theuselessgod's Fable III (Xbox 360) review

Completely fails its pedigree. Fable 3 is 20 steps backwards.

The Short

Pros

- Follows the same addicting formula as Fable 2

- Has a more integrated plot than the previous games where you were just an unnamed hero; now you are a prince/princess

- Same simple controls as Fable 2, for better or worse (depending on what you liked in Fable 2)

- Reasonably large, breathing world

- The D&D Quest (where you come to life in a bunch of wizard's D&D game) might be the best quest in any game ever made

- Still looks good and has its notable art style

- Finally adds actual co-op

- Weapons have a "progression" system that evolve when you use them

- Same goofy humor and art style that set the Fable series apart

Cons

- Last 1/3 of the game seems tacked on and horrible

- Even more so than the other Fables, the morality choices are pointless and obvious

- House ownership is worse, options from the previous Fable games have been trimmed down

- Equips and level ups are handled in the "Sanctuary," where you have to run through loading screens in order to literally pick up a weapon to equip it. What?

- Awful, awful load times

- Buggy

- Weapon evolution relies on using one gun to kill like 500+ zombies for a tiny upgrade. Extremely limited number of weapons.

- Even less enemy variety than previous games

- Has lost the character evolution and "build your own hero/destiny/etc." that was the biggest draw of the previous Fable games.

- Feels like a stripped down Fable 2 with worse design choices

- Still can't plant an acorn and watch it grow into a mighty oak, like Peter Molyneux promised me in Fable 1 what the crap man Minecraft did it what is wrong with you.

Fable III: Three massive steps backwards

The LongSometimes I think Peter Molyneux has no idea what he's doing. Yeah, he's made some really great games, talks a lot of big talk, and actually has genuinely influenced the industry for good. But I swear we should just let him make one game, leave it as it is, and not make a sequel. Black and White was a great game. Black and White 2...not so much. Fable (while failing to live up to Molyneux's promises) was still a very good game, probably my favorite game on the original Xbox. Fable 2 was good but had lost a good deal of the magic.

Well now they've taken Fable 2, made what is essentially a crappy expansion pack for it, sold it at full price, and crushed my hopes that this series will ever be good again. Fable 3 is, straight up, a disaster.

The Fable 2 engine holds up decently, if it does have some weird bugs.

First off, the story. The Fable games have always been straightforward: heroes are some sort of genetic, predestined thing (which I'm fine with) and YOU ARE A HERO! In the first game you were one hero among many, even going to Hero Hogwarts before embarking on your magical journey that involved killing a lot of bandits with a mediocre story. Fable 2 jumps ahead a few hundred years because Peter Molyneux likes guns now, putting you in a sort of colonial setting as an orphan who is the last hero on earth and has to kill the big bad king boss guy in order to...do something. I never figured out why this guy was so bad. I mean, he was kind of a jerk, but eh.

Fable 3 decided a more in-depth story, so instead of just some random, unnamed dude you now can be a guy or a lady (yay!) which essentially means "prince or princess." Your character is voiced, actually has a backstory, and...that's actually about it. Your brother is a royal jerkwad who taxes people and takes advantage of the industrial revolution with child labor and whatnot, so you go out to start a revolution. On the way (minor spoiler, but don't worry about it) you find out there's actually this big baddie that's going to come blow up everything (which is why your brother was a jerk; he was preparing to fight this thing off) but since you are shortsighted and have this revolution thing going already you overthrow him and then have to fix the problem yourself.

It's a crappy story, but it's made worse because it undermines the main reason I play Fable: to make my own stories. I didn't care that the main plot was garbage, I had more fun dressing my character up, doing evil or good things, seeing his body actually change during the game (more so in Fable than Fable 2). Because the framework for the main story was so loose, I was able to just do whatever the heck I wanted. Adding a "story" (and a bad one at that) actually makes this worse, getting rid of the main draw of the Fable games in the first place (again, writing your own stories and making your own legends). So way to take a good thing and ruin it.

It's obvious he's evil based on his facial hair.

This "take what was good and completely ruin it" is evident in nearly every other aspect of this game. By some completely asinine design choice (which they proudly held up when previewing the game) they axed menus from the game completely. Good, I guess; the Fable 2 menus were plague by actual menu lag and loading screens (Yes. Loading screens. To go through a menu. Installing the game helped, at least), but their way of fixing it is so stupid I hardly can't believe it.When you hit a menu button you are warped to "Sanctuary," basically some magical place out of time and space. In the middle is your map (which you can't access normally, and there is no minimap) which is like a real time picture (kind of like Skyrim, only horrible). What's worse is in order to change clothes, equipment, see your money, or pretty much anything you have to walk your character to the right room, wait for another load, and then walk around and see the weapons (See first screenshot) before selecting them. Then when you back out of sanctuary (to another load screen) you'll return back to the fight or whatever with your changes.

