The weakest Fable yet is still worth playing.
Fable III is really good, but it has a lot of little problems and some strange design choices. It's like every area that has a significant improvement, another has a moderate inconvenience. I have quite a bit to say about it all.
For starters, the presentation is amazing. The visuals are beautiful and voice acting is excellent. The main character actually talks (from time to time) now and it's noticeably more cinematic than past Fable titles. I really enjoy the cast of characters and you don't feel like the cliche silent, lone hero because the game is based on overthrowing a king and gaining followers. The role-playing elements are great and the big decisions feel much more personal than they have before. However, this game and Halo: Reach are really showing how far behind the Xbox 360 is from the PS3 in terms of power. These games push the console to the limit and there are some technical issues and slow-down from time to time.
The interface is improved but also suffers from some steps backward at times. For some reason almost any action is done by holding the A button now, making players have to wait needlessly for no reason to do something or make a choice. Not only do you have to hold it for just about everything, it also doesn't activate until you release the button. I honestly don't see the logic in this since you can't cancel it once you've held it all the way in the first place. It's just redundant. On top of this whenever you receive something you have to press A to accept it. This is particularly annoying when you press A to open a chest and then have to press it again to accept what's inside. I mean seriously, obviously I want what's in the chest. I already decided to open the damn thing in the first place. Interacting with villagers loses fluidity because the screen blacks out to load up a specific camera angle every time you want to use an expression or give something, and it has to go back to this screen after you do it as well where you have to press B to cancel out. It just doesn't feel as streamlined as using expressions in Fable II where you can simply bring up the big wheel and entertain massive crowds at once, where as in Fable III you have to interact with every person individually. You also can't choose what expressions pop up when you interact, it's all random which takes the fun of the expression system Fable is known for. Since Fable II they have been trying to rid a HUD from the game as often as possible so it seems odd to add these things. What's even more strange is this stuff that doesn't need a HUD is here, and stuff that does like a life meter, is not. It's hard to tell when you're losing a fight until you've taken X amount of hits and a pop-up message at the top tells you that you are injured and you should heal. I'm not sure if you heal automatically after fights or how the system works but it's a slight inconvenience.
Those are all little problems though. The rest of the interface has been improved greatly. The pause menu now seamlessly takes you to the Sanctuary. Here you can visit the Armory to equip your weapons and spells, the Dressing Room to check all of your clothing options and save custom suits, and work with all the settings of the game. You can even use a Quick Match feature to join a multiplayer game at random which is a nice feature. One of the biggest improvements over the past Fable games here is the map system. The map was pretty much an afterthought in Fable and Fable II. It wasn't very useful (more so in Fable II) to know where you're going since you had the glowing trail. You still have the glowing trail in Fable III but the map's great improvement is allowing you to see exactly what you have to do in every area without having to be there. I can see how many keys are in a town, how many quests, and you can also manage all of your real estate from the map which is incredibly handy.
The combat in Fable II was amazing and fluid. It was a real splendor after playing the original to upgrade to Fable II's system and have the freedom and fluidity that the combat gave you. Overall it seems like a slight downgrade now, however. It feels a little clunky and slow. You don't chain attacks as easy as you did before, the combat requires much more pacing, and it is legitimately challenging at times, where as Fable II was very easy. You can't just go into battle and button mash towards enemies anymore. You really have to get the hang of being patient which I don't mind. The auto-targeting seems less accurate and it's hard to shoot or throw magic at things that aren't enemies, like exploding barrels for example, in the middle of a fight. The only reliable way to do so is by using the manual aim with the gun which seems to be all too sensitive. The magic system however is greatly improved and I applaud them for this. Magic in Fable II was pretty much all the same and only a few spells had real use. You can only equip one spell at a time initially in Fable III so you have to really pick what you want to master and how it fits into your play style. Shock for example, will do less damage than Fireball but it will stun enemies which I find very useful. Later on you have the option to unlock Spellweaving which allows you to combine the effects of two magic spells which further personalizes how you play. The magic is really the cornerstone of the gameplay now and it works very well. As I said, the combat is noticeably more challenging than Fable II. I enjoy that, and I do agree with some changes to slow the pace, but I think the melee combat in particular could be more fluid. In the first few hours you really have to understand you can't play the game like Fable II despite the similarities in the combat engine. Switching between all of your combat options in general is less fluid and it doesn't feel as graceful and free as it was before. Also, I find that the game tries to abuse the slow motion feature when you flourish far too often and the camera stays on the attacked enemy far too long. At times I have completely missed a flourish and the game still puts it in slow motion. Other times I have knocked an enemy far back with a gun shot and the camera stays on him just way too long while I can't see my own character and the enemies are still advancing on me. This is another minor flaw but I don't see how anyone would overlook it during play-testing.
