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15,669 Reviews PC Advisor Recommended

Fable III (PC) review


Manufacturer: Microsoft Game Studios

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

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.

Fable III was released in October of last year and, somewhat bizarrely, is only now getting a PC port. The good news is that the PC version comes with the contents of the Limited Collector's Edition and all of the DLC packs. The bad news is that the keyboard and mouse controller arrangement is awkward, with particular problems involving camera angles during combat.

While you're manipulating the WASD keys to move your character, you'll also be using the mouse to move the camera - so you'll often find the camera is looking the one way you don't need it to. Using a console controller solves this problem, but PC purists will wish the game was better mapped to keyboard and mouse controls.

Otherwise, the game performs well on the PC. On my 3.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo machine with an Nvidia GeForce GT 330, I didn't notice any nose diving of the frame-rate, even during the more intensive combat sequences. The graphics looked cartoonish but still fairly strong, with some minor clipping. My only other criticism is that I had to download the game on Games for Windows Live, and I vastly prefer Steam's digital distribution service for its ease of use, particularly during installation. That said, the game feels largely the same, which is very good news in some respects, and fairly disappointing news in others.

Players pick up in Albion a generation after your hero from Fable II apparently fixed everything and kicked general ass. Fable III does an eloquent job of remembering your Fable II character's gender, 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 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.

Fable III

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, 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 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 the truly terrible consequences.

This reduces the role of being king or queen down to "How much does X cost?", with X usually being a promise that you've made to some non-playable character who helped you win the throne, or some action that undoes whatever terrible thing your brother previously did to upset the people. Keeping all your promises puts you in the hole, while breaking them somehow earns you money.

Fable III

After experiencing a series of "ruler" days in the throne room, the bad thing that's supposed to happen eventually happens (note: the way the time counts down is uneven, so keep an eye on how many days you have left to get money in the bank). 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 III comes off as the weaker 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 end up in the wrong. No doubt this is Lionhead’s commentary on the ambiguities of political power, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Fable III

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 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 the levelling system by letting you pop in and out to unlock whatever character privilege you want most, and the hand-holding mechanic successfully creates the illusion of responsibility for whatever non-playable character you're leading around.

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 to lavish, giving you endless martial possibilities (and a Henry VIII Achievement if you marry six people and kill off two of them).

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 throat, 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) Expert Verdict »

OS: Windows XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz or AMD Athlon X2 4000+
HDD: 12 GB free disk space
Graphics: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
DirectX: Version 9.0c.
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Despite key improvements in several areas, Fable III isn't quite the masterpiece that Lionhead keeps promising. The game's unconventional structure, while ambitious, ultimately compromises the player experience.

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