Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Price: £49.99

Disclaimer: A few quick notes before you read, I’ve gone to great lengths to not give away any of the story in this review, as requested by its creators, and also as a favour to the readers. On a personal note I hate it when reviews give away the plots lines and twists and with this in mind every measure possible has been taken to limit the amount of the story exposed. In other words there are no spoilers!

We’d also point out that the co-op aspect was not online at the time of this review; with that out of the way on with the review…
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Will you be able to resist the temptation to turn into a tyrant when you are given free reign in the latest Fable?

Fifty years have passed since Fable II and things in Albion have taken a turn for the worse. One of the offspring of Fable II’s hero has taken his seat on the throne and now rules with an iron fist. The industrial revolution is well under way but, along with it, the quality of life for the citizens is faltering. Homelessness and child labour are now common place; people no longer wander the pretty streets with their heads held high but rather scurry around the grimy back alleys, fearful for their lives. They need a Hero, they need you, but are you up to the challenge of dethroning your brother and restoring Albion to its former glory? Or once given the chance will you become an even bigger tyrant than your sibling?

If you have played either of the earlier Fable games then you know what to expect. A fairytale like story set in massive wonderful looking environments with tons of people to interact with. You choose how to interact with the inhabitants of Albion, it’s up to you whether you try to charm them or else terrify them? Each decision you make has its consequences, just as each promise you fail to follow through with will also affect your reputation.

General gameplay has been streamlined, simplified even, this may put off hardcore RPG fans but for the most part the game flows better as a result. For example, the start button takes you straight to your own sanctuary where you can swap clothes, weapons and even fast travel around the world, reducing the amount of time messing with menu options. The game’s action begins much earlier too, the player beginning as an adult rather than a child. Initial forays are exciting and tend to the darker side of the fairytale type story too – this is definitely aimed at an older market.

A big emphasis has clearly been placed on action and adventure and part and parcel of that is the combat, alas it’s full of problems. Trying to block causes all sorts of issues, if you are facing the wrong direction you can be hit from behind, if you press the analogue stick to move it changes to an attack and doesn’t block anyway. You can get overwhelmed by enemies surrounding you and the lack of cohesion means battles often descend into confused button bashing – not the intuitive fighting we hoped for.
Enemies seem to be regurgitated, seemingly for the spectacle of yet another encounter too. This being particularly apparent when you are trying to get to a location and, oh joy, another group of highway robbers step out and block your path. A particular annoyance when you’ve powered up your hero so much that the dispatching of said robbers isn’t even a challenge, simply an unnecessary chore.

The sparkling ‘breadcrumb’ trail makes a return too, though with the tendency to lead you into a wild-goose-chase on occasion – at one stage it wanted me to run into a stone cliff face! But these problems will exist in a complex game of this nature, when such choice is available in terms of where you go it’s no wonder Lionhead couldn’t work out every glitch so we’ll cut them some slack – besides, the good points far out weigh the bad.

Graphically this game is stunning, usually RPGs tend to suffer due to scale and draw-distance but not in this case, backgrounds are lush, environments beautifully designed and all set upon a massive scale. Character animations are also incredibly detailed – not quite realistic admittedly but still the cartoony character models are done in Fable’s own, instantly recognisable, style.
Of course it wouldn’t be Fable if it wasn’t brilliantly written and acted with that wonderful dry British wit, including all the childish toilet humour as ever (the jury’s out on whether that’s a good thing). Voicework from comedy giants like Monty Python’s John Cleese and Simon Pegg of Spaced and Shaun of the dead fame lights up the script too. At times I found myself laughing uncontrollably, and they are able to even poke fun at themselves as you will see in a section called ‘the game’ where you enter a game with in the game and get to listen to the creators bicker over how the story should pan out – screaming as they do, about not giving away spoilers or having the story line ruined by an earlier decision.

Conclusion: While not without its problems, Fable III’s scale and player driven narrative creates a fairly unique, compelling experience. Lionhead have clearly tried to make it more accessible and exciting for the new player, though risk alienating their core fan base. Still, this is a full, rich experience that has been lovingly created and should win over old fans while bringing in a new audience, and yes, the main quest is on the hsort size but just remember – even when it’s over its still not over.