We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PC games software Reviews
15,670 Reviews

Fable III for Xbox 360 review

£39 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

Fable III is the better game when held up against the glitchy, twitchy gameplay of its predecessor, Fable II, but the heavy-handed moral of the game's story may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Fable 3 (or Fable III) is a roleplaying game for the Xbox 360. A PC version has been announced, with a release expected in 2010.

Fable III players pick up in Albion a generation after your hero from Fable II apparently fixed everything and kicked general ass. Fable III does an excellent job of remembering your Fable II character's gender (from game start - not post-gender-change potion), but not much else from the previous game carries over in a way that forbids newcomers to the series.

After a run-in with your tyrant of an older brother, your Fable III character flees the sheltered castle life with your butler (John Cleese) and arms master (Bernard Hill) to begin raising an army to overthrow the king and take the throne for yourself.

The catch is, once you've taken the throne, your character actually has to rule. This is where Fable III enters uncharted territory. Plenty of games put players in charge of managing social ecosystems (Sim City, Command & Conquer etc) but few role-playing games have ever asked players to focus on the narrow role of a ruler. Probably because the realities of monarchy are very boring and stressful.

Fable 3 for Xbox 360

Money talks

Fable III makes the stressful part especially clear by attaching a dollar amount to your success or failure as a ruler. Without revealing plot spoilers, know that your character is asked to come up with a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time - or else suffer a consequence similar to "rock falls, everybody dies".

This reduces the role of being king or queen in Fable III to "How much does X cost?" X usually winds up being a promise that you've made to some other non-playable character who helped you win the throne (feed my people, give me an army, etc.), or some action that undoes whatever terrible thing your brother previously did to upset the people (introducing a child tax, raising the guards' pay rate).

Keeping all your promises puts you in the hole, while breaking them somehow earns you money. Taking a neutral route (like keeping things the same as your brother had them) has no impact. You can of course postpone making decisions by not showing up in the throne room, but then you're not really playing Fable III so much as procrastinating it.

Upon experiencing a series of "ruler" days in the throne room, the bad thing that's supposed to happen eventually happens. At this point, the game tells you whether you were a paragon or a renegade ruler, bestowing you with a fancy set of translucent wings and an ending that's quite a bit more hacky and slashy than Fable II's 'pull the trigger'. When it's all over, you get a touching finale that's all at once more satisfying and more upsetting that the ominous conclusion to Fable II - but ultimately, you'll find yourself questioning whether or not the choices you made really mattered at all.

Fable 3 for Xbox 360

False choices

This is why Fable III comes off as the worse game when held up to Fable II's core ideals: Role-playing is all about making choices, right? You can choose a 'good' interaction like hugging someone or a 'bad' interaction like farting in their face, and the idea is that you as the player are exercising personal expression through your character. But though Fable III lets you make the choices, it never lets you off the leash - you will become king or queen, the bad thing that's supposed to happen will happen, and no matter how much of a paragon or renegade you are, you cannot choose to do something other than make or spend money.

The bottom line is that you can't 'win' Fable III. Sure, you can get the paragon playthrough or the renegade playthrough, unlock all the Achievements, have a dozen wives, houses, and businesses all scattered across the land of Albion, but no matter what choices you pick for your character, you. Are. Wrong.

What makes that harsh reality harsher is that the rest of the game - the mechanics, the graphics, the voice acting, even the job mini-games - is superb. Even the pre-ruler gameplay in Fable III is great all the way up to the point at which you launch the revolution.

The fiddly interactions are gone, the "Road to Rule" simplifies your character leveling system by letting you pop in and out to unlock whatever character privilege you want most (a sword upgrade versus a Family Pack that grants your character the ability to marry and so on), and the handholding mechanic successfully creates the illusion of responsibility for whatever non-playable character you're leading around by the hand.

And the romance interaction system is awesome to the point where it's my new obsession. Characters actually want you to take them on dates now, and the in-the-dark sex scenes have their own "Fableised" porn music that makes even the most prudish player laugh. When you do ask an NPC to marry you, each location in the game features three wedding options that range from poor (Alleyway Wedding) to lavish (Castle Wedding), giving you endless martial possibilities (and a Henry VIII Achievement if you marry six people and kill off two of them).

Fable 3 for Xbox 360

Next page: Our expert verdict >>

See also:

Games Advisor: Download games, PC games reviews and news

Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite

Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 review

Fable III for Xbox 360 Expert Verdict »

Fable 3 (Xbox 360) reviews verified by Reevoo

Fable 3 (Xbox 360)Scores 8.0 out of 10 based on 10 reviews
Xbox 360
PC version expected in 2010
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

I can't say I didn't enjoy Fable III. I'm on my ninth wedding and I sometimes load it up just to play the Lute Hero job mini-game. The plot really sticks in my craw, however, to the point where I almost don't want to talk about it at all - pretend it doesn't even exist. I mean, how can I really say I enjoyed a game where the only way to win is to not play?

  • Fable III (PC) review

    Fable III (PC)

    Several months after its release on the Xbox 360, Lionhead's action-RPG epic has finally hit PCs. Fable III is the better game when held up against the glitchy gameplay of its predecessor, but the game's heavy-handed story may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

  • Rise of the Argonauts review

    Rise of the Argonauts

    Rise of the Argonauts is an adventure game that falls flat with a disappointing mix of substandard graphics and mediocre design.

  • Game of Thrones review

    Game of Thrones

    Appropriately nasty and complex storytelling manages to rise above inappropriately amateurish acting

  • Darkspore review


    Hack 'n' slash your way through Darkspore, an outer space dungeon crawler from Spore developer Maxis, which combines that game's stellar character customisation but none of its humour or innovation.

  • The Lord of the Rings: War In The North review

    The Lord of the Rings: War In The North

    The Lord of the Rings returns as a co-op brawler with RPG elements. Is Snowblind's take on the franchise a winner, or does it get lost in the pack?

IDG UK Sites

Windows 10 for phones UK release date, price and new features: When will my phone get Windows 10?

IDG UK Sites

It's World Backup Day 2015! Don't wait another minute: back up now

IDG UK Sites

Get the free Adobe Comp CC iPad app for rapid layout design

IDG UK Sites

New 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015, 2.7GHz) review: Just about the greatest upgrade any...