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Fable III super review

AT A GLANCE
  • Probably the best writing and acting in games right now
  • It's big, funny and clever
  • It will seriously put you through the emotional wringer
  • It's technically a bit shaky in places
  • The story climax feels a little rushed
  • Some less combat-driven quests would have been nice

When you first start playing Fable III, you’ll be forgiven for suspecting that Peter Molyneux has finally gone mad. Throughout Lionhead's action RPG sequel, you’ll be bombarded with design decisions which seem to have been made just for the sake of changing something, or even worse, simply for the sake of being quirky. It will all feel very odd. But give it time. Stop thinking about why things are the way they are. Accept them and just get on with it.

Within a few hours you’ll find that Molyneux’s marvellous lunacy is all with definite purpose. The realisation will creep up on you slowly, but when it takes hold you’ll discover that Fable III is a subtly clever beast indeed, and one of the most infectious and affecting RPG experiences of recent years. Though certainly not a niggle-free one.

Scale it back a bit

Following Fable II’s epic broad strokes, part three is a very much more streamlined, focused take on the franchise formula. In both central story and core gameplay mechanics, this is a no-nonsense, to-the-point Fable which nevertheless manages to plug into your intellectual and emotional faculties in an arguably more pervasive sense than its predecessor.

You’re dropped straight in at the deep end from the moment the fantastic opening cut-scene ends. You’re a fully-formed adult royal this time, the son or daughter of Fable II’s now-deceased hero. No childhood preamble this time around. No emotive back-story context. After Fable II’s drawn out introduction, it feels a little alienating, but the speed with which you’re pulled through the story’s opening exposition doesn’t give you time to stop and think about this for too long. Your older brother is the king of Albion, and the king is a bastard. The people are oppressed. The children are under-educated and over-worked. Industry and cold steel rule over hope and freedom. Overall, Albion has turned into a right old grim place to live.

Forcing you to make a swiftly-imparted, emotionally tormenting decision in its opening hour, Fable III immediately makes its MO known, and drops your first hint at how the changes it has made are to make this new, more economical iteration such a powerful experience. And in traditional Lionhead style, it all comes down to the way you interact with its world.

Touchy feely

Your opening decision – a judgement over the fates of recently-introduced characters – shouldn’t really bother you. You’ve only just met these people, and they shouldn’t mean crap to you. But you’ll really, really care. Because one of them has just been introduced alongside Fable III’s much-vaunted touch mechanic. A quick stab of the left trigger and you’ll hold an NPC’s hand. This allows you to lead them –or drag, depending on context - around the world with you.

It sounds like a simple gimmick, but ye gods, you’ll be shocked by how powerful a bond you gain with a character once you have physical command over their actions. There’s a sense of responsibility for, and closeness to them that you just won’t find with any kind of automated NPC interaction system.

So regardless of the brevity of your relationship, the decision you’re forced to make comes as an almighty kick in the stones. And following it, you’re almost immediately out in the big wide world. Your brother has taken things too far, a rebellion is needed, and it’s up to you – along with your trusted butler Jasper and your childhood mentor Sir Walter – to travel Albion drumming up an insurgent force.

In a bare-bones appraisal, this works no differently to the traditional action RPG model (meet characters, find out what they want, achieve it via a combat-driven dungeon-crawl, get them on side), but thanks to Fable III’s idiosyncratic new interface and the story’s darker, harder edge, it all means so much more.

More Info

Release date: May 17 2011 - PC (US)
May 17 2011 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Lionhead Studios
Franchise: Fable
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+
David Houghton
GamesRadar

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-striking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.

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  • PevMaster - May 7, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    It saddens me to see that Games Radar, one of my favourite sources for videogame reviews, has joined the other reviewers who have fallen into the same trap. Fable 2 was a great game which made me hungry for more; but when I acquired its successor I saw that it was clumsy, short, overrated and above all, a HUGE DISSAPOINTMENT. And to say that this game eclipses Fallout New Vegas? Pure madness.
  • Gilligan - April 9, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    I thought Fable 3 was r8 disappointing.
  • RevolverOshawatt - November 28, 2010 8:03 p.m.

    Ahh, I can proudly say I've played the story for the 3rd time around. xD There's a good point made in this, you buy all the property in Albion and let the game run for a few hours while you go about your day. xDD I made a decent 16 Million in two days, so it made life a whole lot easier! xD
  • nickhh96 - November 8, 2010 3:02 a.m.

    i have one thing to say about your comparison of fable 3 world to FONV's... wasteland
  • Carpetbomb - November 2, 2010 3:35 p.m.

