Fable 3’s overhauled, oversimplified UI

I started writing a review of Fable 3 a few nights ago. Unfortunately, this has led me to a little bit of a conundrum, in part because I haven’t finished playing it yet.

I only started the game within the past week. I have some issues with it, which is what prompted me to begin my draft the other night. However, since spending a bit more time playing, I’ve come to a point where I am feeling less sure of some of my criticisms. I’ve begun to enjoy the game a little more. I’m also not sure if I want to finish playing it.

I know, I’m not making sense.

While attempting to not make my unfinished post obsolete, I will say that my biggest all-encompassing issue with Fable 3 is the oversimplification of the UI. Included in my list of complaints:

  • the UI itself (bare – clean as a whistle)
  • the amount of useful player-character information available to the player (less than ever)
  • the menu system(s) (almost completely discarded in the redesigned model)

There is no map – unless you go to the Hero’s Sanctuary, where there is a map enabling fast travel, quest selection and property management. There are no health bars – you take a health potion when you are told to, essentially. There is no quest log, job listing, or sale information. There is no inventory menu – you access different types of inventory (clothing, weapons, items) by visiting various rooms within the Sanctuary. The extensive menu of options for NPC interaction has been reduced to almost nothing – and this includes vendors.

Fable has always been an especially easy game to play. While the series has occasionally presented players with challenges, they’ve usually been rare (combat-wise) or silly (“become completely pure/evil”). During the first two games, I found that the biggest challenge was getting accustomed to the menu system – particularly in combat with Will spell choices – but I’ve also been willing to admit to some personal clumsiness with regard to using a controller. However, in my opinion the developers threw the baby out with the bathwater with this overhaul.

To some degree, I guess there’s an element of charm to it. It’s kind of cool that they used the Hero’s Sanctuary as a home base. As such, it’s a neat experiment. And, as I said, it’s my opinion, so others may feel differently.

However, I personally like knowing how much health I have before I take a potion. I like making decisions about which food to eat and which potion to take. I like interacting with vendors: yes, I do feel that the menus in the first two games were clunky (it was a pain to buy or sell multiple items in Fable 2, for instance), but I was hoping that those issues would get sensible fixes in the newest game (add a “buy/sell all” option). I like having a map on my screen, particularly when I’m learning my way around the cities (Bowerstone is larger than ever). I like being able to pick up multiple quests and set my target quest via the menu. I like being able to choose from a wealth of expressions when interacting with NPCs. And so on.

Before I played Fable 3, I was hoping that they would solve the menu issue by making menus accessible in separate ways – a combat menu, an inventory menu, a quest log, etc. I would think that these would be feasible options, particularly because the combat is not very complex. What they’ve done instead has me just shaking my head… I seriously, honestly just don’t know what to say.

I’m frustrated with the game’s simplicity, although I’m aware that it’s really just not what I’m looking for. What has kept me playing so far has been my interest in seeing the world and the progression of the story – Fable has always held my attention in these areas. The graphics are wonderful, the scenery is beautiful, the music is great as always. The combat is generally better than previous versions of Fable. However, I’ve reached a point where I’m not sure whether I’m going to finish the game. I’ll see how I feel about it.

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2 Comments on “Fable 3’s overhauled, oversimplified UI”

  1. Saniel says:

    I started Fable 3 not long after it came out, but it just didn’t hold my interest like 2 did (which I played through about 3 times in rapid succession). I honestly haven’t say down to figure out why. At first I attributed it to WoW getting a fresh batch of content and a whole lot of new stuff for me to do/focus on. And that’s probably still part of it.

    I think a lot of it is how much the Sanctuary takes out OUT of the game. Wanna check the map? Sanctuary. Wanna see what quests you have and where you need to go to complete them? Sanctuary. Wanna do anything other than explore or fight? Sanctuary.

    I agree that it was an interesting idea, but it was poorly executed. It takes too long to do anything, especially with a load screen going both in and out of it. And if you’re like me and often leave before remembering you didn’t do everything you wanted to…it gets tedious.

    If I need to do something that isn’t playing the game, then it should be quick and painless so that I can spend more time actually playing.

    • Russ says:

      Poorly executed – that’s a great way to put it. The Sanctuary takes you out of the game, gives you more loading screens, forces you to visit more rooms to get access to less inventory/information. It’s basically still clunky, and still makes you jump through hoops… they’re just presented to you differently.

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