Available for Xbox 360

(Rated M for Mature)

What would you do if you were King for a day?

Lower taxes, improve foreign relations, be a voice for the weak and the downtrodden? Then again, why let all that power go to waste? Why not just destroy a few cities, impose slave labor, and lead mankind into an age of darkness that makes the Nixon presidency look like something out of Nanny McPhee?

 Fable III, the latest installment in the Fable franchise, hopes to capitalize on this question by putting gamers on the throne of Albion. As King or Queen, you not only get to decide the fate of the kingdom, but also the road you'll take to get there. It's an ambitious move for a game, but does it pay off in the end?          

Storyline

Decades have passed since the previous game and the Kingdom of Albion has entered into the industrial revolution. As the main character, you take on the role of either Prince or Princess of Albion, living a life of luxury within the palace. Things aren't so good for the rest of Albion though, your older brother Logan is King and he's ruling the land with an iron fist. With the Kingdom in shambles and its citizens oppressed, nothing short of a revolution will do and it's up to you, the Hero, to lead the charge.

In order to unseat Logan, you'll need to traverse the far corners of Albion in search of allies, and their services don't come for free. In exchange for their support, these individuals will have you make promises to better their lives after Logan is overthrown. Promises like these shouldn't be taken lightly, because two thirds of the way through the game you become king, and discover that honoring your word has its price, literally.

In Fable III almost every benevolent action will end up costing you money. Generous players may see no problem with this until word reaches their ears of a coming invasion, and the Kingdom is charged with raising a great deal of money to insure civilian protection. This leaves you, the King, with some tough choices. Fulfill your promises and risk a nationwide massacre, or claim the role of a tyrant in order to see your people survive? It's not the deepest of plotlines but it's enough to keep the story moving and leaves plenty of room for players to experiment.

Gameplay

The mechanics in Fable III have not changed much. Players will quickly see that Lionhead Studios chose to perfect the better qualities of the game in favor of a complete renovation. The battle system is remarkably streamlined and easy to use. Each button on the controller corresponds to three different kinds of attacks, melee, magic, and ranged. A slight tap will result in a weak attack while holding and pressing the button charges for a stronger attack. Experience in battle is automatically acquired in the form of Guild Seals, a currency that can be spent in an area of the game known as "The Road to Rule" where players can maximize their preferred attributes while unlocking other talents like the ability to buy houses, perform jobs, or even get married.

The game does have its share of flaws. New development with Xbox live now allows players to interact with other gamers online, trading weapons or items to fill out the games potential. It's a great addition when compared to the previous games, but some people may find it annoying that you can no longer just "play the game", but are forced to jump through hoops in Xbox Live to get the most for their money.

Fable III also continues the traditional streak of delivering underwhelming conclusions to built-up scenarios. When you have spent two-thirds of the game building an army, it's disappointing to find your enemies amount to a handful of soldiers you could have easily dispatched by yourself. For a game that has such quality, is unacceptable for Fable III to still contain blemishes like this. 

Presentation

The games presentation is where Fable III really raises the bar. The settings are diverse, the animations are spares but well done, and the soundtrack serves up soft melodies that compliment the game. The voice acting is great, which is no surprise when you see who's behind the microphone. Veteran actors like John Cleese, Ben Kingsley, and Stephen Fry take on the roles of several prominent characters and show their talents can do more then just light up the silver screen.

Once again Fable III lives up to its reputation of being a widely open ended game. It is easy to play and doest require any kind of finesse to master. Sure it can be pretty shallow at times, but if you're looking for a fun way to burn a few hours, Fable III will prove more than satisfactory.

**This Review First Published Nov. 16, 2010