you in the face and drag you outside into the sunlight.

Fortunately it’s optional, of course, and you can simply choose to focus on finishing quests and trying to unlock new weapons and abilities. But it’s indicative of the simple nature of all the side quests. You’ll do them and get immersed in them and then wonder why you did it?


CHUDTIP: It’s fun to grab a soldier’s hand and then go frolic in the meadows.


But the game takes many great twists and turns along the storyline and the main quest is fascinating and way more involving than previous games.
 
THE
PRESENTATION

 
It’s a pretty game but don’t use those amazing trailers as a barometer of how it looks- it only looks minutely improved from Fable 2. There are an unfortunate amount of graphical glitches, as well, the biggest being the problem of slowdown. Have a large group of enemies on screen or shoot off too many spells at once and it’s time for a quick trip to stutter city.

 

They’ve also made an interesting design choice that could backfire for some gamers. There are no menus to be found in the game whatsoever. No place to see your stats, life bar, nothing. Hitting the start button brings you to your Sanctuary, where you can physically select weapons and clothes and such. It works well but it’s a bit irritating to have to travel to the Sanctuary and then the corresponding room to do what you need to do. Fortunately the loading time is minimal and your Cleese-voiced butler is there for levity.

Some context-sensitive options do pop up on screen but seemingly at random. While in battle your potions and spells show up bound to the directions on the d-pad, but when you’re out of battle there’s no way to use them or even see how many you have left! It’s a bit strange to not just have a specific button correspond to a specific action, especially when there are buttons that go unused.


CHUDTIP:
Your dog is fairly useless in combat unless you knock enemies down, so
grab a hammer if you want to get him more involved.

 
THE
REPLAY


It’s a fairly long game but even with all the choices you make it’s doubtful you’ll go back to this one. There are, however, a lot of achievements to be found through co-op play, which extends its life a bit. There will also undoubtedly be DLC packs on the way with new missions and such.
 
THE
VERDICT

 
Like the previous Fable entries, we’re faced with a game that’s resigned to just be perfectly good. You will undoubtedly get addicted to it and lose many hours questing in this world, relishing your chance as king or queen and the tough decisions you’ll make, but then come out of it wondering what exactly kept you there. It’s a shallow yet fun experience only made more fun by co-op play. You’ll just wish there was more depth to it.

8.0 out of 10