As you might expect from Peter Molyneux's Lionhead, Fable 3 was always going to be a polished but flawed gem.
In play, it's like a combination of Dungeon Siege and the Sega Dreamcast's Shen Mue. So, although there's plenty of repetitive hack-and-slash action, there's also the ability to earn money or invest in property to keep your coffers constantly ticking over.
Complete the main quests and the game switches dramatically to being one of moral or world-shaping choices rather than questing. It's a shift you will either love or feel strangely annoyed about – something fairly typical of Molyneux's maverick, slightly twisted approach to game design.
Some of the puzzles are intriguing. Early on, for instance, you have to act out a lost play before its ghostly author will release you and the treasure they hold. It's highly inventive stuff which makes the more formulaic quests (retrieve an item, beat a monster, etc) seem increasingly lazy.
In fact, Fable's greatest problem is that it sets such high standards in some areas that the gaps elsewhere seem all the more noticeable. The social interactions start off promisingly, but soon pale when you realise that you must belch, dance or whistle your way through almost every encounter. It's also a shame that your three main trades (blacksmith, pie-making or lute-playing) are basically the same mini-game with different animations.
Other niggles seem to have been ported over from previous console versions. Having to hold a key down until a little green circle fills up may be fine for Kinect users trying to avoid making accidental choices, but PC owners will find it an annoying two-second delay between almost every interaction. It's also irritating that you need to click to confirm adding any treasure to your infinite inventory – surely having to dig the damn thing up is confirmation enough.
Despite all this, Fable 3 aspires to greatness and finds it surprisingly often. There's a superb music score, deep (if formulaic) gameplay and literally hours of inventive storytelling played out by likes of John Cleese and Stephen Fry. If the series continues to develop at this pace, it will one day rival the mighty Final Fantasy ... just not quite yet.