Fable 3

The Star Wars trilogy (don’t you dare ask which one, there is only one Star Wars trilogy damnit) can be reduced to the following items:

Star Wars: Bright happy (mostly) universe, bad man messes with the wrong boy, universe is angry, universe and wrong boy beat bad man

Empire Strikes Back: Less bright happy universe, bad man gets badder, bad things happen, not a happy ending

Return of the Jedi: The Care Bears Movie (with happy ending all round)

I haven’t played Fable 1, so it clearly doesn’t count. OK, that’s a lie – I’ve played it for about half an hour, but it hasn’t aged well, and I didn’t like it. The important point to take from this is that “it doesn’t count”.

So! We’ll begin with Fable 2. Bright happy (mostly) universe, bad man messes with the wrong boy (or girl), universe is angry, universe and wrong boy (or girl) (and the old guy off Firefly and Julia Sawalha and Stephen Fry) beat bad man. There’s other parallels that can be made, but I shouldn’t have to point out that Theresa is an immortal version of Obi Wan Kenobi, cos that’s obvious. But I did it anyway in case your intellect cannot hope to match mine. I am generous.

Fable 3 tries to be The Empire Strikes Back to Fable 2’s Star Wars. Why does Empire Strikes Back work so well? Characters you know already get fucked over by the surviving baddie from the first one. The people you loved in Star Wars, you’ll love them even more in the sequel, cos they’re so much more heroic. The people you hated in Star Wars, you’ll hate them even more in the sequel, cos they’re so much nastier. And what does the Fable series do for each game? Ditch the previous cast, with the exceptions of Stephen Fry and Obi Zoe Wanamaker Kenobi (I am clever as fuck). So who are you meant to root for?

At the start of Fable 3, you are told that you are the son (or daughter) of the original hero from Fable 2 (which, if the game can see a save file from Fable 2 on your hard drive, will be known in the game as your father or mother). You have a brother called Logan, who is the King of Albion, and a bit of a nasty man. As tyrants do, he does nasty things, and as poncy princes do, you run away and begin a revolution against the King. You travel the game world, meet people, recruit the leaders of certain social groups, and when you have done enough quests, you get to go and overthrow the King.

When you begin your travels, you get to see how badly Logan has fucked with everyone and everything. Beggars are constantly telling you about how they haven’t eaten in years, kids are always keen to let you know that they can’t live on snow forever, and if you squint hard enough, you can see Peter Molyneux’s face behind the TV screen, silently mouthing the word “CARE” at you demonically. You can tell the guy is trying hard to depress you, so that you stand a chance of giving a shit. Top tip, Peter – if you try and depress your average, 10 second attention span, Call of Duty is out now, gamer audience right from the very start of the game, then they’re not going to like your game unless you’ve got a fucking special trick up your sleeve. Oh, and I’ve skipped over the “kill the traitors or your girlfriend” choice cos it’s bollocks and means nothing.

The game gets worse. You eventually go from the snowy mountains to the big city, which has smog in the air and shit on the cobblestones. The kids all work in the factories, and the adults are all filled with gonorrhea and cheap booze. In fact, I get the impression some of the kids are too, but I digress. By now, the game is practically screaming at you “THIS IS ALL WRONG AND YOU SHOULD FIX IT”. And you’ll be thinking “fuck this Bleak House bollocks, is Black Ops out yet?”.

At this point, everyone and their grandmother will be asking you to do a relationship quest. This is where you have to take a package and give it to someone else. Or guide someone through baddie territory. Or go out on a date with someone while holding their hand. Easy enough, you think. I’ll use the fast travel option. “Haha!” the game cries. “You tried to skip the requester’s dialogue, didn’t you? For that, I’ll send you to the nearest location to them, make you run all the way back to them so you can hear the dialogue you skipped, and then let you go to where you want to go”. But it is a relationship quest, and so it must be IMPORTANT, for you are to lead a REVOLUTION, and in order to do this, you will need ALLIES. Nope, nope, nope. It’s all filler. Joyless, repetitive, pointless filler. Oh sure, it’ll mean some people like you, but who cares? It doesn’t mean anything. And if you do any relationship quests in the main city, when you go to see your new “friend”, they give you shit for it! And these are the people you’re meant to care about! Well fuck them. They’ve spent their whole virtual lives there, and they’re still living in the gutters? Holy fuck, I turn up with a dog and the bastard has sniffed 2,000 gold buried around the place within one minute. They’re all lazy thick fuckwits, so fuck ’em. They should all buy dogs.

