Reviews// Fable III

Posted 26 Oct 2010 09:15 by
A wise man on a comedy sketch programme called The Fast Show once said, ?I love being King. It really is the best job in the world!? After playing Fable III to the death, I can only agree with that sentiment.

There's no way you can avoid having fun as you establish your royal decrees. In my first day as a ruling monarch I told an industrialist madman to turn one of his factories into a school, raised taxes in a chicken suit, then met a local townsperson and proceeded to belch in his face.

That's the fantastical, light-hearted, unequivocally British world of the Industrial Revolution, as told by Peter Molyneux. It's the sheer sense of character, gameplay concepts and atmosphere in games like Fable that means that the Lionhead boss remains one of the most-talked about games designers in the world. Just try not to crack a smile when you hear a female NPC tell you, complete with rich Yorkshire accent, that ?If you do me a favour I'll be your chuffin' friend, alright??

Like the two Fable games before it, this iteration has a heavy focus on questing and fantasy combat under the premise of your character being a Hero ? a person with unbelievable hidden power that can conquer any evil. Of course, you can always choose to be something of a consciously deviant Hero by murdering innocents and performing rude gestures in front of people. You can also get married multiple times, as always.

But Fable III offers many improvements that make journeying in Albion more fun than ever before. Perhaps the most noticeable of these is the story, which wraps the action around a world of depression and tyranny. King Logan, your character's brother, has ruled the land with a most selfish iron fist ? this has resulted in poverty, child labour and pollution across the whole country. It is after confronting Logan, and having to make a painful choice right at the start of the game, that you decide it's time for a revolution.

Once you escape the castle with your mentor Sir Walter Beck and butler Jasper (voiced most excellently by John Cleese), the underlying mission is to scour the land to reach the leaders of disgruntled villages and rebel factions and gain the support you need to overthrow the King. Playing through this initial part of the game feels exactly like past Fable titles ? visit towns, take on optional quests as you please, follow yellow breadcrumb trails... that sort of thing.

Levelling up your character is much less of a headache than it was in Fable II, however. Combat is largely the same, with the X Button assigned as your melee attack, the Y Button as a gun and the B Button your magic. When you defeat enemies though, instead of exploding into millions of multi-coloured orbs that you have to hold triggers to collect, red energy orbs automatically shoot right towards you. These build up a circular meter that, when filled, earns you what's called a Guild Seal.

It's these Guild Seals that are the key to your progression, as periodically you are sent to an ethereal pathway called the Road to Rule. Essentially, this is a fancy way of replacing a basic upgrade menu, where you get to spend your collected Guild Seals to open chests that contain new abilities, expressions and power-ups.

The pause menu has also had a complete overhaul, and is now known as the Sanctuary ? a 3D space that houses graphical interfaces for selecting clothes, weapons, world maps and friend connections.

Rather than a case of form over function, it's actually pretty easy to explore and change your settings, and the whole affair is somewhat more convenient than a menu by its visual presentation. Thankfully, there's no loading between pressing Start and entering the Sanctuary ? everything is as slick as it is fancy.

The first thing you see when entering the pause 'world' is a huge table that houses the world map. Pressing the A Button next to it will show off a 3D model representation of every building, quest and NPC in each area of Albion.

You can even accept quests from a list and manage your building purchases and rent prices from this interface, it's very convenient in that regard. I just wish there was a player marker telling you where you were in relation to the map. And Fable III still doesn't offer a mini-map option for the HUD, nor an option to turn off the breadcrumb trail if we don't want to get distracted while wandering.
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