Fable III: Day one in the industrial age of Albion

by W. Andrew Powell
Fable III - Bowerstone

Welcome back to Albion, Fable fans. It’s only been two years to us, but Albion has gone through an age of change that now puts us fifty years ahead of the events of the last game, and there’s a lot to discover and rediscover once again.

The streets are dirtier this time out, there’s also a tyrant on the throne, and the hero happens to be the king’s brother (or sister, depending on your choice) who has decided it’s time to fight to take over the kingdom before all is ruined.

Like the city, the game has changed a lot since the last edition, and while I’ve only just started hacking my way through the world, I’m pretty excited by what I’ve seen so far.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to explore the game and give you a sort of travel log through the game, as well as stories about its inhabitants.

Starting out last night, I spent about an hour with the game, which gave me time to pick a character style and start on the heroes journey. The first and only real “menu” screen I saw for that entire time was the initial page where you choose whether you’ll play the prince or princess in the tale, and that was it, I was off on the adventure. Unlike other games where you can change your character’s body type, Fable III once again lets you customize your character through actions, rather than in a menu screen.

The first customization comes just after the game loads as your butler, Jasper (voiced by John Cleese), gives you the choice of wearing a fancy outfit, or more practical clothes. This choice is one of many that will help shape not only how your character looks, but how characters respond to you in the game.

After you get dressed, you’ll step out of the castle and immediately notice the only flaw I found in the game so far: interactions.

On the steps leading out of the castle you’ll start meeting guards and other people, and if you choose to interact with a few of them you’ll notice that each person pretty much reacts the same way, and you can only interact with people one of two ways – by shaking hands or belching. Technically you don’t need to interact with NPCs much, but if you do, you’re going to get annoyed quickly.

While the developer, Lionhead Studios, has gone out of their way to get rid of the on-screen displays for health bars or anything else, the one thing you’ll see a lot is floating icons to let you know the interactions you can perform. At first you’ll only have a few, but as you do things, your character will get more options and take on a specific personality.

That lack of a heads-up display changes something else though. Shortly after you make the first pivotal decision in the game, you’ll escape the castle and discover that you’re a Hero. With this new status you earn the ability to cast spells, but unlike in previous games you can’t really adjust your spells as you go along. The roleplaying elements of the game have been removed in favour of more open gameplay, so now you just cast your spell and apparently don’t need to worry about spell energy or choosing how the spell works at higher levels.

Escaping through tunnels under the castle, you’ll fight off some bats, and you pretty much just have to keep blasting away. This takes a lot of the strategy out of the game, but I won’t deny it also makes it a bit more fun. I’m a huge fan of classic RPG games, but starting off in Fable III I’m curious how I’ll feel about this system in the end. Right now it’s pretty amusing.

The only other notable change so far in the game is that, on meeting Theresa (voiced by Zoë Wanamaker), you’ll find out that your quest to overthrow the throne will involve finding supporters to back your cause. Once you have enough support, you can fight to become King.

Anyway, so far that’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I’ll post again soon with another update from Fable III. I’m curious to know what other gamers think of the game so far, so be sure to post your comments below.

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