16 Reviews

Fable 3

It's a simpler Albion - and all the better for it

So, in a world that's at best apathetic and at worst openly sadistic, what's the point in marriage? That's just one of the unexpected nuggets of wisdom that comes out of Fable III. Another - and one we could all learn from - is that you should never let anyone tell you that drinking alone is wrong.

Welcome back to Albion. A place where whimsy, vomit and apocalypse walk arm in arm. A place that recognises that hens are innately funny, and plunders that vein of comedy without embarrassment. A place where morality - although nearly always a binary choice - varies in complexity from a kiss or a fart, to choosing which blameless person must die.

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You and your brother Logan are the sons of Fable II's hero character. Logan ascended to the throne, and his rule has been harsh and paranoid. In the opening minutes of the game, you're exposed to a choice that most games would have as their final twist - and you're emasculated, ridiculed and shamed into a self-imposed exile. Your loyal servants, however, help you waken your heroic skills, and this is where you meet Theresa, the seer that guided your father to the throne, and will do the same for you.

As you'll probably be aware, that's where Fable III differs from its predecessors - it sails through the traditional fairy tale ending. Promises you made on the way will come back to haunt you.

You'll be forced into diplomatic relationships with people you fought on the way up. And, having learned the true nature of the threat against Albion, you have to choose between the immediate and the long-term good. After all, what good's an orphanage, when all the orphans have had their guts spattered onto the ceiling by an ancient, nameless evil?

Press X to be evil
What you'll notice more immediately is that Fable III has been heroically simplified. This might offend some people - the people who complained that clothing in Fable II was purely cosmetic and divorced from the all-important stats of an RPG. But often it's a good thing: for example, the smaller (but still substantial) range of weapons gives each one a chance to have a personality, rather than being a fantasy adjective followed by a fantasy noun. Some weapons will only unlock their powers if you use them for evil. Others will grow in stature if you eat a lot of pies. It's a simpler, richer system.

Spells, however, have gone the other way. Depth has been exchanged for breadth. You can combine the six spell gauntlets to create 15 hybrid spells - but you only have access to one combination at a time. In any event, once you've found an effective combo, there's little reason to change.

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We settled on fire (damage) with shock (stun) and, apart from chasing an Ach ievement, felt little inclination to experiment. It's not all bad, though - some spells have been remodelled as potions, allowing you to cast Slow Time and the equivalent of Raise Undead whatever gauntlets you're wearing.

Fry in the ointment
That is, however, the only chink in Fable's (non-existent) armour. The game's story is absolutely brilliant, and the new actors are a roll call of top-rank British talent - and Jonathan Ross. Happily, the script is easily their equal. Reaver's return as a sadistic capitalist is welcome, and the sexquisite Stephen Fry revels in the camp, diplomatic savagery of the role.

Once you're King, the cost of being good becomes overwhelmingly clear, as your noble promises become linked to hard cash prices. A series of good expensive options, and evil, profitable options define your tenure as King - and although it's occasionally annoying to have to decide between a brothel and an orphanage (both would be ideal), it's a relief not to have micromanage your cities.

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