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As an avid rpg fan I must admit that I have been disappointed with the lack of decent games in this genre for the Xbox. KOTOR 1&2 aside, I have often found myself regretting exchanging my PS2 for an Xbox, having witnessed a bumper crop of rpgs going to Sony's console.
As such, it was with much anticipation that I awaited the release of Fable, the latest creation from Peter Molyneux, who's previous brain child's have included the ambitious 'Black and White' and 'Populous'. If you are interested in purchasing Fable, you will have almost undoubtedly heard some of the hype surrounding this game at one time or another, during which both fact and fiction seemed to mire together like mud and water, clogging the view of potential consumers.
As such, I intend to extend an imaginary arm of clarity, and free your vision so that you can see clearly for yourself just what Fable has to offer you. Now that the elongated metaphor is over, it's down to the review…
The first thing you notice when this disk loads is that Fable is truly a beautiful game. The highly detailed characters look excellent, whilst the varied environments are sometimes breath taking. Sometimes you just want to take in the view around you, admiring the beautiful water effects, but, importantly, you are not restricted to doing this alone. No, the various locations in the game are packed with things to find (like secret doors and treasure chests) and do, such as fishing, digging, helping out lost traders, playing various mini games and more. This being said, there are frequent loading times between areas, which can become annoying and even undermine the feeling of immersion.
In Fable you play as a 'hero', taking various quests from the hero's guild as you progress through the game, increasing your renown until you become something of a celebrity in the mythical world of Albion. Albion itself exists in a time of magic and monsters, hero's and villains, and you have to choose which path you want to tread. Choose the good path and the citizens of Albion will cheer and applaud your presence, while if you choose the other way, children will cower and run and your presence will invoke feelings of hatred. An interesting feature of this system is that your character's appearance is affected by your affinity to the light or dark side; horns will sprout from your head if you choose the latter, while you will give off a heavenly good if you choose the former. The way you invest you experience points also affects your appearance, meaning that you can create a short fat hero or the polar opposite of a tall thin hero depending upon your preferences. This system works really well.
However, it is in the none player character interactions that Fable gains its charm. Players are able to interact with characters by selecting different expressions, such as flirt, laugh, fart and vulgar thrust (my fav!) to name but a few. By doing so different responses are invoked, which can even lead to marriage! Yes, you can have a cyber wife if you want to, hell, why not have 5? There's no law against polygyny here! Truth being said though, the interactions are fairly limited, though amusing nevertheless.
The real beauty to Fable is, as in real life, the little things. It is obvious that a lot of love an attention went into this game. For example, there are a lot of different items to buy and sell (indeed there is a whole economy underlying the trading process) all of which have detailed and often amusing descriptions. There are also many mini games to be found around the world, such as a first fighting tournament, card games, gambling and the excellent coin golf to name but a few! Further more, characters can be customised by adorning them with tattoos, facial hair and clothing; giving the game a vibrant, full feel.
By far the greatest disappointment of the game, and that which prevents this title from fully scaling the path to greatness, is its story. Although the quests throughout the game are varied and interesting, the story falls short in terms of duration, detail and immersion. Omitting the side quests and mini games, the story can be completed in around 10 hours, which falls well short of the 40hour mark that most people agree is a decent target for the lifespan of a rpg.
This being said, you will undoubtedly be taking the majority of the side quests, exploring for hidden items, buying property and interacting with the NPC's, resulting in a much longer playing experience. There is also a high replay value, when considered that the game can be played through either as a 'good' guy or a 'bad guy', or even some middle ground if you are that way inclined. Doing so will lead to slightly different quests in some places, such as robbing a farm, or protecting it from thieves.
The combat system is Fable is another one of its strengths, as it includes melee, ranged and magic combat styles, which can be changed between easily through the effective interface. Combat is fun and fluid, though can become too easy if players choose to invest in certain spells, such as 'protective shield', which effectively grants invincibility for a notable period of time.
Although Fable falls just short of greatness, there is more than enough originality and high quality game play here to make up for its weaknesses. As such, I would highly recommend this game to both rpg enthusiasts and casual gamers alike.
I was gutted that the actual story went so quickly and i felt that there should have been more to explore. however this game got me hooked on other xbox RPGs such as Jade Empire and Sudeki. good review btw. x
Rabid 25.08.2005 12:01
I had this and was left slightly dissapointed, i guess the hype was a little too much, still a good game, nice review :D