Fable III Original Soundtrack


Review by · October 31, 2010

I know many people regret the fact that Danny Elfman stepped away from the Fable franchise after working on the first game. I’m also sympathetic to gamers who have said that Russell Shaw couldn’t possibly take Elfman’s place in writing “main themes” instead of mere “BGM.”

Newsflash, y’all! Russell Shaw, though he has had some “off” soundtracks in his repertoire, is an extremely talented composer. Give him the tools, the time, and some inspiration, and he’ll produce something phenomenal. Case in point: Fable III.

Yes, the main theme of Fable III is good. You already knew that if you were watching trailers and keeping up on all the promotional materials, including the official site. But what about the other 23 tracks found on this OST? Do they keep up the quality? Is the orchestral stuff as powerful, as touching, as nuanced as the theme? Yes.

Let me give you a specific example off of the OST. Track 11, “Brightwall.” Okay, so this is an environment theme. You listen for the first, say, 30 seconds, and you might think: “wow, this is really neat, really pretty, sort of tense and enigmatic. Has an impressionist style to it. But if it holds like this too long, it won’t have gone anywhere.” Well my friends, there is a melody coming. And it’s not buried at all. The melody becomes quite pronounced before the first minute is over, but that playful stuff at the beginning helped build anticipation for the melody. Western VGM composers sometimes lose their way when it comes to effective usage of winds and strings. Sometimes it’s important to get back to basics, the (relatively) rudimentary lessons, and use those as the foundations in composition. Shaw takes that message to the bank with “Brightwall.”

I’ve not yet played Fable III, but I’m familiar with the prior games in the series; I’ve also seen plenty of Fable III via screenshots and videos. My favorite thing about Western RPGs is the keen precision with which they match the audio to the visual. For example, “Driftwood.” There’s something sacred about the gentle female choir; but it’s empty, ghost-like, much like the fog that you find in this area. The very next track, “Reaver Mansion,” is a mammoth of a composition that helps fill out the sounds of the different rooms within the mansion. One part is classical guitar. The next is a harpsichord. Then there’s a duet. All told, the track runs 11 minutes and it’s really something unexpected on the disc. Unexpected in a good way.

It’s not all renaissance-to-romantic era orchestral music, mind you. There are strange, modern vocal performances and heavily synthesized areas on the soundtrack as well. Check out “Kalin” if you don’t believe me. This is another favorite track for me. I’m sure it’s great in context, but even on its own (no context in-game, just listening), it’s haunting.

I could make more examples, but I guess the number one point I’d like to drive home is this: it’s not all incidental music. I know VGM nuts who simply won’t indulge in Western compositions because it’s too incidental; or rather, too much like film score. There was a time in my younger years where I probably thought like that too. Let me assure you that this isn’t merely incidental music. There are recurring themes. There are motifs that will easily stick with you if you give them half a chance to wiggle their way through your ears.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.