What can I say? It's a Molyneux game
What other figurehead in gaming other than Bobby Kotick can get so much criticism and badmouthing as Peter Molyneux (well except for that guy who sues anybody who uses the word "Edge" but he doesn't count). A man known for making huge promises or just confident claims regarding the games he makes and the features that are in them, or not in them. This makes the "Fable" series a lightning rod for detractors since not everything mentioned the games will include are actually in the game. Is it just because they ran out of time, that he's got big ambitions and just can't make the games the way he wants or is it really that he's a big exaggerator and needs to turn things down a peg? Well Fable 3 ultimately is probably one of the more ambitious and certainly the most out-there in terms of design decisions but not all of them are big successes which is a shame cause deep down, I find Fable 3 really addicting but then some annoyance pops up and makes me wonder whether they intended that to be there all along or if it's just Lionhead being really weird.
Unlike Fable 1 and 2, the hero of Albion is now born into royalty as opposed to a penniless young lad (or lass) and his the son or daughter of the hero from Fable 2. Your brother, Logan is king of Albion and tyrant is just scratching the surface as lands are falling into decay, starvation is hitting some settlements and he's not above executing people for very trivial reasons. Needing to flee the castle with the help of your mentor Walter and butler Jasper, you set out on a quest to gain followers and start building a large group of supporters as you lead the revolution to dethrone Logan and take your place as leader of Albion. Fable 3 has a really excellent opening-to-middle period where the quests come quite fast, the collectables and new areas are found easily and the game starts to open up its features but then you get to that last third and it becomes a less than ideal ending for a game that, until that point, I get sucked into incredibly fast. The storytelling is a lot more improved with snappier pacing than Fable 2 but there's less memorable characters I felt and there wasn't as much memorable events.
Gameplay of Fable 3 is largely the same: rent out or own houses, invest in property, marry and have children with villagers and level your character as you play. But it's in the minor details that have changed. Combat is a bit more tougher (but still easy compared to most action games) but the completely badass flourishes liven up the fighting, spellcasting is less tedious and having your hero weapons morph as you play is quite cool. The jobs return but instead of timing-based mini-games, now they're more like Guitar Hero - Lute Hero, in this case - as you time your button presses according to a moving meter. Levelling up your character is also a bit different as in Fable 2, the more you used one type of attack, the more experience you got from it. So use more melee, get more strength exp but instead everything you do gains you guild seals which acts like currency on the Road to Rule, a spiritual pathway filled with chests that upgrade your character. Some are just simply gaining new expressions or promotions on the jobs while others give you new spells or upgrade damage and look of your attacks. It's a cool idea however the road is sectioned off and you can't level your character however you saw fit and instead have to wait until a certain part of the story to gain access to the next section. It's minor but buying the ability to have sex feels weird.
Co-op has also been changed quite a bit in that it actually works this time. Character looks and upgrades will show up in your game, have free-roam within that certain region and can even interact with you such as give you gifts, get married and even have a child with. Not only that but guild seals and cash you earn will be kept when you go back to single player which is quite nifty. But the biggest change has to come from the Sanctuary which turns a typical 2D start menu into an interactive hub so instead of pressing down a few times to access the clothing sub-menu, you just walk over to your clothing room. It's less clunky and even a bit faster to do everything you need but it's still kind of an awkward adjustment where you can't just bring up a button to save your game, you have to enter the sanctuary, walk over to the game options and then save your game.
Graphically the game is a huge improvement from Fable 2 and while I miss the cartoonish, almost widely vibrant visual style of that one, this one looks more sharper with better detail and even full in-engine cutscenes however there is a big cost to this: Fable 3 has incredibly noticeable slowdown and it becomes distracting. In other games, it might happen occasionally then disappear for awhile and never become a nuisance but here, it'll pop up pretty frequently. While we're on the subject of gripes, having your quest trail bug out and send you the wrong way until for it to correct itself is frustrating, having the active quest change on you thus changing the trail is doubly so and not having a "you are here"-type indicator of where you are on the map can make navigation a big pain. A "repair-all" function is repeatedly - and rightfully so - asked for, and like I said, that last third of the game feels more like something you have to know beforehand and prepare for rather than experience it for the first time. So we traded Fable 2's anticlimactic ending for a confusing and frustrating one.
I never really felt the Fable games were trying to be for the super hardcore people (that's what Demon's Souls is for) but rather it's a very accessible game, very attractive to look at and easy to get into. It's easy to walk into one thinking it'll be the most amazing RPG you ever played and walked out feeling like you just played a serviceable one but deep down, I really enjoy the series but there hasn't been that one masterpiece, the de-facto centerpiece that everyone can agree on is the best. Fable 3 in many respects is a lot like the other 2: it's fun, anyone can play it and has hours of replay value but there's so many odd bits and bobs here and there that can drag down the experience.