FABLE III My kingdom for innovation!

IF I COULD review Fable III with a single, frustrated sigh, I would.

Fable III had so much going for it prior to release: a huge fanbase that adored the series' deep, unique, fairytale-esque roleplaying game style, an original combat and exploration system that was as welcoming to new players as it was comfortable for the old, and a narrative break at the end of Fable II that left developer Lionhead a vast canvas to work with in the future.

And indeed, the story they came up with for the new game is suitably grand and sweeping—militant revolution and bloody sibling rivalry being two key components—but Lionhead's desire to actually innovate seems to evaporate once the story is established.

On first glance, the game's mechanisms seem to have grown and changed to match the new tale, but anyone who played the last Fable will quickly come to realize that every key component of the third entry was already in its predecessor, albeit under a different name or menu system.

The biggest offender of this is the combat system. Despite decades passing in-game and your being plunked down in the midst of a literal war zone, battle in Fable III is a minuscule side step from the same in Fable II.

In the few areas that have changed, though, instead of directly replicating the Fable II system, Lionhead detrimentally simplified things. I'm sure the end goal was to make it easier for new gamers—a good plan—but in practice, it turns each fight into endless button mashing.

That said, if what you were hoping for from Fable III was just more Fable II, Lionhead pretty much has you covered. The world of Albion is as interesting as it's ever been, voice actor John Cleese makes a great addition to anything, and setting a roleplaying title in an analogue of the 17th century, as opposed to yet another Dark Ages-era village, is inspired. Lionhead gets a gold star for that bit alone, at least.