The Fable series has always been chiefly about two things: a rags-to-riches storyline and character customization. Players generally take control of a character who has just hit rock bottom in some manner, and works their way through impossible situations using only self determination and the powers bestowed upon a foretold hero. This same sort of storytelling style is still there in Fable III, as the game is still based around a character with nothing to lose fighting against a dark tomorrow. This time round however, the beginnings aren't so humble. Not only that, Fable III makes it clear from the start that players will be very much held accountable for their actions no matter how big or small. It's quite a change for the series, and certainly a step in the right direction, but to say it's enough to alter the very formulaic nature of the game is a long-shot.
The first thing that long-time fans of the Fable series will recognize is that not really much has changed. Attacks are all still separately assigned to various buttons depending on if they're ranged, magic, or melee, and simply hitting the button is enough to string on a series of hits. You'll still be expected to wander the world doing quests and looking for NPCs to interact with the hope of gaining their trust, favor, or discounts at stores. Going three for three, the main villain of the game is also a powerful ruler who must be overthrown for the sake of the people. From story to mechanics, everything will feel familiar to those who have played the prior two entries in the series.
What has changed, in some respects, is the delivery system of these mechanics. Weapons all still function the same way, can be collected throughout the game and will over time become more visually appealing depending on the action of the player. NPCs can no longer be addressed in groups, and must instead be wooed through a series of repetitive action commands which then leads to a predictable and repetitive 'fetch' quest. Questing and world exploration have been honed down to a single map, which is used to do just about everything related to travel or quest outlining.
These new functions, while interesting, are a perfect example of what Fable III is. A series of notable quirks which may become disappointing or agitating, depending on how much patience the player has to deal with them. RPG elements such as finding new items, skills and weapons, are torn from Albion in the same manner that NPC interaction is dry and formulaic. Meanwhile classically disappointing portions of Fable III such as combat or storyline, are still completely intact and unchanged. Much like in Fable or Fable II combat can be quite awesome and brutal looking in small portions, but when chained together back to back the challenge is never great enough to hold player interest.
Naturally the game's one great premise, its story, also suffers from these mechanics. Working to string together a band of rebels to overthrow the king is a noble goal indeed, but the minute it starts to involve shaking hands with dozen of citizens all over the city one starts to wonder if there's not a better way to go about it. Every step of Fable III feels like it's missing something more, and in truth a few more options for every scenario would certainly make the game better.
More social interaction choices, more variety in weapon attacks/combos, more quests, and maybe even more finely tuned AI would all make the game's seemingly broken system feel much more natural. There really are a lot of fantastic things at play in Fable III, it's just that none of them really feel like they've been worked on thoroughly enough. The result is a game that's fun, in short bursts, before players have the chance to fully grasp what Fable III could be comparative to what it is. Veterans to the series may not be very surprised at this kind of thing, as other Fable titles have been similarly accused of lacking some depth, but it's nonetheless disappointing to see the title falling short of its goals again.
One great point of the game though, comes with its production. Its sound and graphics are both done stunningly well. From the title sequence, to the fight scenes, and even in between wandering about the world, the music pours life into a game that can at times lack it, though it's absolutely no fault of the creative department. Weapons, armor and personal character touches do wonders in drawing out a player's personal preferences when creating a unique character. Additionally the world itself looks as realistic as any video game town could possibly be, and though NPC interaction isn't exactly top notch, the fact that towns really do feel populated is worth mentioning.
Ultimately Fable III still suffers from the same crippling issues of its predecessors, which is disappointing because with more attention to detail this could truly have become something great. Instead of variety in quests/character interaction, players are treated to extremely repetitious action commands; likewise the absence of more storytelling elements and character development leaves players grinding for experience, making it almost feel like an MMO. In the short run these trespasses can be forgiven, but knowing that the entire game features these same rehashed elements is disappointing. Fable III is still a good and fun game, but it doesn't live up to the expectation.