First off, from a story concept this makes no sense. So I was in the middle of battle about to die and I suddenly flew away to a magical sanctuary land? Why wouldn't I just stay there forever if I was about to get murdered? How did I pull that off in the heat of battle? Second, while I like the idea of showing off all my stuff, this is so cumbersome it's insane. I have to literally run somewhere after entering the "menu" to get equipped? I have to suffer through loads of loading screens to do this? How is this better? What the crap is wrong with you, Peter Molyneux?

It finally adds co-op, but if your partner is in a sanctuary the game pauses and you just wait. Brilliant. Also, it deleted my character data due to a co-op bug. Also awesome.

So the other big thing they were talking about is the "evolving weapons." Essentially, they promised that your weapons would change based on how you used them. So if you spent a bunch of money your sword would turn gold, or if you killed a bunch of zombies it would look more like a bone, etc. Well, you'll be pleased to know this was all a bunch of half-baked truths, as is usual from these guys. You have one weapon that "evolves," and as it does it doesn't change by much at all. It only picks three traits of how you played (randomly, it seems; I always got the "money" one because I'm not a financial idiot) and then your sword changes a very little. Oh, and it's only the starting sword that "evolves," and its stats never increase. So you'll never use it.To "make up" for their fake evolving weapons, they cut the weapon types down by an insane number. In Fable 2 you had tons of guns: flintlock, fast-shooting ones that required a long reload, shotguns, rifles, etc. as well as axes, swords, cleavers, hammers, and more. This game strips it down to just two types: a heavy and light melee and a heavy and light hammer. You could also slot your guns/swords in Fable 2, which means it actually has better customization than Fable 3. At least I could choose types that changed my playstyle, unlike this.

So what about all the other weapons? They don't really "evolve," instead of having requirements to power up. A sword will often require you "kill 100 bad enemies" or "spend 100,000 gold" in order to get a very, very tiny upgrade. You also have to have the weapon equipped and actually have it do the killing for the kill requirements, so you either have to commit or you'll never see an upgrade. It's completely horrid, but luckily the game is so incredibly easy that you don't ever have to upgrade your weapons.

You can still dress your guy up as you wish, though it has less clothing options than Fable 2 as well.

There's an RPG system buried in here, but holy cow it's bad too. This review is going to be stupid long. One of my favorite parts about Fable and Fable 2 is designated experience. By this I mean you got two types of experience from enemies: general, all-purpose experience and then experience based on how you killed them. For example, if you favored a bow, when you killed someone with your bow you'd get a ton of "bow" experience and some general experience. Same goes for magic and melee. It's a clever idea that makes it so that you can tech up a certain tree quickly, but if you want to switch just being dedicated to a style will push it up fast.

Fable 3 saw this, thought "remember all those other great ideas we ruined? Let's ruin this one too."

Back to the concept of "no menus," in Fable 3 the upgrade path is the "Road to Rule" or some crap, I don't remember exactly. Basically you get on this long, gated path (gates open based on story elements, locking upgrades) with treasure chests. As you fight, do quests, do anything, you get general experience that eventually gives you treasure chest unlocks. So you can spend it all on anything. Which takes one of the best ideas from the previous games, puts it on a road you have to run up and down for minutes before reaching where you want to be, and dumbs it down to "suckfest" status. Fable 3, what the hell is wrong with you?

The industrial revolution is an interesting setting, though I was really hoping they'd go Steampunk with it. A Steampunk Fable game? Freaking sign me up.

At least the game has a fast travel system that sort of works, even if it means you have to navigate the awful map in order to do it. Come to think of it, that might be the only part of this game that's an improvement over the second game, and even that isn't very substantial.

Managing property was the way you got fat bank in Fable 2, and you could also do cool things like manipulate the economy of cities with it. That's gone. Instead you can buy property and it "degrades," meaning you have to go into your map, go to every house you own (or walk there if you hate yourself) and "renovate" it or people will stop paying rent. I think it was because people were abusing the Fable 2 system (buy a bunch of houses, set your system clock to year 2999, reload and suck in the cash), but all it did was make it a nuisance; I still was filthy rich by the end of the game. Good job, Fable 3. You didn't fix it, you just made it unrealistically annoying.

And I haven't even gotten to the abomination that is the last 1/3 of this game.

If the choices couldn't get more black and white. Pay to save an orphanage, or turn it into a brothel for fat cash?

