terramantis's Fable III (Xbox 360) review

So you say you want a REVOLUTION? Well you know...

...everyone wants to change the world. If Beatles lyrics don't grab your attention I don't know what will. Pogs...are kids still into Pogs to go with their Pac ma men stuff?

Lionhead Studios has done it AGAIN!!!! I actually mean that sarcastically and quite literally. Lionhead Studios has done it again…basically made the same game as Fable II. For some people this won't be a problem if you really loved Fable II. I liked Fable II quite a bit, it was entertaining. There are some changes from Fable II and they are some of the most innovative portions of Fable III, but there are not many.

Fable III, like its predecessor, is still good and entertaining. Games are supposed to be about having fun while enjoying the experience of its particular genre and Fable III delivers on that front. This is also part of what drags Fable III down. The game is a lot like how the old saying goes "Jack of all trades…master of none". Fable III doesn't seem to know what genre it wants to be. Fable III feels like a "Rated-R" (I barely consider it rated R, the game only has minor use of blood and never seen "black screen" sexual encounters) Zelda with a little bit deeper RPG elements and a dash of some Sims type gameplay. I'll get into further detail about how Fable III tries to tackle many different gameplay genres, but never "Masters" any of them, as I talk about the different aspects of the game.

The simple score breakdown of “Fable III” is like so…

Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 7/10

Fun Factor – 6/10

Story – 7/10

Controls- 8/10

User Interfacing – 8/10

Learning Curve – The game is too easy to need one

Sound – 7/10

Value - 4/10

Total – 6.7 / 10

Jump down to my “All in all” if you only want a brief summary. I have also put key-words in bold to indicate what the bulk of that specific paragraph is discussing to make the review easy to navigate to points of interest.

One of the biggest problems I'll just get out of the way right away, which has nothing to do with the game's genre confusion, is its massive frame-rate issues. Not even an issue really it is a downright problem. And, the Frame-Per-Second lag is not from over exerting the console; frame rate slows happen even if you have just recently started your machine after days of rest. The FPS get so bad at times you think the game is going to "crash", but at least it doesn't ever crash.

STORY is one genre aspect that Fable III has done right. Role-playing games are known for and are idealistically supposed to provide a respectably decent story. Fable III's tale is a great Improvement over Fable II and has greater ties to the chronicling of a real RPG's political and fantasy narrative. Fable II's story kept climbing towards what seemed like what was going to be a paramount conclusion, but the climax left me so utterly utterly disappointed that it is now one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've ever had because of it being one of the worst endings ever. Fable III doesn't suffer from any of those things. Without side quests you could probably get through Fable III in about 25ish hours. With everything all together you could clock in probably around 60+ hours of game time. The story of the Revolution and of "the Hero", as the Fable franchise likes to label their protagonist, is involving and the characters keep you interested for the entire ride this time around. Jasper, your butler, and other characters get a few chuckles and some full hearty laughs out of you. Fable III's overall mentality is less-than ever trying to be serious. Yet, the main quest of Fable III still feels as though you are impacting the entire world with your decisions in a seriously consequential way.

The MORALITY SYSTEM, on the other hand, is not any better or any worse than before. Your ethical and moral decisions are still as cut-n-dry as ever. When making big morally ethical decisions you will be asked a question. On one hand you have "build a school out of an old factory for the children to educate them?" or on the other hand "do you want to send those kids to work in the factory to make you extra money instead"? The game will even put red, for evil, around the bad-guy choice and white around the good-guy choice for the player, just in case there was any confusion. Also, for 90% of these situations there are only the two choices of good and evil, which is fine because this franchise has always gravitated around only the "white and black" good and evil character development. This is why the game doesn't fulfill the roll of a mastered RPG genre also. A great RPG story and or morality system knows that there is more to "life" than just one of two outcomes. Life has multiple endgames and possibilities depending on the nuances of choice.

