Sober Second Look: Fable 3

The fable franchise had a bright future. Was it flawed? Undeniably so. But I honestly think that by ironing out the problems and by improving gameplay mechanics, Lionhead could have made something on par with Elder Scrolls or Zelda. That my friends, is what makes Fable 3 the most disappointing. Not horrible by any means, just disappointing. For reasons that shouldn't even have been issues in the first place.

This time, the story takes place shortly after the events of Fable 2. After stopping Lord Lucien, the Hero decided to unite Albion under his/her rule and create a kingdom. All was well until he/she died. His/her oldest son, Logan becomes the new king and rules as an evil tyrant. You play as either the prince or princess of Albion, tasked with starting a revolution against him. Throughout the game you’ll build alliances and make promises in order to take the crown. How you rule is up to you. Kind leader, or an even worse tyrant than Logan?

Fable 3 logan

The story deserves a good bit of praise. Without giving too much away, it’s a clever take on the realities of power versus the ideals. As well as how certain actions may seem brutal even though they’re for the greater good (despite that the population at large may never understand why). Like Fable 2, Fable 3 tries to go big without taking itself too seriously.The writing and dialogue are good as well. This is helped by some brilliant casting choices such as Simon Pegg, John Clease, Stephen Fry and many others.

Before I get into the frustrating aspects, let’s focus on what was done right with the gameplay. It is largely the same as Fable 2. Melee, ranged and magic are all mapped to one button and function more or less the same way (Flourishes, blocking etc.) The first thing you might notice however is that the combat is a little slower. (and your enemies are faster) It’s more difficult to pull off multiple flourishes without taking a few hits. Since Fable 2 was incredibly easy, I can’t complain too much since it forces you to fight smarter (more blocking and dodging.) You can also use two spells at once (Fire + Vortex = Funtime!) Also, you've still got a dog. He still finds treasure and kicks ass.

fable3dog2 - sober second look: fable 3

Fable 3 pirate vs zombie thumb

Fable 3 behind

fable 3 ranged

Your default weapons will also morph as you level up your combat skills. In general, they get longer and do more damage with your personal habits changing the shape or colour. For example, killing a lot of hollow men early in the game will turn your weapon handle into a bone-like substance. Spending a lot of gold will make your weapon look more elegant/expensive. Killing a lot of wolves or balvarines will make your weapon black. If cool looking weapons are your thing, there’s a good bit of replay value.

Fable 3 weapon description

Fable 3 weapon morph

Fable 3 sword handles

There are no weapon augments or tiers. In every game there are different legendary weapons to be found either in chests or at blacksmiths. They each have different criteria to meet in order to unlock their properties. For example, if you get the love sword, having 5 children will improve the damage it does. The Swift Irregular will get guild seals faster in combat if you kill 300 mercs with it.

You can buy property, only this time you don’t gain any gold unless you’re actually playing. They balance this by making you gain more gold when you’re actually playing and by making jobs more profitable. Buildings are more expensive now, to keep you from accumulating too much gold too fast. (Another reason why Fable 2 was too easy.) You can get married, but instead of spamming expressions, you have to get to know the villager in question, do them the odd favour and take them on a nice date to seal the deal. Demon doors and silver keys are back along with gold keys added for special doors. You also have some good sidequests and for the most part the things that made Fable 2 enjoyable are still intact...So what holds this game back?

Fable 3 buying propertaw

fable 3 dd - sober second look: fable 3

Well, even though the combat is decent, there are things about it that are frustrating. The lack of health bar is one of them. The bottom left corner will instead indicate that you should take a potion, despite that you don’t always know how much longer you’ll last. It might be worth your while to wait and not waste it, but you’ll never know because THERE'S NO FUCKING HEALTH BAR TO TELL YOU! Sweet Jesus, this isn't so bad in FPS’s like Call of Duty but in an RPG you need to be aware of your health. This might be one of those things that I’m making too big a deal about. But I’ve been playing action/adventure RPGs for years, I’m used to having a health bar. Take it away and you’re giving me a blind spot.