So you become king and the big bad is coming, and then the game turns into "oh no! You have year left! The only way to save the people is with money!" So you pour all your money in the treasury and hope it's enough (it isn't, usually) and have to make some important decisions. Basically all the people you helped you made promises to, so you have to decide between two extremely polarized options: pay money to fulfill your promise, or tell them to suck it and get filthy rich. If you tell them to suck it that's the "bad" choice (obviously) and then they hate you, but if you help them you pay your money.

THIS MAKES NO F***ING SENSE.

Think about it: THE BIG RAPE BEAST IS COMING TO BLOW UP THE WORLD. If you don't have enough money, EVERYBODY WILL DIE. Why the crap would they come harass you about TAKING YOUR MONEY when if they do get what they want they are essentially DOOMING THE ENTIRE WORLD? Can't they wait until after you defeat the beast to come asking for money? Or maybe, I dunno, unite like you did during the "revolution" for now, and then get paid later?

And why on earth is the "Good" decision to pay them? We should be turning all the orphanages into brothels if it means getting enough money to save the entire world! We could just turn them back later, but for now I'm pretty sure starving, parentless little Timmy would rather be on the cold streets alive rather than being in the stomach of a big monster beastie.

Bonus one is where they get mad because you want to drain a lake to mine minerals for weapons to fight the impending invasion, and the bad decision is to drain it (pissing off the environmentalists) and the good decision is to leave it sitting there. Cause that lake's going to be great when it's red with blood of the entire Albion population. Brilliant.

I got my angel wings, at the expense of the entire population. But at least we didn't make any brothels!

As a bonus, this is like the entire last 1/3 of the game: making pointless/stupid decisions with no quests or adventures, waiting for the monster to come. The "days left" isn't even accurate; what's the point of having a game with a day/night cycle if you don't apply it to a day countdown? It just seems to drop days randomly, meaning lots of people were caught off guard. Luckily I knew this would happen, so I bought literally every building in the entire world, cranked up the rent to a billion (it's for your own good, idiots. Think of it funding the stupid lake and orphanages) and before entering the endgame I had enough money to save everybody. But there was no satisfaction.

Also the final boss is garbage. At least the final boss in Fable 2 (while pissing people off) was sort of comedic in how easy it was. This one made no sense, wasn't funny, and was just awful. Gah.

What your kingdom will look like if you drain that lake. Heaven forbid we save everybody.

So what is good about this game, now that I've ripped it to shreds? Well, it looks ok, running on the Fable 2 engine, but it's starting to show its age. The voice acting is top notch, as usual. You still can't talk to anybody and have to resort to farting to make them love you...wait, this is a positive list, sorry. Um...the core Fable element is still sort of here, with a pseudo-open world what evolves as you do, so...good on that? I think? You have a lot of options like the other Fable games, like getting married and having a family and stuff, but even that seems stripped down and less interesting.

Oh, it does have what might be the best quest in any game ever (accented by the fact Fable 3's sidequests are all horrible). A bunch of crazy wizards want you to test out their new minifigs d&d esque game, so they shrink you down into their miniatures and have you fight through enemies and a horribly written story. It even has a dig at Fable 2's final boss being so easy, which made me laugh. Really funny.

And again, at least it still looks good, if it is pretty buggy.

But even that can't overtake the massive amount of disappointment in Fable 3. I've honestly given up completely on this series now. As I said, I think Fable is - hands down - the best game in the series, with Fable 2 still being a very good game but taking several steps back with its few forward. Fable 3 is it slamming the car into reverse and driving it off the grand canyon. Into hell. There are so many bad design choices here I can't believe somebody actually brainstormed them who had ever played video games before, and it completely undermines all the goodwill the previous Fable games held for me.

I can't recommend playing it, unless you really, really liked Fable 2, beat all the DLC, and must have more Fable. As I said, the most basic core is still...ok. I guess. But to be honest, you should probably just play Fable and Fable 2 again. Just...pretend this doesn't exist.

It was on sale on PC for $5 the other day, with more achievements for my gamertag, and I didn't buy it. I bought Duke Nukem Forever for $5, people. This game isn't worse than that one if you break it down, but the sting brought upon it by having such a decent pedigree makes it seem worse to me. I can't recommend it to a newcomer to the Fable series (play any of the other ones) and I can't recommend it really to Fable fans, because it'll put a bad taste in your mouth with the rest of the game.

Just...don't play it. I know it looks pretty, and I know you like Fable but...don't do it. Don't be stupid like me. Just don't.

I actually went into this review thinking I'd give it two out of five, but after writing this all the bad memories came back up, so screw you Fable 3, and take your one out of five stars and stand next to Alone in the Dark.

Thanks for ruining one of my favorite series. You bastard.

More at nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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