Fable 3 ReviewPublisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
UK Price (as reviewed): £37.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $53.99 (exc. Tax)
Fable 3 may try to bill itself as an RPG, but believe us when we say that it really, really isn’t. It tries to hide its true nature from you by dolling out swords, fireballs and the option to upgrade their abilities over time, but these are just glammers to distract you from the truth. The truth is that Fable 3 is the video game equivalent of playing dress-up with dolls.
The veneer of RPG-ness that’s been laid over Albion’s landscape is pretty expansive, pulling in all sorts of tools and tricks. The plot, for example, has players cast as a young prince or princess who, forced to flee the palace by a despotic older brother, hides in the mountains and starts to build a revolution. It’s a cliché of fantasy fiction, but the cartoon aesthetic and quality of the digital performances give it a fortuitous freshness. Over the course of Fable 3’s wide, roving adventure you’ll gather allies, create a battleplan and then vie for victory – classic RPG stuff, in other words.
He must be evil, just look at that beard!
Unfortunately though, explaining it that way means we’re actually ignoring the bulk of the gameplay – the main quest is ‘main’ in name only. What you’ll actually spend most of your time on in Fable 3 is chasing ladies, buying houses and running off on asinine side quests which try to hide their simplicity behind the same jokes that Fable has been making for years. Frankly, we’re getting tired of Cornish accents and chicken kicking.
Part of the problem here is that Fable 3 can’t seem to decide on the tone it wants to take. Early highlights from the main quest have players put on the spot and asked to make emotionally charged, life or death decisions under the gaze of the king. Highpoints from the rest of the game include dressing up as a chicken and chasing down lost hens. At best the result is confused, at worst Fable 3 feels horribly self-indulgent and pitifully desperate for your attention.
It's a statue, silly
That confusion often doesn’t stop Fable 3 from being fun though, oddly. Even the most boring quests in the game hold up on a purely mechanical front, mainly because the combat and magic systems have been so ruthlessly cut back that there just isn’t room for error left. Aesthetically too the game holds up quite well, with the hyper-stylised and increasingly steampunk look helping to compensate for the technical limitations of the graphics engine – limitations which include frequent frame rate dips and wonky animations.
We’re not joking when we say that all the major components of Fable 3 have been trimmed back, by the way. In fact, it’s more of a cull than a trim – pretty much everything in Fable 3 can be done with a single button press, with the more advanced sections requiring you to hold a button down for a bit. We played through a significant amount of the game with just one finger of one hand. That is not a joke.