Fable
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
Microsoft
Developer
Big Blue Box
Genre
Action/Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Strong Language, Violence, Sexual Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Excellent visuals and audio
• Real-time effects on your character's appearance from actions
• Lots to do outside of the main quests

The Bad

• Lots of loading
• Short main quest
• Could use more variety in weapons and gear

 
Grade
B

Originally known as Project Ego, Fable has had a long road to get to this point. With professional mouthpiece and idea-smith Peter Molyneux tauting what Fable could potentially offer players over the past few years, many people were in a frothing frenzy over this game years before it ever saw the light of day. And once it did finally hit the stores, players came away from the game pretty polarized - either enjoying their experience or despising the effort as an undelivered promise.

The story of Fable begins with the hero as a child. After performing a few tasks to earn the gold to buy his sister a birthday gift, his village is attacked, his father murdered and his sister and mother are kidnapped. Afterwards, the boy is taken to the Heroes Guild to learn how to become a hero, all of which proves to be a by-the-numbers tutorial of how to perform melee, ranged and Will (magical) attacks. After getting the lowdown on some of the basic aspects of the game, the hero is sent out into the world. Of course, what adventure wouldn't have you seeking vengeance, and Fable is no different. I won't go into details, but the player's trip through the world of Albion should answer many questions by the time the game is over.

While Fable may have been promoted as an RPG (role playing game), when you get into the heart of the game, you'll find more of an action/adventure with RPG elements, not unlike Legend of Zelda. Combat is real-time, involving the use of an attack button and the ability to lock onto enemies, which is especially useful in tandem with the block/sidestep button. If players land a series of attacks without reply (meaning they don't get hit themselves), they can use the Flourish attack, a more powerful attack that can be exceptionally useful. The White and Black Buttons will draw and sheath your melee and ranged weapons, while using Will attacks is done by pulling down the Right Trigger and hitting the corresponding face button.

In Fable, the D-Pad works with context-sensitive actions, a lot of which come across like "emoticons". Early on, you'll be able to giggle, belch and fart in front of people. The further you get into the game, the more you'll have access to. By pressing up on the D-Pad, you can select items from your inventory, and even map them to certain D-Pad directions, which can be used when you hold the R-Trigger down.

During the game, players will earn experience through combat. Direct experience is gained by using one of three categories - Strength is gained through melee, Skill through ranged attacks and Will through the use of magic. Enemies drop experience orbs to be picked up and the experience modifier is multiplied when you get your combat multiplier up by chaining together successful attacks without taking hits. You can spend this experience at the Heroes Guild to gain more health, defense, attack, speed, or gain access to a number of useful attack and defensive spells.

The game progresses through a series of quests that you pick up from the guild. While there are non-story quests to partake, most of the quests will further the game's story along. Luckily, players can choose not to do the quests and just roam around the world of Albion, getting into trouble as they like. Players have the option to buy homes to rent, find all of the hidden keys and the chests said keys open or unlock the Demon Doors, each of which have their own means of being unlocked and rewards for success. Players can also spend hours just messing with NPCs - flirting and marrying the townsfolk (whether it be female or male), killing whole villages and then buying their homes to earn rent from new villagers who will eventually spawn in time, getting people drunk at the bar, and... well, you'd be surprised with what you can get away with.

There are some more practical elements to Fable that can be used to the player's benefit. The game has a "working economy" of sorts, where players can buy items for cheap in one location and sell them for a profit elsewhere. This may take some time and effort, but those shrewd enough can really make it work for themselves. Also, while some may think that the whole marrying aspect is unneeded fluff, it does have its upside. Once you get married, you can give your spouse cheap gift and occasionally give her (or him) sweet loving (which is completely blacked out) and when you return to town, she (or he) will give you gifts. These gifts tend to be nice weapons which would cost you some money to purchase on your own.

Probably one of the best aspects of the game is how your character evolves as he ages over time. As you gain in experience and progress through the game, your character will age. Depending on you eating and activity manerisms, the hero will gain weight or get lean. Using heavy melee weapons will make you fit while using a lot of magic will have it's way of showing on your character. And then there's the effect of being especially good or evil in which you may gain a halo or grown horns. Taking damage in combat will also scar your character's body and face. Players can also get tattoos and pay for hairstyles, which affect how attractive or scary they are. While most of this is cosmedic, it does allow a lot of visual customization.

Visually, Fable is all about artistic style. The game shows off some wonderfully realized visuals based largely on a "cartoonish" rendition of the characters and architecture that exaggerates angles and animations. Each and every location is packed with detail and shows off some exceptional textures and visual effects. If you take the time to stand around and look, you'll be quite impressive by the details packed into just about every corner in the game. Even though they get repeated often, the NPC models come will similar depth of detail and animation. The hero himself is a fine piece of work, especially will all the changes that his body can go through. On top of this is a fuzzy, glowing filter that sets a tone over the whole of the game. You can't help but feel a bit impressed by the overall ambiance that the game presents.

Audiowise, Fable excels on all fronts. The orchestral soundtrack is stellar and sets a wonderful moods that works approriately on many facets as you work through the game. To go along with this are a wide variety of sound effects and some rich ambient noise that firmly ground the gameworld. Fable comes with a good bit of voice acting, all of which is done in with a noticeable British accent. While there aren't any brutally thick accents present, those who have trouble with British accents may have to rely on subtitles for the story scenes. Of course, the NPC commentary proves to be pretty funny, especially when your wife tells you that "you're so norty" during a sexual interlude. The NPCs come with a good bit of verbal chatter that depends on your popularity and how scary or attractive you are. The fact that some of the NPC commentary lends clues to how the people feel about you (like girls swooning over you) is a nice touch. Of course, when you get really popular, the excessive applause and chatter may get annoying, but overall it works well and is a nice touch.

When discussing the things that Fable needed work on, one might assume that I'm disgruntled about "not getting everything that Peter promised". This is just not so. Anyone who knows anything about product hype and marketing knows that most of Peter's PR was just voicing ideas that he would like to see happen. When it comes to the game itself, there were some things I wish had been addressed. First and foremost, the game features a lot of loading, which is a little disappointing considering how linear and confined some areas are. Also, I would have liked to see more variety in the weapons and armor available. The choices seemed a bit limited and just broken down into the same handful of types but with different names (Obsidian, Master) to denote a more powerful version. Some people may find the save system a pain as well. During the game you can save anywhere, but when on a quest, you can only perform a save that starts you off before the mission begins. So, if you find yourself having to quit while in the middle of a particularly long mission, expect to have to restart it when you get back. Finally, Fable tends to last anywhere between 12-18 hours, though you can extend the game by just messing around in the gameworld as you please. Fortunately, if you can withstand the excessively long credits, you'll be able to continue on, playing free-roam in the world at large.

So is Fable a good or bad game? Good, easily. There's a lot here to enjoy, although you need to go into the game with a head clear of the marketing PR. Fable is one of those games that can be many things to many people, and because of this, many people may just want to rent it to see if it's what they want. For some, the rental will be enough to finish the game, or even give up halfway through. For others, it should sell them on the adventure.

- - Vane

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