Charming, addicting 'Fable III' surpasses hype


If you love British period films, Microsoft has a game for you.

"Fable III" is a charming and silly epic, set in a mythical British-esque fantasyland named Albion, where wenches are cute and frilly, and men in wigs speak in delightful accents, as if they were Ben Kingsley or John Cleese.

Actually, Kingsley and Cleese fill major roles, as do a variety of respected English actors, from Simon Pegg to Stephen Fry.

And talk, they do. The script -- a bevy of "bloody hells" and reactions to flatulence, of all things -- gives hundreds of characters 470,000 words to utter (according to the Guardian newspaper).

The script is stellar. You portray an adult child of the hero from "Fable II." You play as either a prince or a princess. It's your choice.

Then you discover your sibling has gone mad, and you must escape the crazy castle to go into the land and become a hero to the people.

The people are British silly, delivering Cleese-worthy lines in serious tones, which makes their Queen's English funny.

"I wasn't always a miserable beggar," one scamp says. "I used to be a carefree one."

And this exchange comes off hilariously:

Male soldier 1: "My feet are killing me." Male soldier 2: "I told you not to wear those boots." Male soldier 1: "You're just jealous because they look so good on me."

Everywhere you go, your handy dog is by your side. Here's what you do:

A) Play minigames with strangers, such as posing, kissing or passing gas for their amusement.

B) If you do that enough, strangers ask you to deliver packages for them to nearby towns, or carry out oddball services, such as getting your dog to dig for undiscovered booty.

C) You make enough friends to earn currency to upgrade weapons, magic and personal traits. You can turn friends into lovers and spouses, having sex (off camera) and then babies.

D) You collect enough gold coins to buy houses and businesses, then rent them out to make your money build up much quicker.

E) Meanwhile, you sometimes kill animals, birds, skeletons and scallywags.

I say you kill "sometimes," because like its predecessors, "Fable III" is more about traveling, making friends, buying stuff, doing odd jobs (making pies, playing lute), and, uh, contracting STDs.

"Fable III" is an addicting feat. To top it off, it invents a pause menu that is not static, but that transports you to a map room with all your costumes on mannequins; plus your guns and achievements hang on walls. That pause place is an evolution from which all game makers must learn.

This is one long puppy, promising lots of replay value, and online modes. You could feasibly play "Fable III" for several hours, every day, for weeks upon months, before you finish all of it, finding all the hidden booty. What a shocker: "Fable III" surpasses its epic hype.

("Fable III" by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 -- Plays addicting and enjoyable. Looks fantastic. Standard challenges. Rated "M" for blood, language, sexual content, use of alcohol, violence. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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