When your Fable III protagonist first challenges his or her older brother, King Logan of Albion, he decides to share a lesson on the challenges of leadership. He drags you into the throne room and forces you to make a terrible choice, counting down the seconds before he’ll take action for you. It’s just the first hard decision the game presents about becoming a hero and a monarch. Yet in spite of the serious moral dilemmas, the game remains lighthearted. To take on the evil King Logan, you must earn the support of an eclectic mix of people through social interactions and quests, which can involve dressing up as a chicken to help round up runaway poultry, or farting in a mercenary’s face to earn another brigand’s trust.
That immature but entertaining humor is among the many elements of the game that will be familiar to players of Fable II. In the latest iteration of the series, you still run around with a dog with a nose for treasure. You can buy chunks of real estate to make money, you’ll need to do odd jobs for cash, and you follow a golden path to your next quest objective. The highly intuitive combat system is almost unchanged, allowing you to seamlessly alternate between casting spells, shooting guns, and fighting in mêlée. Battles are satisfying, but not too difficult. Unfortunately, the graphics also haven’t changed much since Fable II. Some cutscenes are downright ugly, and the game is riddled with problems ranging from minor visual glitches to bugs to enemies just standing around waiting to be killed.
The few new features do improve the series. The Sanctum is a clever take on the menu screen: a place you can teleport to at any time, even mid-combat, to change weapons and clothes with the help of your encouraging butler. Your weapons level up with you, changing appearance along with your character, based on your play habits, so a hero who relies heavily on magic will have a mysterious look, complete with a rune-etched sword or hammer. Cooperative play has gotten a huge upgrade from Fable II, where the second player was relegated to piloting an anonymous henchman. In Fable III, you can bring in your own hero and adventure alongside the primary player, sharing gold and experience points that you keep when you go back to your main game. For some quests, the second player is relegated to spectator status, but getting to fight back-to-back and set up combat combos with a friend is a blast. With a little more polish, Fable III could have been a great game, but it fails to live up to its potential. Instead, it’s good, but disappointing.