Your inventory is the biggest issue. In most RPGs if not all, you can pause, go into your inventory, change equips, check stats, set quests all in a few seconds. In Fable 3, this is not the case. Whenever you want to change a weapon or outfit, you warp to the sanctuary. You then have to walk into a certain room (depending on what you want to do) scroll through the items in question, select the one you want, repeat depending on what else you need, then you can get back to your game. You’ll be doing this a lot and it just feels like a waste of time. Especially when this shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. This is also linked to the “Road to Rule” which is the place you go to turn in your guild seals (instead of earning EXP in combat) which you can turn in for combat upgrades. You also need to turn in seals for minor, stupid things like expressions, the ability to buy property and get married, to be able to steal, make more gold... It feels like they’re just trying to needlessly restrict you AND waste your time. Two things video game players don’t want.

Fable 3 R2R

There are significantly less customization options. (So the pain-in-the-ass of an inventory is just as well.) Less outfits aside from DLC, dyes have to be unlocked, etc. They even took character morphing out! (AKA the coolest thing this franchise had going for it) It’s true that you have your “true self” during flourishes, but it’s just not the same as wondering around with devil horns or a halo 24/7.

fable 3 ts - sober second look: fable 3

Now what of the multiplayer? I don’t know, I can’t play it. You see the multiplayer suffers from an incredibly fatal flaw: You need the exact same DLC as your friend to play it together. I don’t mean extra quests, I’m talking everything down to outfits and dyes, even the freebies have to be exactly the same. So you can just delete them to play co-op right? Sure, if you feel like corrupting your Hero’s save file. I have never had this problem with a co-op game before. At worst, you just wouldn't be able to play that specific map/quest or use that item but this? I don’t know that this is still the case (maybe they've patched it) but since none of my friends are still playing this, I guess I’ll never know.

So is Fable 3 the worst? In my opinion...yes. It may not be the most flawed but I’d argue that the flaws it does have are inexcusable. What’s wrong with Fable is easy to forgive when it’s the first in a new game franchise. Fable 2's flaws were easy to overlook considering the game was still fun and brought a lot of new things to the franchise. But Fable 3's problems take a lot away from the game when they shouldn't. Even though the weapon morphing and the re-balancing factors help, they don't add enough to the game for me to recommend it.

While the game isn't horrible by any means, there was no reason it shouldn't have been more than it was. This is why I have to be harsher with it than it's prequels.

Fable 3 revolution

Now, this review took longer than I’d hoped because I started playing something else recently. I’m thinking I’ll stop doing 360 games and go with gamecube/ N64 games but I need to get a certain, “newer” (came out about 2 years ago) game out of the way first. Next up my L.A. Noire. I need something I can mindlessly praise after having to deal with the Fable franchise.

250px LA Noire Box Art

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  • 2

    Nice review. I have to agree with you overall. Fable III's flaws took a lot of fun away from the game, and I noticed them even more after playing Fable II. I am glad that Lionhead didn't mess with the dog's AI, so you still have perhaps the best companion ever. But it was also disappointing that the only cool characters in the game are only present in a few scenes and disappear in the post-credits sandbox mode. I didn't find the Sanctuary as annoying as most, except for where I had to learn to press the Home button so I could pause the game. I believe I enjoyed the game a little more than you did.

    That said...I hope they make a Fable 4. (Not sure whether the Journey counts) They have Reaver set up as a brilliant possible antagonist since he's an immortal sociopath. He's as good a villain as Jack of Blades if not better. Maybe he takes over Albion through industry? Or sets up a new Hero's guild to use as a front for his crimes? They could do so much with this character, I don't want to see him wasted.
    - CrazyJay May 10, 2013, 7:58 am
    I hope so too. Reaver is such an interesting and creative character, and one of my favorites from the franchise, it would be good if Lionhead explored his backstory more though.
    - Firecracker119 May 10, 2013, 9:41 pm
  • 2

    Great review!

    Have you ever thought of extending your reviews beyond Sharenator to other parts of ye olde Interwebs?

    Not really. Writing for Sharenator appeals to me more. Not only am I at liberty to say whatever I want about the game, but I like the community here much more than what you encounter elsewhere. Would I review for other sites? Maybe if they track me down here and extend the offer. For now though, I'm content to stay here. :3
    - CrazyJay May 10, 2013, 10:28 am
    Makes sense when you put it that way.

    May I recommend the Fallout series for your next review? (If you haven't played the first two, you REALLY should - they're only about 10 bucks on steam)
    - TheRussianBadger May 10, 2013, 10:54 am
    I'm commited to LA Noire next. Then I want to do a few game cube games. But I'll definately put the fallout series on the list.
    - CrazyJay May 10, 2013, 8:03 pm
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