Welcome to the world of Albion. For those who have not visited this world before, it is a fantasy world where magic and monsters can be seen on every street corner. For those who are returning visitors, the world has changed a fair bit since your last adventure in these lands.
Albion has changed. Gone is the whimsical world that once existed, replaced by a world that has a much more down-trodden feel. The world is going through an industrial revolution, where massive factories employ scrawny young children and beggars litter the streets. The people of Albion are suffering and in need of change.
The king, Logan, cares nothing for his people, demanding compliance and interested only in the accumulation of wealth and power. It is amongst all of this doom and gloom that you, the player, must step up as the hero that the world needs and lead a revolution against this evil King, who also happens to be your brother. Isn’t that just typical!
You are the child of the hero from Fable II, and as such a lot is expected from you. You will need to show the people that you are nothing like Logan, prove to them that you are worth following, and then lead the revolution to take the throne for yourself. Travel across the land, building an army and earning pledges of allegiance from the various people. As with any journey through Albion, there will be difficult choices along the way, but that is where all of the fun lies.
Because, just like it’s predecessor, Fable III is all about the choices. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of combat and loads of quests to complete, but these don’t really pose that much of a challenge. The emphasis is much more on the story and the choices that the player makes throughout their game. This is where the magic really comes alive.
In an attempt to make the game as accessible as possible to all types of gamers, changes have been made beyond even the ease of play from Fable II. The earliest and most obvious change is simply to the in game menu. Pressing the start button will take the player instantly to the Sanctuary, a safe haven and base of operations created by your father, the hero of Fable II. From within this room the player will be able to manage every aspect of the game that would usually be found within a menu, such as saving, changing equipment or clothing, or examining the map. From here, the player may just hit start again to go back to their previous location, or use the map to jump to another town. All of the available quests can be viewed on the map and the player may choose which one to prioritise and thus activate the glowing trail that leads the way.
Another major change is the way experience and leveling up is handled. The Road to Rule is a physical representation of your progress and as the player gains more followers, gates will open allowing the player to move through. Within each section of the road are chests offering certain upgrades. These are unlocked using points that the gamer gets from defeating enemies in combat, completing quests or other in-game accomplishments. By opening the next gate, the player has access to more chests. It is simplicity itself, with the most complicated decision here being which chest to unlock next.
But that is the whole point of the game, allowing the player to concentrate on the journey without getting hung up on difficult mechanics. the combat mirrors this perfectly. there is one button to shoot a gun, one to melee attack, one for magic and a button press to dodge. Even with this simplicity, the combat is still enjoyable to play through, but holds no threat at all. Even defeat is just a slight inconvenience, allowing the player to continue with a small penalty to experience and a gnarly scar to show off.
The journey taken to the throne of Albion is only part of the story and the difficult choices come into play most heavily once the player is actually on the throne. It is then that the player must decide how they wish to rule Albion. Many promises must be made during the journey and it now becomes time to make good on those promises, or not as the player wishes. It is perhaps at this point that the game stumbles a bit on it’s path to greatness. Everything is laid out very much in black and white for the player, with choices being so obviously good or evil that it simply comes down to how you want to play. More grey choices should be included, making the player really have to struggle with their decisions.
Another disappointment is the sudden manner in which the game finishes, and the relative speed with which the player arrives at the games conclusion. I would imagine that DLC will be rapidly provided to extend the game, but it is disappointing none the less.
However, the time that you spend in Albion is sure to be a lot of fun. The game is packed with things to do and see, relying only on the players sense of exploration and imagination. Whether you decide to get married and have kids, or take a chance on unprotected sex with as many disreputable ladies (or men) as you can, it is up to you. Go on a murdering spree, or befriend everyone you meet by showing off your dancing skills, it is up to you. Make a bundle of cash by buying some businesses, or purchase a bunch of houses and hike up the rent, these are all your decisions to make.
Then there is the humour. Fable III is filled with funny little moments that will make the player giggle to themselves. This is no surprise when looking at the voice cast list including the comic genius of people such as John Cleese, Simon Pegg and Stephen Fry. Anyone who has read a Pratchett book, or watched one of the TV adaptations will instantly feel at home in Albion. It is that style of dry, slightly dark humour that can be found throughout.
Whilst Fable III does not hold the same sense of wonder that could be found in it’s predecessor, it does come close. The compulsion to keep playing is still there, with the player finding it difficult to put down the controller, and the world of Albion is still as fully realised as before. It may be relatively short and some RPG players will find the simplistic nature of the game frustrating, but for others this will make the game more accessible and more playable. Fable III is a magical journey in a fantasy world that has it’s tongue firmly in cheek. Kick a chicken, you know you want to.