Welp, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. After writing that piece I published here a few weeks ago about the possibility of Fable 4, my curiosity got the better of me.
I simply had to play Fable 3.
I know, I could hardly believe it either. Last year I took time out to revisit both Fable (in the form of Fable Anniversary) and Fable 2 — both outings proved very successful. Though neither game is quite as spectacular as they were hyped to be, both remain solid RPGs that offer up some relatively enjoyable gameplay.
As some will remember, Fable 3 was…well, it was pretty much panned. I even joined the cacophony on my own blog (though I did try to focus on its few positives). In a nutshell, Fable 3 somehow managed to spoil the formula that drove the previous games. Not only did it turn RPGing into a rather joyless venture, but it also gave us a nonsensical story that made sense at first, and then didn’t make any sense at all.
Needless to say, I wasn’t super keen on revisiting the game, but I felt compelled to do so for the sake of remaining positive about Fable 4.
Because honestly, if the game does come to fruition, there’s no place to go but up.
After procuring myself a copy of the game, I set to work.
And oh yes, I was quickly reminded that the game is “work.” So much…unnecessary…work.
But let’s start at the beginning, because really, the beginning is not so terrible. You start out playing as either the son or daughter of Fable 2’s Hero of Albion. Your brother and current ruler of Albion, Logan, has subjected the land to a tyrannical rule where poverty abounds for most save for the chosen few. You must band together a rebel collective in order to overthrown Logan. Once you create your team, it’s off to war.
This portion of the game – about its first half — is really quite alright, because it involves the kinds of things that made Fable 2 so much fun: exploration and questing. You get to visit Albion’s various lands and mingle with its residents. And it’s not as if you can simply go from main quest to main quest, as the game checks your progress by making you run through at least a few side quests. And sure, they’re all silly side quests, but the world of Fable is a fanciful one. In fact, to its credit, the game has some fantastic voice acting, and much of it’s humor is prevalent in its oddball side quests.
Beyond that, you can also interact with folks and spark up a relationship with a villager of your choosing. You can perform jobs for money, buy and sell goods, and do your best to be an all-around good citizen.
But, even in this “okay” portion of the game, issues abound. One of the most important aspects of the game is also it’s most unpleasant: navigation. I suppose that I had set far enough out of my mind the awfulness of the game’s central hub — The Sanctuary — because once I revisited it, all I could think was “oh right…this [sad face].” The Sanctuary essentially houses your menu and inventory. In it is stored your weaponry, clothing, trophies, and the game’s map. The game’s only map. No mini-map or overlay available, just The Sanctuary’s map, which, while stylized to fit with the game, is supremely unhelpful and confusing. Thankfully, I recalled how to use the game’s unmarked fast-travel feature, which was fine…when it actually worked. [sigh]
Adding to The Sanctuary’s problems is that it’s the only place to access your weapons. Though it can hold several sets of melee weapons, ranged weapons, and magic gloves, your character can only hold two glove, and one of each type of weapon. If you want to switch weapons, you have to stop what you’re doing, go to The Sanctuary, equip what you need, and then “unpause” the game. It is cool that you can do this in the middle of combat without issue? Eh, it’d be a lot cooler if I could just bring up a weapon wheel, but what do I know?
If The Sanctuary is good for anything, it’s as a closet. I spent waaaay too much time in there the first time trying on clothes, dying them, and creating different outfits. And…uh…I pretty much did the same thing this time. What can I say? The more things change, the more they, well…you know.
So, okay. You’ve created your team and overthrown (and perhaps even killed) your despot of a brother. Let the credits roll, right?
Former King Logan was only half your problem. Turns out that the reason he ruled Albion as despotically as he did was because of a supernatural force of darkness called “The Crawler.” You see, he met with the…um…beast(?) a few years back and made a deal with it in order to save Albion from destruction. But now, Albion’s time is up, and the The Crawler’s pay is due. In short, Albion must end. Of course, you as the new ruler of the land can’t let this happen. You must prepare for yet another war. Only this time there’s no banding together of forces. All you have to do is chose whether or not to see through a number of promises that you made during the first half of the game…along with making a few other random financial (sort of?) decisions. Do you break all your promises, thereby funding a grand army while sacrificing most of the population’s happiness? Or do you keep all you promises, thereby forming a modest army but keeping your citizens smiling?
I suppose that I’m not spoiling much when I say that it doesn’t really matter. And that’s really the worst part of the whole thing. True that the outcome of the war with The Crawler does alter the landscape of Albion (this along with whatever decision you made as ruler), but even if everyone on Albion dies at the end, they’ll all be back eventually if you just turn the game off for a day or two. Turn it back on, And Albion is as bustling as ever. Sure, a number of folks might hate you, but if you dance with them long enough, they can be convinced otherwise.
When you get right down it it, Fable 3 is a joyless game. That’s really the nicest conclusion I can come to at this point. It’s not unplayable or broken or even “bad” in the academic sense. It took the simple pleasures of Fable ad Fable 2 and ran them through the muck. Fable 3 is a weighty and unfortunately boring affair that’s a decided step down from Fable 2. Aye, and there’s the biggest rub. If anything, Fable 3 is like a slightly enhanced version of Fable 2 with a worse story. Very little about is says “sequel;” it’s just more of the same…and less.
Side note: after re-installing Fable 3, I spent a little time going through the Xbox’s list of various add-ons, and I caught that its one and only DLC, Traitor’s Keep, was free. I hadn’t played it before, so perhaps that would offer some sort of redemption? Eh, no. Though it did present a new spot to explore, there just wasn’t any compelling reason for me to care about its outcome. It remains started but unfinished, and there it will likely stay.