2 Steps Forward, 3 Steps Back
The qualities of the Fable III series and how it has to be reviewed largely depends upon the type of player wanting to play this game. The Fable series on the whole has always been known as a game series focused on the story elements and not so much the game elements. While Fable I and II were mostly the same game, Fable II did take the mechanics and really perfect them to a nice balance. It was at that point the gameplay did seem to become a bit stale though and I can see how Lionhead Studios wanted to mix it up for this next game. Where Fable III goes though is a mixed bag at best with its success.
The first half of the game follows the Fable formula tried and true for the most part. You go through your hero journey to discover yourself as an adventurer and for the most part the foundation that we know as Fable is all there. The tough part to swallow though is that is appears that Lionhead has stripped back so much of the elements that make interacting with the world fun, the gameplay is now tedious in many respects. I have read that their goal was to make the game more approachable for new players, but some of the design elements just seem downright dumb decisions. Core elements such as a health bar have been removed which make determining your closeness to death near impossible. Management of weapons, clothes and magic has been moved to a Sanctuary, which while good in concept becomes burdensome because the player has to navigate through so many screens to get where they want to go.
The actual world design itself has even been changed so much so that I often found myself frustrated with trying to work within it. NPC interactions are now relegated to one-on-one spaces and the gestures you had so much fun playing with in the first game are paltry in their choice. The purchasing of property has become a chore because it now has to be maintained and the whole "touch" feature that was so highly touted has been basically relegated to fetch questions with characters. Overall it seems like just a mess that makes it more difficult to interact with the world. Navigating the world itself is frustrating. While the zones are there from the other games I never felt as if I had a good understanding of how they were connected. The inclusion of a map system at first seemed like welcome relief to this dilemma, but I quickly found after using it that the maps were approximations of the zone you were in and never showed where your character was. In some ways they made the situation of navigating worse because you wanted to rely on them so much.
Now the inclusion of the morphing weapon system is an interesting one and while they striped away much of the character morphing the actual weapons don't appear all that interesting since you always come upon better ones. I was also very frustrated by the fact that you essentially only have two weapon types for each weapon class. You have swords and hammers and rifles and pistols. That is it. In a game that largely lets you customize your character I found I had less choices. I even found it difficult to find very many clothing or hair styles.
I unfortunately found the first half of the game to get tiresome quickly with these mechanics stripped back. I basically found myself going straight to battles and quests which in the Fable world are too simplistic to often times hold one's attention.
Now, the second half of the game I thought Lionhead took some leaps to try to expand the Fable concept. I like the ideas they tried to do, but their overall execution didn't seem to fully come to life. On the whole, this second part of the game felt very restricting in how it was broken up into very defined segments. Making decisions as a monarch and experiencing the consequences of of what it is to rule is interesting, but is it fun? At the end of your royal duties there was always an arbitrary world quest which seemed like it was thrown in for good measure just to make sure the user was still having fun.
Overall this is an interesting extension on the Fable universe, but it falls short as too much is stripped bakc and taken away from the user.