Everything, from levelling up to dressing your character, has been simplified. The former is now handled not through a menu system by through the Road to Rule – a metaphysical path that you can periodically visit to unlock new skills. Skills are literally unlocked from a selection of chests, though perhaps calling them ‘skills’ is a bit of a misnomer when you consider that Fable 3 pitches the ability to whistle and to make pies alongside lightning spells. Again, this is not a joke.
Fable 3 replaces a lot of menus with physical locations, actually. Dressing your character and choosing your weapons, for example, is now done through a Hero Sanctuary, which also acts as a fast-travel hub when you open up the wider world. At any time you can return to your dressing room and, with the aid of your butler, choose a new outfit. It’s yet more evidence that Fable 3 is an RPG that’s desperate to distance itself from its own genre.
Then again though, this shouldn’t really be very surprising. The Fable series has been heading this way for years after all, and has increasingly favoured a wide range of player apparel over anything genuinely innovative or interesting. Fable fans would be quick to dispute that claim, we imagine, and may point to Fable’s much lauded social interactions as proof of this – ‘what about the in-game marriages?’
It's better than a chicken outfit, at least
Well, what about them? Those systems are a lot more shallow and uninteresting than they sound, with romances essentially boiling down to ‘Hold A to kiss NPC’ and a few short fetch quests.
Politicking is the only really new feature in Fable 3 and shows up when you finally reach a position of power – do you keep your promise to lower taxes, or break it and fill your coffers? At first these moral situations feel fun and involving, but the more you play Fable 3 the more you realise that these choices are always binary exaggerations that very rarely shape the game in any way you actually care about.
Unless you set out to play an evil character for the fun of it then most of the interactions are a forgone conclusion too. Despite Lionhead’s claims, Fable 3 doesn’t actually explore moral grey areas, but merely ludicrous extremes – do you finance the orphanage or burn it down and erect a brothel instead? Hardly a question that Kant or Aristotle would spend much time worrying about.
Constipated Ed rallied himself for one big push
Fable 3’s saving graces therefore end up being whichever parts have been the least touched by the feature designers and quest writers, or which have been merely carried over from previous titles. Albion itself begs to be explored and manages to remain enticing even despite the fact that it’s populated mainly by AI-less enemies. Careful exploration pays off too, with buried treasures to find, riddles to solve and silver keys to collect.
While much of the game has been streamlined, not much of it is truly damaged as a result either. The sanctuary doesn’t remove any functions compared to previous games, merely presents it differently and, in many ways, better. The quality of the performances, particularly the big-name actors such as John Cleese, manage to elevate an otherwise lumbering script to enjoyable levels.
At the end of the day, Fable 3 achieves what it seems it has set out to do – namely appealing to casual gamers and creating an adventure which, though marketable as an RPG, also manages to disassociate itself from the hallmarks of the genre. The issue is mainly that Fable 2 did that too and this third instalment adds little to that formula. In anything but short doses Fable 3’s faults start to shine through and reveal it as a title that, while enjoyable in its way, doesn’t have the complexity or cleverness to stand out from either the rest of the genre or the series it belongs to.