Leading a revolution in Albion isn’t quite what you’d expect. Put any preconceptions of blood stained banners, raised pitchforks and screaming townspeople firmly to one side. As the prince of a tyrannical brother, you’ll need to build up a rebellion piece by piece, winning the allegiance of various regional leaders through favours and hollow promises. It might sound a little mundane, but it adds up to a final chapter filled with authentic and difficult moral choices – something many games strive for, but only few succeed in achieving.
Set decades on from the previous instalment, Albion has entered an industrial age drowning in depression. The cruel leadership of a seemingly power-deluded brother has caused much of the population to live in fear and anger. After a particularly bloody opening sacrifice, the prince (or princess) escapes the royal grounds in the hope of leading some form of an uprising.
Approximately two thirds of the game documents the growing rise of the hero. Guided by Sir Walter and an ensemble of other memorable personalities, players visit a variety of new villages in the hope of winning support. The world looks spectacular, breathing life through its hundreds of citizens, varied architecture and natural flourishes. The frequency of texture pop-up is noticeable, but the scarcity of load points makes the design choice somewhat forgiveable. In the main, Albion is an intriguing and believable place to explore.
Most leaders will ask you to fulfil a number of favours, which include winning the trust of villagers, dealing with neighbouring bandits or solving widespread poverty. They’re varied enough in their structures and objectives, but few will have you sitting on the edge of your sofa. It’s a relaxed pace that transcends to the combat. Magic, melee and ranged weapons each use a face button and can be powered up by an extended press. That’s pretty much all there is to it, aside from a few customisation and upgrade options. The difficulty is also pretty low, coupled with very little punishment for being ‘knocked out’.
Voicework in video games are renowned for being poor, forced and horribly unnatural. Fable 3 bucks this trend by hiring some of the best British actors that money can buy. John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Zoe Wannamaker and Simon Pegg are just some of the names that pull off some incredible performances, conveying both emotional weight and witty humour at appropriate moments.
The Sanctuary is an interesting replacement to the start menu. Rather than pausing the game, heroes are suddently whisked away into their own personal hideout. Clothing, weaponry, a quick-travel map and multiplayer options are all nestled in their own designated rooms, stopping the more complex game systems from becoming too overwhelming. If you’re ever unsure where the next quest, collectible or house purchase is, the Sanctuary map is always the first port of call. The lack of a specific ‘pause’ button is a little irritating, but can easily be overlooked by using the Xbox ‘Home’ button.
Fable 3 will be remembered for its complex end game. Once you become King, many difficult choices are suddenly thrust upon you. An evil presence threatens to kill most of Albion’s population – and can only averted by pumping large sums of money into the nation’s army. However, on the flipside to this are the promises that you made to each of the leaders in the earlier portion of the game. Keeping each promise requires a substantial amount of money, raising complicated issues – do you improve the standard of living in Albion, only to have them killed later? Or do you carry on the tyrannical rule of your brother in the hope of saving them further down the line? Morality is a key theme in Fable 3 and increasingly becomes blurred as you try and keep everyone satisfied. It is possible to do both, but it’ll take a lot of investment and patience in the property market… something I can guarantee most gamers won’t have.
The single player campaign is a little short, but luckily there’s plenty of content to dive into after the end credits. Optional side missions help to max out your skills on the ‘Road to Rule’, there are collectibles to dig up and chances to marry/ have children. Players yearning for experimentation and exploration will certainly be satisfied by the offering from Lionhead Studios.
Aside from the world design that I mentioned earlier, the visuals are fairly impressive. Character models are varied in appearance, but few have intricate textures or detail. Lip syncing is also particularly bad, often raising unnecessary question marks over the original language of the game. The soundtrack is impressive when it comes to the fore, but I often found it to be smothered under combat sound effects – or simply missing entirely.
Few action role-playing games have the scope and production values of the Fable franchise. Although many gamers have become disillusioned with the promises made by Molyneux and friends, this is still a title with plenty of enjoyment at its core. It’s far too easy, but the art style, humour and moral choices will ensure that you remember your experience with Fable 3 for many months to come.