NPC INTERACTIONS have been a staple of the Fable franchise. You can still get married and have kids and all that jazz. Fable III has barely changed the NPC interactions. Before, in Fable II, you would try to click in a "green zone" as a ball speedily went back-and-forth on a meter to try and get a successful outcome to the interaction you picked. This function was much like a "drive meter" seen in many Golfing games. In Fable III you still have the different interactions, but they have done away with the need to try and get any type of "mini-game-type-dealy" achieved in the process. This is pretty much a good thing because it was never that hard to complete in-the-first-place and just kind of felt shallow. Other changes, the game designers made it easier for a successful interaction, but have done away with a "crowd pleasing" interaction. Whereas, in Fable II you could interact with one person then many people would see you and stop to see the show, thus influencing multiple people at once. In Fable III it is strictly a 1 on 1 exchange. I personally would've much rather had them keep the shallow little task to get a successful interaction and be able to influence many people at once compared to easier successful interactions but making it monotonously 1 on 1. Interactions become a drag…on your face…through sand paper…with a coarse grade. One interaction change is that you can now grip/take someone's hand. The difference of grip and take is situational, but the game doesn't state a difference I am just making the distinction. You may "take" a lover's hand and lead them to an admired location for a romantic rendezvous or you can "grip" someone's hand to drag them somewhere like; work or jail. The function of handholding is fine, but it feels like they tried to implement it too much just because they added the function to the game. For example, some quest are "escort quests", these are a standby in many RPG games in which you insure someone's safety to a specific destination. So, in all of these "escort quests" you have to take people by the hand. In some cases it is fine and in some it is not. Like, when you are escorting a capable-looking grown man somewhere and you have to literally hold their hand on your way there. This feels very stupid…I'm sure the person could manage without me holding their freaking hand. In the situations it is fairly cool is like when a comrade gets blinded during battle and you must help guide him through unfamiliar territory. Using this function all of the time feels…just simply dumb, but does have its applications.

QUESTS still have the "yellow sparkle" on the ground known as "the trail" to help you find your destination. The quests of Fable III have, for the most part, a wide range of diversity and are stimulating in nature. Even side quests make you feel like your "hand in the world" helps shape the realm around you. For example, after completing several simple side quests, in tandem, you help forge a new frontier and help some pioneers settle and develop a new town. Before your arrival to this zone there are almost no signs of sentient life inhabiting the surroundings. By the time you're finished there are bridges, pathway lamps, houses, mineral mine shafts, and shops. It can really help with the sense of accomplishment for quests to watch the world mold to your actions around you.

Talking about towns, the ENVIRONMENTS and art style of Fable III feel at times great and at times the graphics feel dated…because they are. The graphics are basically the exact same as Fable II. On the bright side, nearly no environments are the same as in Fable II. The game still takes place in the same "universe" and world known as Albion. In addition, some of surroundings have the same location (in name), but only have similarities to the previous landmark layouts and are never a duplicate to a former game's setting. The environmental resemblances to prior games really make you feel as though time has passed in the world, if you have played previous Fable games, and because it is not an exact duplicate it doesn't feel cheap like the developers just copy and pasted it. The environments are part of the "jacked trade of Zelda" done right. Environments have a great variety and attention to detail while looking spectacular in the process. So, as for the adventuring through environments aspect of a Zelda-esque game I would have to say that Fable is on par with Zelda in relation to that.

Speaking of environments and adventuring you have to have a map so you don't get lost. Which is integrated into the most notable and extremely innovative feature of Fable III which has to be Fable's new PAUSE MENU and LEVELING INTERFACE, which completely does away with any conventional "grid-type" inventories or menus for the entire game. At first I really hated this function, but then quickly understood what it really was and enjoyed it very much. Instead of a "grid-type" list of your gear, weapons, and what-not the pause menu is an entirely interactive environment called "The Sanctuary". As soon as you hit start and enter the pause menu your character is in the "map/options" room and you can then hit up, down, left, or right on the D-pad to instantly enter different portions of The Sanctuary or, if you want, you can walk into the desired room. It works just as fast as any pause menu and is awesomely interactive. Sadly, but honestly, the greatest noticeable change in Fable III is its spectacular new pause menu.

