I approached this game very carefully, as I had read many unfavourable (to say the least) reviews. But already the first minutes of the game really captivated me and I can only report that this never changed over the course of the game. It’s always a tough job to produce a highly anticipated sequel to a well-loved game series, but I think Lionhead Studios did so many things right with Fable III. Even though I can understand the criticism out there. Let me explain.
In Fable III you are the prince/princess of Albion and in the beginning you don’t have a lot of interest in politics. But once you witness the cruelty of your brother Logan, the current King of Albion, first-hand you become part of the resistance. Your loyal servants Walter and Jasper bring you to safety and together you discover the “Sanctuary”. This is a place your father has prepared for his Hero child. You are this Hero, like your father, and the blind seer Theresa tells you of your fate: You have to save Albion from your tyrannical brother. To do that and lead a successful revolution you need followers and so begins your mission in Albion…
Story-wise this sequel becomes even stronger in my opinion. Very early on you will catch fire for the revolution, as your brother makes it personal. He forces you to make an impossible decision: let your beloved die or put protesters to death. It’s on you, but no decision can be right… I was completely at a loss and started to hate him. Who does that? But that very early sequence sets the tone for the whole game. You will later have to make a few uncomfortable decisions. Even though that makes many things difficult it gives the game a very real feel – not everything is straightforward and even when you know what is right you cannot always follow your heart.
The world and the overall design transported me back to Fable II again. But everything looks updated and just a little different. It’s so amazing wandering through Albion and discovering some landscapes that have changed substantially, but you can still recognise some features. Bower Lake and Bowerstone Market are good examples here. The environment looks so stunning and like in Fable II I enjoyed just walking around Albion again. But Fable III basically gives us a Steampunk vision of the world. The untouched forests and wild landscapes have been diminished and industry has taken over Bowerstone Old Town. It made me feel really nostalgic for the medieval and pure world of Fable II.
Now, what did people not like about it? The developers didn’t lose their tongue-in-cheek and definitely very British humour and the character design and graphics got even better in my opinion. The missions were of a similar nature and fighting worked essentially in the same way. Well, one thing people didn’t like was the idea of the Sactuary. Lionhead Studios effectively got rid of a “letter-based” menu and created an interactive menu. It sounds very strange and it takes a while to get your head around. Once you press “Start” your character is transported into the Sanctuary where you can see everything from your savings and weapons to dresses and hairstyles. And while I honestly think it doesn’t take longer than any menu screen scrolling it does feel a bit strange. Was it necessary to revolutionise the menu interaction? Why? And why like this? It’s okay and not as difficult as you might think, but I still don’t see the necessity.
The levelling up process is a pain, though. I agree. Because you don’t do this in your Sanctuary, but you have to travel to a different location, the Road to Rule. And this road is long. Very long. And instead of scrolling through a list of abilities you have to run around on that road and find the right chest that contains the ability you want to unlock. While I think the levelling up system is a good idea in general (collecting “seals” instead of EP) the actual process doesn’t do Lionhead Studios justice. Sorry guys. I’m just too lazy to walk down long roads 😉
Now in this paragraph comes the spoiler part. Only read on if you have played Fable III or don’t mind spoilers. I knew this before I started playing and it didn’t spoil much for me, but rather prepared me. Oh well. The game doesn’t end when you take over the throne of Albion. You will then have to collect humungous amounts of money to save all the people of Albion. In general I don’t mind it when a game goes into a different phase, but this just felt like playing for time. I bought all of the real estate and shops and then just left my Xbox running until I had enough money. Because when you don’t do that you will have to break promises, become a second Logan and probably still lose lives in the end. Again: Great idea, not-so great realisation.
One of the greatest criticisms was, though, that the game was way too short. And I wholeheartedly agree. I got my copy second hand, so I didn’t mind it that much, but I can understand that you would feel cheated if you had paid the full price at release. It took me around three days of casual gaming and one day was basically waiting for money to come in. The game itself is amazing, but there is not as much of it around as you might wish. Fable II was huge and in comparison Fable III just seems overly short.
Lionhead Studios has managed to lovingly produce a beautiful and captivating sequel to Fable II. In spite of its shortcomings I will definitely play it again. The game itself does so many things right and conjures up this special atmosphere that already got me hooked in its predecessor. If you can get it second hand anywhere I would definitely recommend it. Just stay open and don’t assume it’s like any other fantasy RPG game you have played and you will be pleasantly surprised. I am so looking forward to Fable Anniversary now to finally see where it all began!