Fable III Reader Review
Accessibility- for some a dark blight on the gaming world. After pining for acceptability among the controller illiterate masses many gamers have become fearful of what developers will now do to games to give the public at large easier access to them. What started with the Wii and motion control has moved into established franchises such as FIFA with its two-button control scheme and Call of Duty being portrayed on evening news as an entertainment product rather than a serious danger to our youth. Now many have decided they don't want others infringing on their pastime; they want gaming to remain impenetrable, for the next generation of controllers to all be Steel Battalion size and for each game to require a specific one. Maintaining their pastime for only those with the time and patience to invest in it.
Fable 3 is very much a case in point for this debate. Peter Molenyeux has often stated how he wanted to turn the RPG from a wall of stats and figures that only those with the time to learn them (or a direct link to Stephen Hawking) could understand. By making the traditional RPG classes and skills produce a visual rather than numerical effect on your character, simplfying combat and making the world and its inhabitants pastiches of medievil England he hoped to open this genre up to the masses. Those that enjoy being one of the selected few that get traditional RPG's may not enjoy being laid bare for all to see. Feel free to enter your own clichés about spotty nerds entering blinking to the sun.
Fable 3 begins 50 years after the end of the last game, with the hero from Fable 2 having risen to power and become king before his death. You play the second of his sons, the first being the current king after the death of your father. The scene is quickly set, your brother is a tyrant, the masses are becoming sick of his exploitation and the first rumblings of revolt are quaking around the castle and you have apparently never looked out a window, having remained completely oblivious to all this to it is literally banging on your door. As is standard, the proverbial hits the fan, your hero is dragged into the mess and has to escape the castle and become the leader of a revolution against your brother. Recruiting a cast of all of Britain’s best voice talent along the way.
Mechanics wise Fable 3 is largely similar to the second instalment. Melee, ranged and magic each have their own button and the combat is simple and largely based around timing your attacks correctly and throwing in a decent amount of rolling dodges. Magic is now governed by the wearing of gauntlets. Only two can be worn at a time but cannot be changed on the fly during combat, you can however combine two spells. This is the first of many slight alterations to make the game that touch simpler.
Most missions involve going to an area bopping some bad guys and either finding the object or person you need and bringing it back. The wonderfully simple combat makes all these fights enjoyable and your constantly evolving powers and character give you a reason to get stuck in without ever having to resort to grinding.
Moral choices remain important and hinge in this game on the promises you make to your revolutionary allies and whether you choose to blindside when you eventually take the throne. These choices still resort to the same old "kill the children/ save the children" cartoonish morality. You're either a hero or a villain. Once you become King most of your time is spent making these choices and this part of the game feels rushed and anticlimactic especially the final boss battle. This is only a small part of the game in reality though and you can still go out adventuring during and after it.
So far so fable, the major changes come in the menu system. This is where the series' obsession with accessibility becomes difficult. The major innovation for this game is the complete removal of traditional menus. Instead when you hit pause you are taken to the sanctuary. A John Cleese marshalled room where you can enter various sub- rooms to change your clothes, weapons, magic gauntlets, choose missions, get involved on Xbox live, everything you'd expect from a menu. It's an incredibly well produced system as well and really works for certain items. Now you can see your clothes on mannequins before trying them on, when you do start changing things round the camera quickly zooms in to give you a close up view. The visual representation of your gold as an ever-increasing pile is always produces a comfortable feeling and the interactive map is a nice touch although some may find having to drag a cursor round looking for quests slightly laborious.
Character development is also now handled via the Road to Rule. This contains all your stat upgrades contained in chests on a meaphorical road that is also a real road (it makes more sense when you see it), that can be purchased by spending guild seals (experience points if you will) and new ones can be unlocked by completing story missions. A slightly obtuse system meant to chart your rise to power but it neither really adds nor takes away from your experience of character progression.
The essence of the matter is that although interesting these are fairly major system overhauls that don’t change the gameplay in any way. At various times I found myself longing for some normal subdivided menus as I ran around the sanctuary desperately looking, for example, a way to save my game before quitting.
The sanctuary and road to rule wont ruin your experience of Fable; it is a pleasant change and immerses you into the game world by preventing the constant need to pull out of it to upgrade your character. It is however largely unnecessary. The feeling that development time could have been better spent creating new enemies, more clothes, hairstyles and the like cannot be shaken. This game seems to feature less personalisation options than the previous games and when the one of the most cherished aspects of the series has always been creating a truly unique hero and watching him/her grow, this feels like a major miss especially as there actually less options than in Fable 2.
In a constant search for accessibility it feels that the more traditional needs of the game have perhaps been left behind. The combat while breezy and enjoyably has barely changed from this game to the last. The engine is also beginning to show its age, pulling on its old Led Zeppelin t-shirts in a final attempt to prove itself relevant.
Fable is what it is due to its easy accessible nature and ability to take itself and everything about a normally closeted genre in an extremely light hearted way. This feels like a step that didn't need to be taken however, with the series stalling and offering little new in terms of real content and actually taking a step back in respect to the number of items available. The game should never be reprimanded for attempting to make an accessible RPG; it is a wonderful take on the genre that doesn't hold onto well- worn staples to please a belligerent hardcore.
All the problems aside if you loved spending time in Albion before then you will welcome a return to see what’s happened since you left. Like few other games your actions in Fable actually have a real physical impact on the places and people you meet, especially when you become king. Some effects are hardly subtle (shop owners stating "the economy's good at the moment" as you wander pass, obviously nothing to do with them. Their stood around blabbering to all and sundry) but it makes your presence feel relevant and necessary. By the same token if you werent charmed by Fable before there's nothing for you to come back to. Unless you hate menus.