The "MAP" is displayed in the middle of the first room in the style of a model train set. You walk up to it and can then use a magnifying glass to look at the towns and zoom in farther to see each house, business, and little townspeople walking around. The people have "!" above their head to indicate a possible quest they'll give you and then, if clicked on, your quest trail will show you the way to them or you can fast-travel to their nearest location. This is where some of the Sims aspects come into play. From the zoomed-in view of a particular town you watch people roam around and can inspect buildings. While inspecting a building you can buy the building then do what you want to it such as; rent it out, evict tenants, raise/lower rent, raise/lower good's prices and or even sell the PROPERTY. This is one of the greatest improvements of Fable III because you no longer have to go up to every individual house, by foot, and adjust rent or whatever you want to do to the property. Counterproductively, in Fable III they added a new function to houses where homes deteriorate with time causing you to need to repair the house every so often. Basically, the way this works is you still get your rent payments every 5 minutes and every rent payment knocks one percentage off of the house's 100% total. If you reach 0% the tenants refuse to pay rent. The addition of being able to overview the whole world is nice, but seems counterproductive with the application of the necessary repair function to every property. If you're like me and you like to own every property it can become extremely tedious to have to go to each-and-every individual house over and over to repair them all of the time. They really needed to implement a mass property repair or if you are zoomed into a certain town there needs to be the ability to repair an entire town at once. As for obtaining rent it also does not accumulate while you are not playing as it did before in Fable II. Also, an additional drawback to this greatly improved, but not without flaw, map system is that it does not display your current position. This is one example of their "jack of the Sims trade", but they don't live up to a game dedicated to the mastery of the genre.

Another aspect of pause menu, or The Sanctuary, is you no longer sift through piles of clothing and weaponry. All of your outfits and weapons are displayed by 4 manikins and are then cycled through 4 manikins at a time to quickly jump through your inventory. After cycling through the manikins, you then walk up to the desired equipment and interact with the specific manikin that has what you want on display to equip it.

The GEAR of Fable III is basically the exact same as Fable II. Actual clothing put on your body still has no defensive properties or stat boosting abilities…in reference to combat enhancements. On the other hand, clothing still has attractiveness and ugliness applications to your character, but this time around the items don't even display those characteristics in the "armor" details. All in all, gear is the exact same as Fable II and serves next-to-no purpose other than the personal aesthetic look of your character. Even games like Zelda have different sets of armor that, at the very least, give you different abilities to enter previously inaccessible zones. Let alone, Fable, a game claiming to be a RPG, should probably have better gear decisions. This is another example of why it falls short on what it wants to be. The feature of how armor operates, pertaining to the Fable franchise, feels something more like a Sims game rather than a RPG, where solely aesthetics come into play and not character-build customization.

WEAPONS have made a return to Fable III and haven't changed much. You still have your slower heavy two-handed hammer and your quick one-handed sword for the melee combat in the game. The far shooting, hard-hitting, small magazine, long-rifle and the six-shot, quick repeating, short range, handgun are still what make-up the physical damage ranged arsenal in Fable III. As items these have barely changed. The biggest changes are the way your weapon's appearance changes with your character's appearance. So, when you're evil then your weapons will have a more evil persona attached to their appearance and when you're good they emit that persona. This is a very cool change to the weapons system. The weapons look great and there is a decent variety of them to choose from. This versatility of weapon choice is something that surpasses games like Zelda and pushes it on the side of the RPG line.

WEAPON ENHANCEMENTS have changed, for better and worse. In Fable II you could get gems such as; jet, diamond, pearls, citrine, etc… and you could use the gems to socket a weapon. This was small, but it affected character customization. Each gem gave different benefits depending on what you put in it. Now, in Fable III, weapons have assigned tasks to them to enhance their powers. For example, a weapon might ask you to get married five times to give a hand gun +8 Damage or kill five people who love you to add fire damage. The only reason this is worse is because you cannot put in the desired gems to fit exactly what you want the weapon to do, but the enhancements are now more powerful than before and every weapon has three tasks. Whereas, before a lot of gem enhancements were really weak and not all weapons had three open sockets in them.

MAGIC has changed because it is now general and leveling it affects all spells with each level-up. The way magic level-ups influences spells is by increasing the spell's damage, power, and or duration and by decreasing the time it takes for the spell to charge to a maximum power intensity level.

SPELLS, on the other hand, are basically the exact same as Fable II when it comes down to castable spells. Castable spells still include; Fire, Ice, Swords, Vortex, Force Push, and Lightning. Slow Time and Summon Minions have been added to consumable potions on a "hot bar".

Magic and spells are different in the way you use them. Fable III has changed the way you cycle through and pick spells by completely getting rid of cycling through them and assigning "ranks" on a casting "ladder". Now you go to The Sanctuary and go up to a manikin from whom you choose a glove he is wearing which is imbued with a single spell type. You can then use that spell and can charge the spell all the way to a level five charge from the get-go, just like a maxed out single school spell in Fable II, but it takes a really really long time to get a level five charge spell off with a level one magic ability. After you get so far into the game you get the ability to equip two gloves at once.

SPELL WEAVING is a newly added ability to equip two spells simultaneously for extra benefits. This basically just adds some casting "spice" to your mage-like life. You can now do almost whatever your little heart desires. From combining Lightning and Force Push to knock enemies away and lay stunned on the ground from the Lightning side-effects or a Vortex and Blizzard to spin enemies around in their own little North Pole nightmare. Spell weaving is pretty cool.

Now that I have covered weapons, gear, magic, spells, and spell weaving it is time to talk about combat.

COMBAT MECHANICS have basically not changed at all. There are still normal quick button taps for faster attack combinations and then there are still flourish attacks, in which you hold the desired attack button and aim with a directional stick in the way you want your attack to go and release the button to unleash a powerful attack. They added some new "flashy moves", but that is about it. The "Flashy Moves" give the combat some "oh damn" moments and deliver some pretty awesome cinematic fatalities to enemies. They finish off the enemy in a stylish way such as; flinging your sword into their chest then running at them and dive-tackling them to the ground in a cartwheel motion while simultaneously and fluidly pulling your sword from their chest as you exit the first half of the cartwheel or shooting an enemy in the legs to drop them down then emptying the rest of your rounds into their face. These "flashy moves" feel like they are actually the addition of critical attacks. The crits seem to happen randomly at times and do actually seem to have a much higher probability of "procing" more frequently if a flourish attack is timed to hit an opponent at the right moment. This moment seems to be right when the enemy is coming in to hit you with one of their attacks. No matter the enemy's health a "Flashy-Move-Critical-Proc-Fun Time" will exterminate an enemy in a single cinematic execution. Really the flashy moves and the tweaks to spell casting are the only fundamental combat changes.

Without Enemies there would no point to combat right?

ENEMIES and BOSSES. I was nearly half way through the game before i saw a new type of enemy mob that was not in Fable II. Up until the halfway point Fable III had all of the exact same enemies as usual; Hobbs, Hollow Men, Mercenaries, Balverines, but my favorite enemy from Fable II did NOT make a return…the Troll. The Fable II troll was one of the best depictions of a Troll I have seen in a video game, they were huge disgusting creatures of the earth with mold and plant life growing off of them. As for Bosses Fable, as always, falls extremely short. Fable III had less than a handful of bosses throughout the game and not that many BATTLE MECHANICS differences. This is where Fable also falls short on the battle mechanics. Most action adventure games have things like enemies that, as you progress through the game, are invulnerable to certain battle mechanics, techniques, and or damage types, which require the player to think on their feet and combine learned abilities, spells, and techniques in the right combination to take down a special breed of enemy. Fable has none of this. No enemies in the game take any other thought than "what attack button do I want to use to kill this enemy"? Also, most adventure games have a unique boss for the end of every single dungeon that requires you to possibly die a few times and learn the mechanic of the fight or require the use of a newly obtained skill, item, or spell you have only recently gathered to enhance your protagonist. So, Fable falls short on that aspect of the Action RPG front because most good ARPGs (Demon's Souls) have multiple bosses and a lot of enemy fighting mechanics to figure out, but Fable does not.