All this ranting is a bit unfair, really. Most of these gripes could be levelled at Fable 2 at certain points, so I’ll try and pick a fair one. Thinking….. ooh! Got one, and it’s a good ‘un. Fable 2 had a menu. You pause the game, and you get the menu. You could use it to change your character’s clothes, fast travel to a new location, stuff like that. With Fable 3, they’ve tried to be clever. When you pause the game, you get magically transported to a series of rooms which have replaced the old menus. Want to change clothes? Walk into the wardrobe. Want to change weapons? Walk into the armoury. Takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s not that big a deal. What is a big deal is John Cleese. He voices the butler that lives in the pause rooms (known as the sanctuary, which it really isn’t). When you go there, or when you want to pause the game (you know, have it shut the fuck up for five minutes), he comes out with one of several canned lines of dialogue. However, when Fable 3 was released, they also released some DLC. The DLC is a dog suit for your character to wear. So your character looks like a dog. Ho ho! £2? No. So, after a while, every time you pause the game (you know, so it shuts the fuck up for five minutes), it gets John Cleese to advertise a fucking dog suit that you can spend £2 on. Or, to look at it another way, you can spend £2 to stop John Cleese from spouting advertising at you when all you want to do is pause the game. Angry yet? No? OK, imagine you’ve bought a DVD. You get home, you put it on. You get past the trailers, you click “Play movie”. Five minutes in and your phone goes. You pause the DVD, and it instantly starts playing another trailer. You scrabble round for the remote, you find the mute button, and you’re angry. Now imagine the DVD in question lasts up to, ooh, let’s say 10 hours. And stopping the DVD altogether means you get a bad ending (I know I’m stretching it a bit, but bear with me). And every time you pause it, you get an advert. And if you spend another £2 on a 10 hour long DVD, you can stop the advert, but the main character looks like a dog. Angry now? You fucking will be, trust me.

Calm down, calm down. OK. Good points! Some of the side quests are very very good. Max and Sam return, and they’re still pissing round with the Normanomicon from beyond the grave. Their quests involve helping ghosts throw a party so they can drink ghost beer and fuck ghost women, which is funny. There’s a mentalist who is convinced that his chickens are conspiring to destroy the world, those quests are pretty funny too. There’s also three role-players, who shrink you down and stick you in their paper D&D style game, which is as good a quest as any in Fable 2. In fact, the side quests are the game’s sole redeeming feature. If you liked the side quests in Fable 2 (and who didn’t? You have no soul) then you’ll like them in Fable 3.

Back to the main game, and it’s time for the traditional “Peter Molyneux promises the moon on a stick and delivers a stick” section. Each game he’s ever done, he makes some daft promise before release, and the promise turns out to be bollocks. For Fable 1, it was the trees. “Plant a seed, and it will grow into a tree! Change the game environment!” Nope, bollocks. For Fable 2, it was the dog. “You’ll fucking love it! And just when you think you couldn’t love an NPC any more, I’ll kill the bastard!” Nope, bollocks (well, kind of – I wanted the dog back to get all the dig spots) (well, OK, it was a little bit sad, but what happened when you didn’t resurrect the dog and your family, that was sadder). For Fable 3, it was time. As in, if you really want to be a goodie, the game will take up more of your time. It will be quicker and easier to be evil. Bold! But, nope. If you want to be a goodie, all you really need is cash. And to get that, you buy all the property you can, rent it out (and lower the rents on everything so people like you), and leave your 360 switched on overnight. Ta da! 1 million gold. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Oh, and there was one bit where you had the option to carry one of the main characters through a desert to save him, which would take 25 mins or so, or you could leave him to get help quicker, but he might die. Well, they changed it. You drag him for 30 seconds, and then you get a cutscene, and then all is well. As stated previously, the relationship quests take time, but they’re pointless. So no, there’s no time wasting really, if you decide to play by the game’s rules, and as the game lies to you quite a lot, you won’t want to do that.

