With a some extra time on our hands over the recent holiday weekend, my household dug a little further into some multiplayer options through Game Pass. We steered clear of MMOs and looked for local multiplayer and co-op options. In doing so, a huge surprise rose to the top: Fable III. “Wait, WHAT?” was my immediate reaction, because if I once knew that Fable III offered two-player co-op, it had long exited my memory banks. Having never tried co-op when the game was fresh, I had no idea if it actually still worked today, and..well…it’s Fable III, the most disappointing of the Fable trio. Though I knew I could tolerate the game’s nonsense, I wasn’t sure if my other half would, as he had never played it before. After promising that I would try Back 4 Blood with him (oh, the things we do for love), we dove right into the world of Fable III, but not together, at first.
I have no idea what kind of fan base Fable III retains to this day, but if anyone out there is dying to play co-op in an twelve-year-old RPG that starts out as wryly entertaining and eventually falls apart, then Fable III might be something to try. The co-op mechanic does still work, and it works mostly well. Players have to progress through the game’s introduction first, in which one chooses their character and witnesses the terrible rule their brother, Logan, has wrought upon Albion, the game’s setting. After escaping under Logan’s nose and setting foot into the game’s open world, we were then allowed to group. For that, I had to locate my husband’s player icon and simply request to join his game. Upon accepting, there we were, a prince and princess primed to save Albion from Logan and, um…whatever else lay ahead. (If you know, you know, y’know?)
While I can’t say I’m extremely well-versed in co-op gameplay, I’ve played my fair share of games with various partners, and the only co-op experience I’ve had that mimics what Fable III offers is in Fallout 76, where one person makes choices for all. In other words, being a “Player 2” in someone else’s instance of Fable III is just that – the game “belongs” to Player 1, and Player 2 comes along for the ride. In all cut scenes and quest choices, the game spoke directly to my husband’s character. He got to choose what to say and where to go next. When choices were made, I followed along, participating in whatever needed to be done. My princess fought alongside his prince, leveling up as he did, sharing weapons, treasures, and guild seals (currency needed for progression and to access up new powers). Since I’ve played the game before, I was happy to act as back-up, and I eventually took on the role of navigator, leading him to secrets and fun optional quests that can be overlooked. And, in addition to interacting with Albion’s citizens, as is commonplace in the Fable games, we could interact with each other. I must say we had more than a few charming moments of handshaking and dancing. We can also get married and go into business together, which I’m sure we’ll try eventually. We also have dogs, of course. Two border collies that think exactly alike in almost all respects.
While Fable III co-op works, it’s not perfect. One thing that initially hampered us grouping was, of all things, the game’s DLC. While my husband downloaded just the base game upon deciding to try the game, I had previously downloaded the game and a variety of its DLC/gear that’s been freely available for years. When we tried to group for the first time, the game told us that we couldn’t because our “content” didn’t match. A quick internet search revealed that, for whatever reason, in order for Fable III co-op to work, both players had to have downloaded the same set of DLC/gear, or, none downloaded at all. That’s how we fixed the problem anyway – I deleted all the extra stuff I had downloaded, and then, grouping worked.
Another oddball part of co-op concerns accessing The Sanctuary, the hub through which players access the game’s map, player inventory, and settings. If one player pauses the game, it pauses for both, and the second player ends up as a “ghost” in the first player’s Sanctuary without the ability to access anything. So, if we each want to change gear, we have to do such separately, pausing the game twice. It’s an unpleasant way to do things that breaks any sense immersion we had built up to that point. Along those same lines, my own progression as “Player 2” has been a little wonky. At one point, upon grouping, my game loaded into a past save (when I could have sworn that I had a more recent save file), and I ended up without powers that I had purchased before. I’m also unsure about purchasing anything for my character specifically, because in order for me to apply any new gear, I have to stop the entire game, and that stinks for Player 1. I get that my character’s appearance makes no difference in the end generally, so I’ll admit there’s some vanity talking there, but I would like to be able to take part in the role-playing aspects of the game, and I can’t, or at least I can’t seem to do so without messing with Player 1’s game.
Though it’s been a little unusual re-visiting Fable III in co-op form, the experience has been mostly positive. Though there is a point where Fable III goes downhill, it’s beginning throes are enjoyable, and I have had a good time exploring Albion with a companion. Would I recommend it to others, though? That’s a tough call, and it depends on one’s own feelings towards the type of co-op the game offers. For two brand-new players who both want to experience Fable III in all its “glory,” playing co-op immediately might not be the way to go, as the chance for one person to feel excluded are high. Then again, if both players agree to their roles (one leader, one follower) beforehand, perhaps that becomes a non-issue. The setup in my household – having an experienced player follow and unexperienced one – has worked very well, even if the Player 2 side of things feels a little hollow in the end. If you and a partner are in the mood for some light and witty adventuring for a few hours, the yes, Fable III’s co-op is just good enough to pass the time until something better comes along.
Lede image and video captured by author during Xbox Series S playthrough of Fable III (© Xbox Games Studio).