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39 Reviews

Fable 3

Pretender to the throne?

Fable III is a game of two halves. The first 50 per cent is the best traditional fantasy questing, combat levelling and villager-farting the series has ever delivered.

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The second is even more exciting; arguably the best sim Peter Molyneux's produced in his career. And this is the man who created Populous we're talking about.

The problem is, this exhilarating 'half' of Fable III isn't a half at all - in fact, it's more like a quarter. And when we'd finished the most cinematic, inventive and thoroughly entertaining Fable yet, we were left wanting a whole lot more...

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MASS HEIR-FECT
The premise should be familiar to anyone who's glanced at a games mag or downloaded the Kingmaker iPhone app in recent months: This time you're the King, or rather you're his Prince and/or Princess, out to take his place on the throne.

You see, the slick-haired ruler of Albion has been making some rather unpopular choices of late - putting children to work, hiking up taxes, beheading protesters; that kind of thing. And when the King crosses you in a dramatic opening hour event, it's time to kick away your palace duvet and take to the streets to start a rebellion.

Much of Fable III sees you travelling around the kingdom, meeting the rebel leaders and exiled rulers done wrong by the current King of Albion, and persuading them to take up your cause.

Your quest to the throne is represented by the Road to Rule - a sort of magical, metaphorical winding pathway to power accessed via the pause menu, which ends at a big representation of Bowerstone castle.

Trouble is, it's blocked off by a series of iron gates - each one unlocked whenever you reach a significant milestone in your overall quest.

The Road sums up Lionhead's entire approach to Fable III. On the surface, the series has taken a more action-adventure focus - with less stats and more action. But peer beneath its crust and you'll discover that all the RPG elements from previous instalments haven't been discarded, but rather stealthily hidden - similar to the elegant system BioWare achieved in the brilliant Mass Effect 2.

The Road To Rule gates, for example, are simply 'level up' points represented in a more tangible fashion. Also scattered along the Road are various chests containing melee upgrades, magic spells and social abilities - the sort of stuff you would've accessed via a barrage of experience points and levelling in the last game, but disguised in a more approachable adventure game mould here.

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You purchase these chests with Guild Seals - Fable III's camouflaged XP - which are awarded for every townfolk follower you acquire, and marginally built up by slaying beasts and working.

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Combat advancement has gone a similar route, with weapons - while also upgradeable in their own right - automatically balancing themselves to the player's individual melee, ranged and magic skills.

Interacting with townsfolk, meanwhile, is no longer a complex-looking wheel of emoticons, but context-sensitive actions displayed by three-or-less face buttons when you choose to engage in conversation.

It's fair to say, then, that Fable III is a more accessible game than its predecessors - while still managing to maintain the depth and role-playing systems the fans love. Ultimately this leaves you free to focus on your adventure rather than a series of menus and progress bars, and it's a more entertaining game for it.

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