Fable is an interesting franchise in the sense that it has always promised so much, receives so much attention, and yet is dividing among gamers. There are the people that thoroughly enjoy the series, those that hate it, and those that just do not understand it. I am afraid I fall into the category of just not understanding it. While I played through most of the original and briefly played the second installment, I have never found the experience to be revolutionary. Yet, I found myself being convinced to pick up Fable III and give it a shot. I jumped into the game wondering if this would be the one that really kept me going from beginning to the end.
You start as a prince/princess of Albion. Your brother is the current king and it quickly becomes apparent he is a tyrant and the people of Albion are suffering under his rule. Through a quick opening you find yourself on the outside of the castle with two loyal followers and starting a revolution to take the throne. This leads you to visit many locales throughout Albion to find support. I was impressed with the quality of the voice acting for each character you have to recruit. Never in the game did I feel that a voice or sound effect detracted from the overall presentation and was pleased in this regard. Graphics, on the other hand, come in a variety. At times they look great and at other times they are simply mediocre.
An interesting piece of the presentation that directly affects game play is the lack of a menu system and HUD. Inventory is now handled by going to the sanctuary where there are separate rooms to handle your weapons, your appearance, co-op, trophies, and the world map. Weapons are displayed on statues and outfit sets are put together on mannequins. The sanctuary can be accessed at almost any time in the game and once inside a quick press of the correct direction on the D-pad will send you to the room of your choice. The system works well and though at first a little time consuming, you soon find yourself easily getting to what you need. The one complaint I do have about this system is, as far as I know, there is no way to see the quantity of items such as potions or trade goods unless you try to sell them at a pawn shop, or in the case of potions, see them on the D-Pad during battle.
Fighting has always been a huge weak point in the fable series to me. Fable III is no different and seems to lack difficulty and is overly simplistic. Your magic, melee, and ranged attacks are each assigned to a single button and holding the button will charge up a more powerful attack. In the case of magic, simply pressing the button itself will release a quick area of effect spell around you, while pushing it when you are holding a direction on the LS will give you a ranged magic attack. Holding melee will allow you to block, while holding melee and a direction performs a more powerful attack in that direction. There is no real change in battle from the beginning to the end of the game other than additional spells. Fortunately, fighting is not a focus of the game and not the only way to receive guild seals, the game's version of experience.
Social interactions and quests will also award you with guild seals. Yet, questionable design decisions hold the game back in these areas. Some of my biggest complaints in this game stem from the interaction system. Each citizen of Albion can be walked up to and interacted with to receive a guild seal. Yet, each person has to be approached individually to receive the seal making for a long and tedious process. Also, there is no way to pick which interaction you would like to perform. Walking up to a citizen and engaging with them prompts three choices to be presented. I would not have a problem if I had achieved a healthy variety of animations, but instead, I seemed to get either dance, chat, or pat-a-cake every time for the positive morality side of interactions. I know that I had tickle, handshake, and whistle interactions that could have also been used. Why do I not have the option to pick which interaction I desire to use? Why does chat not give me a guild seal? Why does it seem like the longer animations were picked every time? Also, the interactions themselves seem a bit out of place. In a world of child labor and poverty, why am I playing pat-a-cake with a mercenary and dancing with a beggar? This is how I win people over to support my cause of glorious revolution?
While technically you are not forced to interact with the people for the most part, I still found myself a little short of guild seals towards the end of the game though I had tried to talk to a large amount of the people I walked into. So, now that you have all the guild seals what do you do with them? No longer do you level your hero through a text based menu but through the interactive Road to Rule. You buy chests on the path which upgrades your abilities, but not all chests are available from the beginning and only by progressing farther through the story can you get down the path. Yet, Road to Rule also serves as a visual reminder of how you progressed through the game by showing which followers you had and a statue of your hero when you opened the gate.
Thankfully, with the help of the map room in the sanctuary, progressing through the game is a breeze. The map room acts as a fast travel map, quest log, and real estate management center. You can choose any areas opened by the story you wish to travel to, or you can select a quest, have your glowing trail lead you to it, and fast travel to a nearby location with a few clicks of a button. It does get aggravating that you do not have an accurate map to show you an area. While the map is great for an overview of an area and showing you some basic landmarks, if you are looking for something specific it can be a trial. It is not that I do not want to explore, but I find myself getting lost without an accurate map and the golden trail which leads you to you next target is buggy at times. The trail, at times, will completely disappear and reappear behind you when you walk and while not game breaking it is annoying.
Real estate is also annoying, unnecessarily time consuming, and tedious as well. Using the map or by being at the sign in front of a location that is available, will allow you to buy it. Then, if it is not a business, you have the option to rent it out or move in. If you choose to rent out a house it will steadily lose condition until tenets will no longer pay rent. In order to repair it you can either visit the sign at its location in person or select each individual property on the map to scroll through a small menu and repair it. What baffles me, is why anyone felt house condition and repair was necessary to a game that tries so hard to keep things clean and efficient. It is not as if I ran out of money to repair the homes or that it lead me to any tough decisions in the game.
Actually, real estate made what should have been a hard decision towards the end of the game a laughable affair. After you become King, you have the option on multiple occasions of doing one policy or the other. The major influence on this will be your treasury. To supplement the treasury you can donate money from your own wallet. When I started as king the nation had 400,000 in the treasury. I had 7,000,000 in personal wealth made from the real estate market. This made any decision towards the end of the game a question of, do I do the right or wrong thing? I was also disappointed with the changing of Albion based on your action. To be honest, I do not know exactly what I expected but I was hoping for a little more depth than was delivered. You change the face of Albion by deciding on the answers to questions that really boil down to painting a room blue or red. Then the game would apply said color choice. I found it to be overall underwhelming.
Yet, these complaints alone would be easy to overlook if they were the only things wrong with the game. It is regrettable that this is not so. Throughout the game, I would suffer frame rate issues that ranged from easily ignored to stuttering so bad I actually stopped playing for a bit out of frustration. The thing is, the frame rate did not drop during battles but simply by walking around the world. Bugs also pop up from time to time. One somehow tells the game you are holding a button during an interaction or during battle. By simply tapping the button again the game would act like you released it. Still, it is confusing for a second when it happens. Another bug I ran into, about halfway through, was the game trying to repeat a tutorial which lead to one character being all but silent and the inability to go to the menu rooms in the sanctuary via D-pad.
At the end of the day, I found I had put 30 hours into my first play through. If you simply want to attack the story I would guess 12-15 hours of playtime will be your experience. I had no issue with the new graphical menu and I can say that this is the first Fable I played all the way through. The voice acting is good and the general art direction is consistent. However, I found that the my overall feelings are bogged down by a few questionable design decisions, stuttering frame rate, and bugs in general. The game is worth a rent even though it is average in most ways.
+ Quality voice acting
+ It has a story
+/- No more menu
+/- Same fighting system
- Having to repair real estate
- Numerous bugs
- Where is my freedom to pick?