You’ve seen the opening cutscene. The one with the chicken. That’s right. Fable 3’s epic tale gets under way with an analogy involving one daring bird who wanted more than to end up on the kitchen table.
The game is essentially a dark comedy set during a rebellion in the industrial age of a country called Albion. You play as the unnamed hero, the younger brother of the current ruler and tyrant, King Logan. True to form for Lionhead Studios and the Fable series, Fable 3 focuses heavily on building your character through an endless series of moral dilemmas. The choices you make are either good or evil. Whichever path you choose will affect your appearance, your powers, and how the game world interacts with you.
You’ll be thrown into these situations often. Within minutes of starting the game for the first time you’re forced to choose between sparing the lives of either a group of rebellious protesters or that of your recently introduced love interest. Heavy stuff. Regardless of whom you condemn or save, it is clear that your brother is now your mortal enemy. You’re forced to escape your family’s castle to begin the journey towards one day overtaking the throne.
From this point on you are tasked with traveling from town to town gaining influence with the people of Albion. Your progress is measured at the Road to Rule, a new addition to the Fable series. As you interact with people, kill enemies and complete quests, you earn guild seals. These seals are used to purchase upgrades to your weapons and spells as well as unlocking new costume customization, NPC interaction and profession options.
Sections of the Road to Rule are gated based on your progress in the game, meaning you cannot unlock new tiers of upgrades until you have completed the tasks necessary to move the story along. If you earn enough seals, you will have impressed the people of the town you’re currently in and can thus move forward. The fastest way to earn these seals are through quests.
The quest system in Fable 3 is pretty straight forward. Interact with someone in the game enough to move your standing out of neutral and they will ask you for a favor. Complete this task and reap your rewards. Simple.
The quests themselves have enough variation, humor, and side stories to keep the game from feeling like a endless grind. Character building through the morality system forces you to become invested in not only the companions you meet along the way, but the story you’re writing as the main hero.
This is what Lionhead Studios does best and is exactly what will keep you playing for hours at a time. As soon as you make your first tough decision you’ll start asking yourself, “What would happen if I had done that differently?” The term “replay value” comes to mind here. Before you finish your first run through the game, you’re already planning your next one.
The story keeps you moving through the outskirts of Albion for a while but it’s no more than a few hours until you are back at the doorstep of Logan’s castle. You won’t be strong enough to take him on just yet and are sent across the sea to a land called Aurora. This is by far my favorite area in the game.
You and one of your companions must work your way through an ominous cave to reach the next town. In the cave you are pursued by an unidentifiable evil. This creature haunts you. It taunts you and your partner and throws new monsters in your way at every pass. The experience is eerie. Once you’ve eventually made it through the cave you are faced with another difficult decision. Your partner is too weak to continue and asks you to leave him behind. You can accept his wishes or attempt to carry him through the desert to safety. As you travel you are haunted again by the creature. This time you play out various scenarios through mirages created by the dark being.
The experience is enthralling but short-lived. Once you’ve made it through you discover a new city and group of inhabitants. They tell you a story of when the dark creature first appeared in their land and how your brother visited Aurora before you. You’re then sent right back to Albion.
Aurora is one of the areas of the game that makes you stop and look around. The environment and lighting are beautiful. I paused on a few occasions just to admire the scenery.
One of the flaws in the game lies here. To enjoy the graphics you have to slow down. As soon as you take off running the game’s performance drops considerably. This makes traveling by foot much less enjoyable. The glowing trail which guides you between objectives is not always reliable either. At times the trail simply disappears when you get to an intersection, forcing you to wait or guess blindly which way to go.
Even though you are encouraged to explore, your character is always restricted to certain paths. Any ledges, no matter how small, are impassable.
A perfect example is the final sequence leading up to confronting your brother. Once you’ve returned to Albion from Aurora, you’re ready to take on King Logan with the help of the allies you’ve made along the way. Storming the castle is entertaining but again it takes too little time to get through. You have no control over the assault outside of fighting through a few groups of soldiers. The path to the King is completely set for you.
The combat system is broken up into three options. You can switch on the fly between a melee weapon, ranged guns or spell casting. Each has options for alternate types of fire, blocking or charged attacks. Switching between fight modes is as simple as scrolling your mouse wheel.
Repeated use of weapons and skills will level them up and upgrades can be purchased through the Road to Rule. Magic spells are particularly powerful in this game. All but one or two creatures can be defeated by combining the shock spell which stuns your opponent with any damaging ability. Defeating enemies became as simple as running into the middle of the pack and spamming the area damage ability. Everything around me was incapacitated and vulnerable to attacks. On most occasions I would walk out of every fight without a scratch.
Confronting your brother is not the finale to the story. The last part of the game places you in control of your country. You are made aware that Albion faces total annihilation and that Logan’s cruelness was a consequence of his plans to save his people by any means necessary. Your only hope to save Albion is to raise enough money to fund a military strong enough to fight off the impending invasion. Money doesn’t come easy though.
What’s good for the people and will make you popular will cost you a pretty penny, but guarantees total destruction and millions of casualties. Proposals which make you money are always the evil kind and are sure to make your subjects suffer. There is no other way to ensure victory. It’s up to you. You could be the ruler everyone cherishes and die with the rest of Albion, or become a tyrant worse than your brother and save your country in the end.
I put a good amount of time into the game and overall it was an enjoyable experience. However, there are some obvious flaws that need to be addressed. Performance issues were still there on the PC just like they were on consoles. Interactions with non-player characters is incredibly repetitive. It doesn’t help that the incoherent mumbling is reminiscent of the Sims.
Have no fear. The story telling and humor will carry you through the dark times. Spend one quest dressed as a chicken whilst tickling a ghost and tell me you aren’t entertained. And don’t forget to watch the tracker at the bottom of the loading screen. How else will you know the number of STDs you’ve acquired (that’s a real statistic). I recommend playing through Fable 3 at least once, then again… and again.