JOBS have returned and there is little to say about them. Jobs serve little importance and you'll know why after the Money and Items section. Jobs are not fun and are little more than annoying extremely simple button combination games. You basically only need a job until you can buy your first property then WHAMO real-estate takes over.

MONEY and ITEMS. Before I reached the middle of the game my money had become basically useless. I had bought all the property I could and was evil so charging high rent and prices was not an issue for me. By the time I had approached the throne of Albion I had over 25 million gold and nothing to do with it. I am talking it was like freaking "Duck Tales" in The Sanctuary, quite literally swimming in gold. In turn, this exponential increase in income made other factors of the game completely useless. For instance, when you are collecting keys to open chests and finally reach that 30 key mark you were trying to get to and open that chest you've been waiting for and something as completely useless as 75K comes out (when I have 25 million and it is steadily growing quickly) it makes you wonder "did they even think this one out". Additionally, since the removal of gems going into your weapons Fable has made jewels completely without purpose and have no value what-so-ever. Basically, almost every miscellaneous item in the game has been turned into nothing more than trash you find throughout your adventure, but for some reason someone decided to put it into a chest…or burry their useless nothingness for you to uncover.

Speaking of buried items your DOG is as useless as ever. He is little more than a malfunctioning treasure-finder. I swear, half of the time you are halfway through your character's animation of opening a chest and pulling out the goods you have come across before your dog is like "HEY…HERE IT IS…here it is right here…there is something in that thing you're opening". Oh gee…thanks. Also, the game establishes no emotional connection to the dog at all so, more often than not, I was just cursing him and wanted to shoot him with my gun like Ol' Yeller.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Fable III has completely done away with the fun mini games like Keystone, Fortune's Tower, and Spinner.

Gargoyles are back in Gnome form.

Added Chicken Racing.

Multi-player is the exact same. Still fun.

Music seems the same as Fable II for the bulk of Fable III. Music changes midway through to some pretty good stuff.

=====================ALL IN ALL==========================

All in all, Fable III is a game that doesn't know what it is trying to be, but fairly fun and entertaining. Fable is a game that is a "Jack of All Trades…and Never Masters Any". Fable III feels more like an adventure game with some Sims overtones and a small amount of RPG undertones. The game claims to be an action RPG, but the RPG elements are probably the weakest part of the game. I would give Fable III roughly a 7.5 / 10 if I had never played a Fable game previously and this was where I was starting the franchise, but it is not and they barely changed much of anything. It is good, but never does anything great or anything special to make it stand out. The only real changes for the better are the excellently innovative pause menu and everything that goes with it and a more involvingly intriguing storyline. Also, the only real addition to combat and battle mechanics was the implementation of a non-interactive uncontrollable special fatality-like cinematic to kill enemies.

So, if you're new to the series and like the aspects of some of the game genres I have mentioned (Fable is sort of like a Zelda-Sims with extra light RPG dressing) then I would try it out. Furthermore, if you are a die-hard fan and loved Fable II then buy it…you'll love it, it is basically the same game. If you only thought Fable II was so-so, you could go without the part three experience for sure. My final thought is that Fable is just a shame. This game feels like if they would just master one thing…like amazing combat or gear and weapons for greatly deep character customizations, that this game would be truly and positively something astonishing. You can't help but feel that something extraordinary is right out of hand's reach.

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