Fable III has been included as a pack-in title with many versions of the Xbox 360 console for a long time, so for a lot of newcomers to this console generation Fable III may have been their first Xbox 360 experience. For anyone out there curious about this game, be forewarned! Let me save you the trouble, because this game is about as exciting as doing the laundry. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the most boring current generation title that I have ever had the misfortune of playing.
Let me start by offering a brief disclaimer that this article is simply the rant of a single frustrated gamer and this is not the official Game Usagi Fable III review (which happened to be favourable). A few years ago I had great fun playing through Fable II, which is why I was so eager to dive into the next title in the series – big mistake. My busy life (also known as a day job) does not afford me much opportunity to kick back and play video games, so when I do find an hour of free time here and there, the game had better darn well be amazing. I get supremely insulted when I feel like an awful game is recklessly wasting my precious time, so why does Fable III get my bloomers in a knot? Read on…
If you’ve played Fable II, you probably know what to expect from its follow-up. You start as an innocent young darling character falling on hard times who must develop into a strong man or woman in order to save the region of Albion. Along the way you interact with people using various expressions, make friends, have a family, buy properties, level up skills, attack bandits, rescue distressed damsels, and eventually overthrow the king. Along the way you are faced with moral choices that will affect your game later on and how people will perceive you. This formula worked so well in Fable II where it was accompanied by a compelling storyline, memorable characters, an accessible yet effective combat system, and a healthy dose of crass British humour. Fable III, though, limps under the crippling weight of its poorly conceived gameplay.
Firstly, who can get around to saving the world when this game actively encourages you to shake hands with, dance with, frighten, laugh at, or otherwise fart in the face of every single citizen in Albion? This must be the single biggest time waster in videogame history. You see, the game gives you a gold seal every time you use an expression on someone new, and you need as many gold seals as you can get in order to level up. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of strangers just waiting to meet you, and it gets to be a real chore. After politely chatting, hand-shaking, and dancing with the numerous socially deprived NPCs for several untold hours, I got bored and decided I’d rather fart in their faces instead — showing off that crass British humour at its finest. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy bathroom humour as much as the next maturity-deficient man-child, but even that gets boring after about the 100th time. It’s amazing that anyone can carry that much flatulence and not explode from the pressure. Don’t forget, you have to charm someone not once but multiple times if you want to earn their friendship or love. Once I was trying to court a cute woman in the main city street. After dancing with her about 6 times, I was deflated when I realized that she was a lesbian and that I was utterly wasting my time. FAIL.
If you have fond memories of being subject to the devilishly clever and witty insults from the possessed gargoyles in Fable II, then you will be disappointed when you realize that the newest incarnations of insult-spewing inanimate objects are neither witty nor clever. Sure, they still taunt you from the shadows, but their verbal jabs are decidedly uninspired and humourless. FAIL.
Don’t even get me started on the pie making, wood chopping, and lute hero mini games. Hint, you need lots of money in this game to buy supplies and property, but unfortunately playing a round of these mini games only earns you a paltry sum. This means you’ll be making a LOT of pies, chopping a LOT of wood, and playing a LOT of lute hero. You’ll be playing the lute so long that you’ll forget that there is a main campaign at all. Good grief! I’m supposed to be saving the world and yet I’m reduced to a lowly street busker so I can afford a home for my family and maybe splurge on some basic armour. After a while I realized that I’d spent so much time with these useless distractions that I could have learned to play the lute for real, or baked enough real pies to feed the hungry over at the homeless shelter for weeks. FAIL.
While Fable II had an engrossing story about avenging the death of your big sister by stalking your nemesis, foiling his evil plot for world domination, and mercilessly delivering to him an excruciating death (with the gentle prodding of a mysterious blind witch), the story in Fable III is about rebellion against your jerk of a big brother (who just so happens to be the ruler of Albion). Your king brother is drunk with power and the blind old witch wants to help you overthrow him by exploring the region and gaining allies to fight for you. What is her motive?
Gaining these valuable allies involves performing quests, and most of them are simply not very interesting. They usually consist of defeating a thug boss, rescuing slaves, or just generally impressing them with your good deeds and strength of character. Many sidequests involve escorting a person to a destination while holding their hands (how sweet), including a recurring sidequest where you have to escort a thief back to the sheriff. Somehow that dastardly criminal keeps escaping and I have to keep bringing him back over and over again (or maybe he just likes holding my hand). Likewise, exploring the hinterland involves defeating waves of tough enemies that always respawn every time you retread familiar ground. Fighting the same enemies over and over again ensures that you progress through this game very slowly. Yes, you have to kill those same bandits every single time you go through that valley path. And one more thing, you still have to service the selfish whims of talking demon doors, which got old about halfway through Fable II. FAIL.
At least there is not much technically wrong with Fable III apart from the absurd design choice and twisted manner in which the game bends over backwards to ensure that you never ever see an in-game menu. Read my lips – you cannot see your inventory, change your weapon, change your apparel, change your appearance, change game settings, level up skills, fast travel, or anything without first “magically” teleporting to a secret home base and navigating through to the various rooms to find the appropriate objects to interact with. Even buying and selling items from shopkeepers is an awkward process. This serves to turn even the simplest tasks into perversely tedious ones and is yet another example how Fable III goes above and beyond in its efforts to bog itself down as much as it possibly can. This was just a bad idea, give me back the menus next time! EPIC FAIL.
In fairness, I concede that Lionhead Studios made a game with a decently engaging overarching plot, and the series really shines in the way it presents you with numerous moral dilemmas where your choices have far-reaching consequences. Also, I thought that the way that the game measures your advance through the “road to rule” was a neat concept that makes your progress palpable as you gain allies on your way to usurping the throne. I enjoyed the relatively simple combat system and deep character development, among a few other things too. In short, some good features carried through and the game as a whole feels more ambitious than the previous, but because of the reasons mentioned above, the game is far less than the sum of its parts. Lionhead Studios made the cardinal sin of releasing a game that is simply not much fun to play, because the good stuff is buried deep beneath an unholy menagerie of time-wasting distractions.
After progressing about halfway through the main campaign and finishing some minor side quests, I lost interest and stopped playing. There are far better games to play that are actually fun, and I have more productive things to do with my hard-earned free time, like bake pies for the needy.