The King is dead! Long live the King!
This is a traditional cry signifying that the the king has passed away, but the prince is ready to take over, signifying a smooth transition to a reign of wonder, glory and utopia. Fable III takes this mantra to heart, and while there’s a lot of the same, and a bit of difference, you wonder whether the monarchy really changed, and whether anyone really gives two hoots about royalty.
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Now before we go into the nitty gritties of Albion’s rulers and heroes, one thing must be clarified – I am not going to hold Peter Molyneux to his promises. If I did that, I might as well stop the review and wait forever for that acorn tree to grow. The beauty of the game lies in its simplicity. Fables are stories, and stories are simple. However, the really good simple stories have an underlying invisible layer of complexity, which makes the simple stuff shine. So while it’s easy to dismiss Fable III as very simple and easy, that would be a shallow approach because surrounding the simple activities of kicking chickens and shooting gnomes lies Albion. The people of Albion have a mind of their own – even it be picking their nostrils. Therein lies the beauty of Fable III and its predecessors. Albion is a living, breathing city; maybe more so than games like Oblivion and Assassin’s Creed II. That’s what will keep you going back to Fable even after you’ve finished the main quest.
There’s also a gradual story progression over the series. In the first game, the protagonist became a hero. In the second game, he/she became a hero, and then a king (or queen). In the third, you are the younger offspring of the hero of Fable II, and your older brother is at the throne. He’s the usual tyrant and certainly the population doesn’t want him to live long. This is where you come in, and go into the far reaches of Albion and gather up support. Ability progression is handled in a ‘Road to Rule’ sequence, which is just a fancy representation of the regular skill tree of role playing games. As you gain experience helping out the populace, you will be able to go further along the Road to Rule, buying and upgrading skills. Things get interesting when you actually become Regent. Becoming the ruler of the land is relatively easy, keeping rule is much tougher. This is the newness in Fable III, and it’s certainly interesting.
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The gameplay elements largely remain the same. The changes are more superficial, and after some time, irritating. In the essence of realism, the UI has been cut down drastically, even getting rid of menus. So every time you need to change weapons and costumes, you will be whisked to a walk-in closet, with your personal butler ready with fashion tips. While it’s certainly quaint the first few times, you will soon start wishing for the return of the standard menu. Achieving realism in games is nice, but let’s not forget that it’s still a game. The combat largely remains the same, and has been ‘simplified’, which is just a polite word for ‘dumbed down’. But it’s effective. Battles are over quickly and it’s obvious that combat is not the main focus of Fable III. The map has been vastly improved though. Through the map you can zoom down to individual towns, villages, houses, and manage quests. It’s a quick reckoner of what remains to be done in a particular area and provides a guide to the various treasures hidden in the area as well.
The quests themselves are fantastic. They are not very innovative, but they are definitely executed well. The charm and humour of Albion is evident in the dialogue and the quest dialogue and some of the quests as well. The humour and voice acting deserves special mention; it’s low brow English humour at its best, and the voice acting shines. The other thing that deserves mention is the scenery. The fidelity is not great, and there’s definitely blocking and clipping once the camera is zoomed in, but when you are running through snow capped mountains or cobblestoned roads, and the sun’s rays shine down just right, the feeling is magical.
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There are two ways to go through Fable III – rush through the main quest in about 20 hours and get only a glimpse into the wonder that is Albion, or spend 50 hours to explore Albion and reign the land and fall in love with it. The second way is how it should be played, because that’s when you discover both the simplicity and complexity of the game.
Fable III is a good game – it’s colourful, funny and simple; attributes which are usually forgotten in the grittiness of realism. The innovative attempts to get rid of menus and UI to achieve realism are actually irritating, the combat is simplified to button mashing, and the graphics look dated, but it’s all trounced by the land of Albion and its farting, belching, nose-picking population. It’s good to be king!