And with that, let’s get to the end.

Small but related and relevant point – during many interviews about Fable 3 prior to release, becoming King has always been touted as the middle section of the game. This is a lie. When you become King, and if you do as the game tells you, you’re about thirty button presses away from the ending.

So you become King. You’re told you have a year to prepare for a war with creatures made out of oil and old clock towers, and if you don’t have the country prepared by then, Albion will fall. The game gives you a series of binary decisions to make. For example, you are asked if one of the factories previously run by children should be turned into an orphanage or a brothel (and presumably neither operation will be run by children). One option will make you a lot of cash, but will result in the kiddies still living on the streets. The other option will cost you a ton of money (which the treasury doesn’t have) but the kiddies will be off the streets. Ooh, what to do? Well, considering the game handily indicates on screen as to which option is “good” and which one “isn’t”, you’re armed with all the info you need. Which ending do you want? Decision made. No thought required.

At this point, each set of decisions / tasks you’re given takes some days off the “one year to go before the big fight” calendar. If you’re going for the evil ending, you won’t give a shit about the calendar, you can happily plough on to the conclusion. If you’re going for the good ending, you know you’ve got a few turns to sort your finances out and guarantee you can make all the good decisions and pay for them and pay for the army to defend everyone when the battle comes. Except. Except! At one point, the calendar says there is 100 days left. You think you’ve got plenty of time to sort out the cash (cos you really want to delay leaving the 360 on for six days to get the 6 million gold required until you absolutely have to). You crack on doing what you gotta do, and then, TA DA! Ending. What do you mean, you had 100 days left? Sorry, the game forgot to tell you that your first few turns take 30 days off the calendar, and then for no reason it’ll swipe 100 days off you. So that good ending you’ve been working towards? Kiss it goodbye.

To the game’s credit, when this happens, the actual ending does recognise what you did and didn’t manage to do. Fair enough. But this doesn’t prepare you for the fact that nearly everyone in the game will hate you. “I changed the factory into an orphanage! I turned another factory into a sewage processing plant! I abolished child slavery!” Yes, you did, but the fact that no-one had the decency to explain that the big battle would stealth it’s way into your plans means that nearly everyone in Albion died, so you’ve let everyone’s relatives die. So everyone hates you. And the “wings” you get for finishing the game? Nope. You get them for the end fight, and that’s it. Why fucking bother?

It’s OK though! You can start a new game! You know what to expect now! You can do it all over again! You can get the good ending! Or you can go for the proper evil ending! Well yes, if this was Fable 2, then I’d happily spend more time in that world. But it isn’t. This is Fable 3. A world that is broken from the start. A game that expects you to drudge through it a second time to do what it wouldn’t let you do the first time. The kids in the factories aren’t the slaves, you are. Do it again.

The Empire Strikes Back, and you eject the disc, and stick in Generic Shoot Brown People In The Face Dark Ops instead. Depressed? Yes. Good work, Lionhead.



    Nice review fella, although couldn’t you have just shortened it to “It’s shit!” ?

  • Damn I forgot to ask, what was the mutation thing like? Big Peter M was spurting like a 4 handed monkey in some of the preview clips about revealing your true self and how awesome it was going to be in this awesome game full of other awesome stuff?

  • Excellent review of an average game. I did love it – but after it’s all done there’s nothing to rave about. Although, despite being a frickin hero of Bowerstone – I was getting worried about the relationship with my dog. AFter a protracted petting – you suddenly up-end the mutt and snog the face off it – anticipation for a bestial 69 🙂

    Am playing again as evil chick. Although not for long . . .

  • Gents!

    Paul – Thank you! There is a mutation, and it lasts for about twenty minutes. And then it goes away. Arse.

    Ady – Thank you! Yeah, there’s a few things that were broken with the emote stuff. Snogging the dog is one of them, getting to a certain point and only being able to dance with everyone is another. Bit weird trying to befriend a married bloke by dancing with the fucker in the street. Bit weirder that the husband thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way of making friends. Let me know if it’s worth going back and being evil. Loved going down the evil path in Fable 2, but I get the impression it’s not gonna change much in the third game.

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