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Fable III.

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Franchise Fable

What Kev Malone thought:

7.50/10 7½

“ Fable was hailed as a great action RPG. Not perfect by any means, but great; the problem was Peter Molyneux of Lionhead, giving all sorts of promises his game couldn’t live up to. The sequel, Fable II also had this problem. Can this third installment live up to his promises and does it improve on its predecessors?  This entry in the series sees things take a radically different approach to the both the games opening, and it’s story-telling style. Before we would always start as a child, use the childhood and teen years to develop out basic character then go all out as an adult; in contrast, here we start out as a young adult, a prince/princess to be exact. Son/Daughter of the previous games hero. This could have the effect of leaving you somewhat withdrawn from your character, but another little touch that has been missing in other Fable titles, is your main character has a voice. That’s right, no longer will you answer a life or death question with a thumbs up and a “Wayheeeeyy!”, Here you have a fully voiced male or female lead, which adds a touch of personality to your character. The story sees you taking your fully voiced character (yes, I do like the fact there’s a voice there), and trying to overthrow your tyrannical brother, who is the current King of Albion. When you are in the position to do so, when you have to make choices, it’s as simple as it always was. There are no grey areas, everything is black and white - pun fully intended. You’ll basically be given a good choice and a bad choice, so there’s never any trouble in decided the outcome of certain events; you’re either playing as good, or evil. This takes away the pressure you should really feel at the games crunch time, and is certainly a missed opportunity. To begin with you’re shown one of the games new main attractions in the tutorial - touch. Before we were able to gather a crowd and fart at them, or show them our might by flexing our muscles. In Fable III the whole system is more personalised, letting you hold hands or hug an NPC, and while only being able to ‘talk’ to one NPC at a time can be tedious, it is more realistic than the previous games’ attempts at interaction with others. This touch system also helps in your quest to level up, but not in the traditional method. Gone are the days of collecting orbs for Strength, Skill and Will and dispensing them into the appropriate areas to increase their base value, now you collect ‘Guild Seals’ which you’ll earn from interacting with people, combat and completing quests. You’ll use these seals to open chests on the ‘Road to Rule’, a pathway littered with treasure chests, which contain all the levelling up bonuses e.g., different expressions and better skill with firearms. This is a step backwards for Fable, I feel, as the previous systems gave you a distinct impression you were becoming more powerful the more quests you completed, whereas here you simply have to collect 60 Guild Seals to get the next bonus, it just feels empty, and while Lionhead are to be commended for trying something a little different, it isn’t a great experience. Speaking of overhauls to systems, Fable III has no standard menus. That’s right, when you want to change your outfit or weapons, you press the start button and you’re whisked away to the Sanctuary, a place inhabited by none other than John Cleese who is on form as ever. While this was annoying to begin with, I found myself really liking the system. It’s clumsy sure, but there’s something good about teleporting there, then hearing “Good day, Sir” from Sir Lancelot. There is a problem, however, and that is at certain points there needs to be menus, such as when you are inviting a friend to your game, or saving and loading or even selecting a quest. Now if you’re going to do away with menus in such a dramatic fashion, best to go all the way or keep the menus in place. As mentioned though, it’s a nice addition, even if it is unnecessary. Graphically the game is not a whole lot more impressive than it’s predecessor, the character models are a tad sharper, the vistas look better, other than that, same level of graphical prowess as Fable II. Of course this is no bad thing, Fable II is a good looking game, and the improved vistas as you run around do immerse you in the world of Albion if you let them.  The music also fits the bill here, with perfect melodies and scores playing when you would expect/want to hear them. Combined with the games generally excellent (if somewhat stereotypically English) voice acting, the audio in the game is superb overall. A major problem with the game is you are meant to be a prince, heir to the throne of an empire. Guess what though? You’re still gonna have to go into town and do a hard days work to earn money like the peasents. Nothing is given to you (save for 500 gold near the beginning, and it’s not as much as it sounds).  Once you have your gold, you can spend it on a variety of clothing, weapons, hairstyles and such.  The customisation available to you is as good as ever, but I still mourn the loss of proper armor from the original Fable game. Gameplay wise, the game doesn’t particularly fall apart, as the mechanics are basically the same as Fable II where one button controls melee, one button controls magic and the other guns/rifles, but the game is so painfully easy, it’s actually pretty difficult to die, and with the absence of any sort of difficulty tuner, you’re stuck on easy street. Gone are health bars, in there place a CoD like red smear around your screen, which disappears in time. The worst of it is, you can still use health potions and such to heal yourself even faster. I had no trouble completing the game start to finish without ever finding out if there were any consequences for death (which I hear there aren’t). Thankfully in between the tedium of being un-kill-able, the quests are entertaining. I particularly enjoyed dressing as a chicken and coaxing runaway chickens back into there pen, after their paranoid owner decided they were planning a takeover of all Albion. Fable’s humor remains the same; if you enjoyed previous titles humor and storytelling, you’re going to like this, too. You can also bring a friend in with you for some co-op adventuring. This works beautifully in comparison to Fable II’s appalling attempt. Here you are both thrown into the same world, and providing you remain in the same map area, you can do what you like. You can enter business partnerships, get married to and have children with friends on Xbox Live. This adds a surprising amount of replay, as me and a friend spent a good four hours running around searching for all the hidden gnomes, which are this games equivalent of Fable II’s hidden gargoyles. While Mr Molyneux has made false promises as he always does, his team does produce entertaining RPG-lite games, and this is no exception. Fable III has a good co-op system, a story that is entertaining (once) and some nice little quests - the Demon Doors also make a return.  Still I can’t help but feel the series has been going backwards, after it peaked with Fable: The Lost Chapters. One can only hope Lionhead take the best parts of all three titles and throw them together. Then we will have a truly fantastic RPG-lite experience on our hands. ”

Version reviewed: Xbox 360 Read the full review

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