    Got it and love it =D, see people saying the hand holding thing is pointless but it really works, it really does make you feel responsible for what happens to them, and it also stops them being left behind or caught and stuck if they walk into rocks etc. because they stick close to you, its a smart addition =] Ive played for abit now and it feels more focussed than fable 2, i hate to use the world linear but thats how it feels at the moment, ime sure once i unlock more areas and towns things will open out and become free'er, but atm its like a really long tutorial, still good fun and getting used to the whole guild hall aspect (ide preffer the hall to be an option from the pause menu rather than being the menu its-self but what ya gonna do) and the "finnisher" combo's are quite spectacular to watch =D Gonna get NV when the price comes down abit but i wouldnt say one was better than the other as they look pretty even, but it really depends on what style of games your into
  • twewy13 - October 31, 2010 7:33 p.m.

    buying it for sure...glad that GR said it was worse than TP though...MUAHAHAHAHAHA NINTENDO WINS AGAIN!
  • RedOutlive10 - October 29, 2010 12:43 p.m.

    @Channel4 Zelda games aren't RPG either, they're more like adventure games, even if they do have some sort of progression with gadgets.
  • elpurplemonkey - October 28, 2010 4:38 a.m.

    I could care less about this game, but after reading your review, it actually seemed interesting. The rise to power- then rule the kingdom mechanic seems pretty damn refreshing.
  • c1nd3rcell - October 28, 2010 4:26 a.m.

    I absolutely LOVED Fable 2 and I'm so exited to pick this one up. I have to pay off my pre-order of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood first, though...
  • Syncmaster - October 27, 2010 11:22 p.m.

    "the story climax feels a little rushed" uh oh.. reminds me o fable 2. hoping to be wrong.
  • MCnooble - October 27, 2010 6:42 p.m.

    gonna have to disagree with u there games radar, i personaly thnk that NV is the better game
  • TruckThunders - October 27, 2010 1:33 p.m.

    Nice to see that this games looks very promising. I'm still sitting on an unopened copy of Fable II and I keep telling myself I'll play it one day. Once I get that done I'm sure I'll finally play Fable III, probably just as Fable IV is released :-/
  • PushesPaperInACircle - October 27, 2010 12:30 p.m.

    Did they fix the "single save" feature. A bug in the last game wiped out one of my characters by not allowing the plot to proceede and I had to start over. Sure Fallout games have bugs to work out and Vegas was rushed, but at least they gave me 100 slots to back up my work...
  • JohnnyMaverik - October 27, 2010 11:23 a.m.

    "Probably the best writing"..."in games right now" I guarantee you're wrong. Planescape Torment has my back and we're not going down with out a fight, Deus Ex, Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines, Mass Effect's Universe and fk it I'm guna throw in Cave Story just cuz I can and it just pop'd into my head, might all turn up later to give you a disapproving look as well.
  • The4X - October 27, 2010 11:22 a.m.

    +1 Don't belive it better than ME2 or FNV...
  • NeelEvil - October 27, 2010 10:46 a.m.

    @ kurtzhair I love the Sanctuary & bizzarely it loads much faster than the inventory menus of Fable 2.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - October 27, 2010 8:59 a.m.

    Spacem0nkey77: That's not a spoiler. That information has been out as a main gameplay feature for nearly as long as Fable III has been known.
  • kurtzhair - October 27, 2010 8:34 a.m.

    So...is anyone else aggravated by the lack of an inventory every time you hit the "start" button and think "Oh, right, I've got to go to this stupid fucking sanctuary to do extremely simple things. I'm glad that that the designers realized that RPGs are generally made more fun by randomly stripping away RPG elements in favor of pointless bottlenecks." That said, Fable III is an incredible game overall as far as I can tell from what I've played of it (four hours of play time;) I'm loving the combat and the experience system...just...some interesting choices, which do sometimes seem to me to be just for the sake of making a change, and occasionally detract from the overall experience, and fairly heavily so.
  • Spybreak8 - October 27, 2010 6:17 a.m.

    I've played about 4 hours today and I had to stop and download RDR Undead Nightmare Collection. I had to because I prob would have rushed through this game so fast. Played previous Fables and this just feels like Fable that we all wanted before. Epic! I also find it rather amusing dancing with everyone with the same animation no matter male or female villagers lol.
  • nikrusty - October 27, 2010 5:50 a.m.

    where's the pc version bitches!! I want...I'am suckulunt