If you're looking for an easy way through building your character in Fable III, there is none. Virtually everything that could be abused in Fable II is now changed. No exploiting to upgrade your character because you have to play through the story to keep unlocking upgrades. You no longer earn money when you're not playing the game so don't think of changing your internal clock to make a fortune in five minutes. I don't have a problem with this stuff because as I said before, Fable II was awesome, but it was too easy. I like the idea of rewarding the player by actually playing. Fortunately making money the hard way isn't nearly as tedious in Fable III as it was before. The new jobs pay off at a fine rate for you to do a minimum amount of grinding to begin starting an empire with your money.
There is much more to do outside of the main game in Fable III and that's a great improvement. You'll still have the standard collecting of silver keys, as well as finding demon doors and gnomes which have replaced gargoyles. There are lots of passive improvements to the weapon system which allows you to personalize your Hero as much as you want. Every one of the weapons has three unlockable upgrades when you perform certain tasks with them, such as killing a certain amount of human enemies or making a certain amount of money from a job. This goes back to the changes in the magic system and making everything have some individual purpose for the player to tweak their own style which is good.
Let's talk about the multiplayer. Did you ever play multiplayer in Fable II? Yeah...it was pretty weak. Players could not use their individual heroes when they were the guest to another player's world and they were confined to the same screen even playing over Xbox Live. Praise the gods because common logic has occurred to Lionhead and the only time you'll have to be same screen is if you're playing locally with a friend. I haven't tried it so I don't know if the camera is improved compared to Fable II but I would hope so, since it was a problem before. Multiplayer is a shining feature in Fable III and I would actually say this is the best co-op experience you can get that isn't Rock Band 3 this year. The story does not advance for the guest player in co-op, however that's just another small issue. It's very fun to play this game together and the combat actually really shines and feels like a whole new beast when you have two players using magic and varying their attacks together. You get mobbed by lots of enemies at once often in Fable III and it feels good to bring in a friend to make it easier. Players can form a business contract with each other to share their collective wealth and properties. Or you could take it even further and marry another player, and even adopt a child or get one the old-fashioned way, by doing the nasty. You can still interact with people the same way as well, being able to give/trade gold or non-quest items and weapons. Every individual Fable III player gets 26 generated weapons specific to their world out of a total 50, so you will have to interact with other people if you want to obtain them all.
Overall Fable III is another very good entry into the series and a great Xbox 360 exclusive. It dances on the borderline of being amazing and superior to Fable II, but is kept from this because of some odd design choices and a pile-up of small technical flaws. This game actually lasts quite a bit longer than I originally thought. I believed to had been near the end of it but even after becoming king of Albion, that was 12 hours in, and I didn't finish the story until after 20 hours. It actually takes a very engaging and interesting turn after some epic moments. There is a significant weight of the choices you make in this game that has not been there in the previous two titles. I can't praise the cinematic presentation of this game enough. Everything that unfolds in the game is done so in epic fashion. However, I do feel they dropped the ball on the final fight of the game, again. It's not nearly as nonexistent as the one-shot blow to Lucien in Fable II, but I felt like what I wanted to fight in Fable III, I didn't get to fight. Regardless, Fable III still has something that very few games have. Great writing, witty charm, entertaining humor, and a rich mythology behind it. All the little things they do to keep the world of Albion familiar, yet fresh, and remind you of things from the past games and intertwine them in makes Fable something that almost guarantees enjoyment if you have liked the previous games in the series.