Review: Fable 3

Susan Arendt | 26 Oct 2010 00:01
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The Fable games have been enjoyable, if shallow experiences, offering colorful romps throughout the land of Albion as you performed appropriately heroic feats on your path to glory. Though they had plenty to offer - stylish visuals, excellent voice acting, and a fantastic sense of humor - their frothy plots made them difficult to take all that seriously. Sure, you were ostensibly saving the world from A Big and Gloomy Bad Thing, but you were probably too concerned with bedding your husband, training your dog, or working off all those fattening pies to give it much thought. Fable 3 keeps the franchise's slick aesthetic but adds a surprisingly dark and mature story to give it substance. Fable has always supposedly been about choice, but in Fable 3, you'll actually feel the weight of those choices in an unexpected and very personal way. It's almost a masterpiece. Almost.

Fable 3 picks up about 50 years after its predecessor, as you take on the role of the son or daughter of the Hero king or queen from Fable 2. Your brother Logan is king and has driven the people to such ruin that they are ready to revolt, and what began as just another day in the palace ends with you on the run and charged with raising an army big enough to stage a coup.

You'll spend most of your time in Fable 3 doing the same sorts of things you did in Fable 2, like completing quests for folks in need, buying real estate, opening treasure-guarding Demon Doors, finding hidden keys, collecting bits of clothing, and getting into lots of fights. The realm has changed a great deal since you last visited, opening up new areas for exploration and adding concerns slightly more weighty than an infestation of Hobbes or a rampant Balvarine. Bowerstone Industrial is suffering from intense poverty, with most children working in factories as soon as they can walk. The gypsy Dwellers who live in mountains of Mistpeak are starving and besieged by mercenaries. The Aurorans have it even worse. Your exploits in Albion were never completely carefree, but the impending evil never quite impacted the citizens the way it does in Fable 3. These problems are real, people are dying, and you are literally the only one who can save them. Time to stop playing at Hero and actually be one.

Your quests will naturally require you to do plenty of fighting, and once again you have three methods available to you: melee (swords and hammers), ranged (pistols and rifles), and magic. Previous Fables have tried various methods to make combat more interesting, which usually led to it being more difficult to deal out damage, but it's down to the basics in Fable 3: Hold down the button to charge, then release to unleash your offensive fury. It's a system made for button mashers, and will almost certainly feel far too thin to anyone hoping to stick to a single combat discipline, but it lends itself well to anyone hoping to mix and match. The fancy finishing moves you'll pull off once you get good enough with a weapon are impressive to watch, too.

You can upgrade the weapons you find or buy by completing certain conditions, like killing 300 Ugly Things or befriending 30 villagers. Upgrades can be helpful (increasing damage), or just fun (25% boost to your attractiveness), and are usually easy enough to earn just by fitting the weapon to your current quest. Your Hero Weapons - the ones you inherit from your mom or dad at the beginning of the game - also change based on how you play the game. Kill lots of Hollow Men and you'll earn a bone handle for your sword; amass a lot of gold, and your blade will be dripping with bling. The changes are solely cosmetic, but they're fun to watch develop.

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