I’m not ashamed to say that I adored Fable II with all my being. It was a giddy, blind love — a wholehearted willingness to look past the game’s blemishes and blunders (multiplayer, I’m glaring at you) and just enjoy all the things it got right. The thrilling fights, the wide-open world with near-infinite possibilities, the visible changes to the avatar based on your moral decisions, the terrific voice work, that beloved canine companion.
Fable III ups the stakes by taking everything that worked in II and making it even better, and ditching the stuff that didn’t work at all. The RPG elements are simplified by replacing tedious menus with an in-game hub where your avatar can physically manipulate your weapon choices, appearance, and more. Leveling up takes place in a dream-like “Road to Rule” world, where you again physically interact with your selections. This new form of managing your game feels more tangible and realistic. Gameplay itself has been dumbed-down a bit too, which some will appreciate and others will loathe. But most importantly, multiplayer has been fixed.
A full generation has passed in the realm of Albion, where the Hero King — your character in Fable II — has passed away and his oldest son, Logan, has assumed the throne. Logan is a cruel man with a lust for power that doesn’t care who he steps on to build his empire, enforcing child labor and a virtual police state. You play the role of his younger sibling (a brother or sister, depending on what you choose) who sets out on a mission to start a revolution and take the throne. Whether you do this through noble or nasty means is up to you, and doesn’t affect all that much about the story other than the way your character is treated by his or her subjects.
But that’s just the first half of the game. After becoming king or queen, you’re faced with a whole new set of challenges, not the least of which revolve around fulfilling or reneging on the promises you made with various factions to secure your new office. There’s also (spoiler alert!) a dark threat looming over Albion that, as ruler, it’s your responsibility to prepare for. The moral choices only become more complicated when you know that the survival of your entire kingdom is at stake. (Hot tip: start buying up property as soon as the game starts giving you money.)
Albion has changed since the second game, with the onset of industry and complex machinery. Guns are more widespread as a viable weapon of choice, but you still have the option of using blades and magic as well. Your weapons change in appearance as much as you do, based on the choices you make and experiences you have. You’ll visit some familiar locations from the second game and it’s a kick getting to see how much they’ve changed, while there’s also a whole slew of new locales as well. Fable III benefits greatly from new lighting effects and a beefed-up graphics engine; at times some of Albion’s vistas are just breathtaking.
No expense was spared by studio Lionhead in crafting the game and its world; highbrow thespians and comedians provide most of the voices. It’s impossible to overstate the gravitas of having great voice actors to read your lines; the likes of John Cleese, Michael Fassbender, Simon Pegg, Ben Kingsley, and the great Bernard Hill make the drama far more dramatic and relatable.
Sadly, most of the old glitches are still present in this third entry in the series. There’s still plenty of clipping issues throughout, and numerous times where you or your dog just get stuck in odd little spots. The dog doesn’t seem quite as intelligent this time out, though it’s nice that he doesn’t have to die in this game. There are other issues as well… for example, the balance of power between the player and AI opponents often seems swayed too strongly in your direction, particularly when you use magic.
But with so much gameplay available, endless side quests, and an utterly gorgeous world to explore at your leisure, it’s hard to dislike Fable III. Things have changed in both good ways and bad, but ultimately you’ll find that it’s entirely worthy of a third trip to the land of Albion.