At the point at which you'd expect many games to end, Fable III introduces a bevy of new features. As king, the whole experience changes quite dramatically. Although you are free to saunter about Albion to your heart's content, completing any quests you might have missed along the way, each day you'll be presented with a list of royal duties to complete. Hearings held in the throne room will give you the opportunity to break or honour the promises you made during the revolution, which will define how you are perceived as king. Perhaps the most important task as ruler is nursing the castle's treasury. This is where all the money you require to keep promises and develop Albion will come from, and you're going to need a lot of it to keep everybody happy.
Most moral dilemmas play wealth against morality, a mechanic that Lionhead has relied on heavily over the course of the series. The game will throw huge great wads of cash at you in exchange for succumbing to the 'evil' option. That said, even those dedicated to a path of righteousness won't struggle to build up a decent amount of gold, making it easy to ignore acts of bribery. Playing the property market correctly can turn you into a millionaire in a matter of hours – all you need is a little capital.
As with Fable II, there are several jobs masquerading as mini-games. The professions of blacksmith, pie maker and lute player can all earn you enough money to buy and rent out a few buildings. Every five minutes you'll be awarded the profits of your combined rent and business sales, and it doesn't take long to build up a property empire worth millions. A new map system allows you to adjust rent and alter the prices of the goods on sale at your shops without having to get up off your throne. Playing the property market is perhaps the most addictive part of Fable III, and as long as you keep on top of your purchases and renovations, you'll have few worries in the financial department.
I played through the entirety of Fable III with the memory of one initial decision lingering in my thoughts – just how differently would things have played out if I chose the other option? As king, however, and as a player who was financially secure at this point in the game, the latter decisions in Fable III failed to present a similar degree of dilemma. Perhaps without a wallet as fat as mine things would have been different, but for a game that relies so heavily on emotion, honour and sacrifice, it’s a shame to see these situations squandered by the relative ease with which you can accrue wealth.
My next complaint is a little more shallow, but it needs to be said: Fable III really isn't a very good looking game. As one of Microsoft's flagship franchises, you'd expect a little more polish lavished upon the title. Character models are – if I'm being brutally honest – pretty damn ugly. The animations are crude and the game is riddled with texture pop-in, frame-rate problems and other graphical glitches. It feels rushed, like the game was forced onto the shop floor before Lionhead was given the opportunity to apply the finishing touches. Technical problems can be forgiven easily, to an extent; what's far more concerning are the problematic aspects of the overall game design.
Fable III strives to be the most accessible entry in the series yet. Lionhead has gone to great lengths to ensure that anybody can pick up, play and – crucially - understand the game. Upgrade screens, stats, attributes, item and equipment management are all gone. According to Molyneux, these staple role-playing mechanics only serve to take the player out of the experience. Fable III dispenses with menu screens and instead gives us an area known as the Sanctuary, which the player can visit at any time. It's here in this tangible environment that players can assess, tweak and change every aspect of their character. Whether you're switching weapons or changing clothes, it's all done 'in game'.