Fable 3 is one of those games that’s popular to hate. Everyone uses it as an example of a dumbed-down game, which is fair, but at the same time, many treat it as though it’s meant to be a serious game. I’ve heard this game mentioned along with Dragon Age and other totally serious RPGs, which makes me wonder if people really “get” Fable 3. If you go in understanding that you won’t be playing a serious game, it can actually manage to be surprisingly entertaining. It won’t win any awards, mind you, and it doesn’t deserve any, but its brand of humor certainly entertains.
First, the flaws: The game is easy. Like, so easy that saying it just once doesn’t do justice to just how easy it is. Easy easy easy easy easy. If there are any hookers out there who pay you to have sex, they’re still less easy than Fable 3. That’s the level of “easy” that we’re dealing with, here. Relatively early in the game you’re able to unlock and combine two spells that allow you to create a whirlwind around you while lightning strikes everyone, and this is pretty much god mode all the way to the very end. Fighting with swords and guns isn’t much harder, mind you, though it takes longer since you can’t take everyone out at once. The point is that you’ll quickly figure out a way to play and be able to tear apart virtually everyone for it. Even if you somehow manage to have trouble, there are tons of health potions that you can use to keep from dying. I don’t know what happens when you die because I’m not sure that it’s even possible, but I assume that the game features a pop-up of a frowny face with “really?” in all capital letters plastered repeatedly on the screen. Then it probably fries your Xbox or PC to save you from yourself. This is only speculation, mind you.
Second flaw: It’s dumbed-down. If you accept a quest, a glowy breadcrumb trail will lead you to where you have to go, and since most of the game consists of completing quests, this trail is basically always around, telling you, “Hey, you have to go in this direction just in case you forgot. This way, okay? This way. This way.” It’s a bit… patronizing, yes, but you can simply tune it out. It’s really not that bad, all things considered. The quests are also a bit dumbed-down, never really asking much of you, but this ties into the fact that the game is easy. Still, there’s nothing really wrong with not being challenged—who says that every game has to feature a brutal level of difficulty? This is the kind of game you can relax to, and it works in that regard.
If you can look past the flaws, there’s actually a surprising amount of good to the game that gets overlooked; it’s like the internet decided that this was a bad game, and once that was decided, everyone was forced to conform to that idea. The problem is that Fable 3 actually has a lot of redeeming features, like its sense of humor. This humor is lighthearted and fits with the “RPG-light” feeling of the game, and the best thing is when that humor becomes self-referential: In the screenshots at the end of the review is a screenshot where one of the characters asks, “Do you ever get the feeling somebody’s playing games with us?” This means one thing in the context of the quest, but at the same time is a subtle little “I see what you did, there” moment for the gamer. Another example: In an earlier sidequest you get shrunk and have to play through a tabletop RPG game with three different players who have vastly different ideas of what makes a good game. This ends up being like a direct line to the cognitive dissonance in the collective gamer subconscious, with one person wanting something pretty and happy and another person wanting darkness and difficulty, culminating in one of the weirdest, most schizophrenic quests ever devised.
In a lot of cases the humor is actually quite subtle like that, though there’s plenty of physical humor and random weirdness. All of that is less interesting than the subtle stuff, but there’s an ubiquitous sense of humor throughout the game. That’s not true 100% of the time, however; there’s a portion of the game where the story actually becomes surprisingly dark, and the transition from chicken races and crossdressing to darkness and back is somehow pulled off better than you’d expect. In a way, the lack of seriousness preceding it gives extra weight to this particular section, which would be considered a high point if it existed in another game rather than in Fable 3.
Combat is, again, really easy, so there’s not much point in going over it in-depth. Suffice it to say that you can attack with a sword, shoot with a gun, or use magic. Everything can be charged up for stronger hits/shots, and magic can either be fired at individual enemies or used as an insanely overpowered area effect. The more you use a weapon, the stronger you become with it. In the case of magic, for example, your area attack reaches out farther (and takes less time to reach out) the more you use it.
The general gameplay in Fable 3 is also fairly simple. You’re given the freedom to go where you want early on, and at that point you can buy and rent out houses (some areas don’t allow you to buy houses until later in the story), play minigames for money, get married to random characters, break the law by stealing and killing, do sidequests, or just go along with the main quest. Around the halfway mark in the game, you’re put in a position of power and have to balance keeping a number of promises you make throughout the story with their financial cost. This is obviously intended to be some kind of moral dilemma, but the problem is that buying a ton of property and renting out houses means that you’ll never be so short on money that you actually have to weigh those decisions. You technically only have so long to raise X amount of money, but this isn’t actually measured in in-game time, with time only seeming to advance when you continue the story. As such, you can simply wait around or leave the game running until you’ve accrued however much rent money you need to always do the “right” thing.
Speaking of which, the game’s morality is very black-and-white. There are moments where the game seems to be trying to say, “Hey, sometimes people do bad things for good reasons,” but that grey is quickly washed away by an obvious good/evil system so ingrained in the game that basically everything but that one moment is shouting “YOU’RE EITHER A DEVIL-WINGED NE’ER-DO-WELL OR A SAINT WITH ANGEL WINGS!” So yeah, don’t be expecting subtlety.
The story is passable, with some standout moments, but overall it’s nothing special. Some of the sidequests are filled with amusing bits of sarcasm and wit, however, and these are infinitely more interesting than the majority of Fable 3’s actual story.
In terms of graphics, the game has a unique visual style that works for what it is. It isn’t aiming for photorealistic, and in several areas it manages to be unique and pretty (the screenshot at the top of this review is in-game), but many of the textures, especially when it comes to characters, are washed out. This becomes more obvious than it should with some completely unnecessary close-ups. Still, it’s good enough to not detract from the game in any way, and that’s really all anyone could ask for.
Music is one of the areas where the game is actually a bit beyond average. Some tracks repeat a bit too much, and a lot of it is typical, forgettable orchestral stuff, but every so often you stumble on tracks like this that stick out in the best of ways:
Here’s what you should do: