Molyneux's Opus. That's the other title for Fable,
the open ended Xbox RPG/Adventure that began life
as Project Ego so many years ago. Like any good tale
worth telling, the concept of Fable took on a life
of its own. Rumors of fantastic gameplay advances
scooted around the net, press releases hyping never
before seen innovations sent goosebumps throughout
the adventure community and Xbox owners everywhere
gloated that Fable was all theirs and theirs alone.
that Fable is set for release any moment now and I've
personally had the experience of playing the game
from beginning to end, it's time to unravel the fairy
tale and see it for what it is: a well oiled adventure
game that will more than satisfy gamers raised on
Link, but will alienate RPG purists.
to reel in and cut various gameplay advances such
as the online aspect, Molyneux and his team had the
unenviable task of reducing the scope of their project
so that it would not only meet this Fall's release
date but so that it would be actually be completed
in this life time. Having to do so, undoubtedly broke
the heart of the team because having spoken with some
of them in the past, Fable was to be the "be
all and end all" of adventure games. Had they
been afforded the luxury of another fice years of
development time, I can assure you that they might
have succeeded in creating such an ambitious product.
The end result however, is far from spectacular but
highly engrossing and playable, which is really what
Fable was in the early stages of development the concept
regarding consequences of the players actions was
a brilliant novelty although some had forgotten at
the time that Molyneux's most recent project, Black
and White, featured this at the core of its gameplay.
As well, during the production cycle of Fable, Star
Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was developed and
released and featured the choices between good and
evil that players could alternate between throughout
the game. Fable hoped to take this to the next level
and for the most part, mission accomplished. Players
reputations will precede them in Fable, depending
on if they choose a moral or unjust path. This is
perhaps Fable's saving grace and reason to keep playing
as your character matures over the game years while
the story unfolds.
begin the game as a child and are introduced to Fable's
combat system and the morality concept through an
entry level sequence involving earning enough money
to buy a birthday present for your sister. How you
go about this task is up to you - you can be a good
boy or a bad ass - and I found it instantly intoxicating.
Unfortunately once you get into the meat of the game
you'll discover as I did, that situations involving
such moral dilemnas aren't quite as interesting as
you thought they'd be although by cosmetic appearances
alone, the system appears to be quite involved.
a cataclysmic event early in the game, the player
is taken to the Heros Guild where further training
is undertaken to become the brave adventurer you are
desitined to become. Or not. At the Guild you will
learn the nuances and controls of the various attacks
such as melee (close proximity to your foe), long
range and magic. I spent a lot of time practicing
and honing my long range attacks only to discover
while playing through the game that it wasn't entirely
neccesary. Melee attacks and magic can almost handle
anything the game throws at you, aside from a few
flying enemies that will require the use of archery.
Fighting controls in Fable are entirely real time,
much like Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda games and
RPG purists may not enjoy this aspect, preferring
the traditional turn based combat of the Final Fantasy
the various controls of the game is a feat in itself
at first. I would suggest familiarizing yourself with
the magic system first and foremost as it's not entirely
intuitive due to the number of buttons you'll cycle
through once you amass a half dozen spells or more.
Truth be told you'll struggle more with becoming comfortable
with the controls in Fable more than you will actual
foes. For the most part, the enemies in Fable don't
require a lot of thought to defeat even though their
AI can be particularly impressive as they often switch
tactics depending on your proximity to them. If you're
far away you can expect them to greet you with long
range arrow attacks, but get considerably closer and
they'll greet you will razor sharp swords or eye gouging
maces. They will also do their best to surround you.
And yet, it's not as problematic as it sounds thanks
in part to the ever appearing health pickups and resurrection
vials which make death nothing more than a slight
hiccup on the road to victory.
you progress into adulthood where the majority of
Fable takes place, you'll begin to see exactly how
the game is put together and how the cause and effect
style of gameplay isn't as free as you had hoped.
One of the games biggest downfalls in my opinion is
how your character is able to simply purchase his
way out of his "evil or good" lifestyle
by making a donation to the God of his choice. What
was the point of acting poorly or saintly if this
"get out of jail free" card exists? What
will most likely thrill gamers is the cosmetic changes
that occur depending on your characters moral choices.
If you act bad, expect to look the part and if you're
a goody two shoes long enough you'll actually glow
with a halo like intensity. NPCs will also react to
you differently depending on your social standing
and often times your reputation will precede you when
you enter a town. Your actions will also sometimes
net you a label or title, which you may be referred
as by NPCs.
a game that touts freedom as much as Fable does, I
was completely surprised that certain quests I failed
were available for me to begin again anew. I was expecting
that if I screwed up, I would move on with my characters
life and not have to repeat an event. Unfortunately
this is not the case and I have to say it was jarring
and really clashed with the concept of openended gameplay.
Most quests aren't particularly difficult and once
or twice through will usually do the trick. Rarely
did I have to restart a quest more than three times.
the epic story progressed I actually felf myself feeling
less and less part of the overall experience and I
think I finally pinpointed why. The story while epic
in nature, doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.
There are too many lighthearted moments that are completey
incongruent with the mood of the story at the time.
As well your character is completely devoid of any
personality, aside from the actions you allow him
to perform which shape his cosmetic appearance and
reputation, I never felt any sort of connection to
him or to other NPCs I encountered. Where the Final
Fantasy games instantly draw you in with characters
and events that seem impossibly emotional for a mere
videogame, Fable keeps the player at arms length and
therefore my emotional investment to the characters
was almost nil even after I had been playing for a
an artistic perspective Fable packs a punch. The gameworld
is lush and brilliantly lit, filled with minute details
that never fail to impress. Throughout your adventure
you'll travel the usual roads of such adventures and
find yourself in a dark forests, swamps, cemeteries
and of course, dungeons and caves. There is a price
to pay for this attention to detail and it comes in
the form of long load times that unfortunately rip
the player out of experience while the next area loads.
If the game had been loaded onto the hard drive this
would have cut down on the times considerably which
begs the question: "So what is the Xbox hard
drive for anyway?"
voice acting and orchestral soundtrack is brilliant
and lends the utmost quality to the production. While
the game can be lighthearted at inopportune times,
I didn't hear any music or sound effects that made
we want to turn the game off. Had this been developed
in Japan I fear that the soundtrack would have been
rife with what I call that cheesy "Sonic The
Hedgehog" distoted guitar when the game leapt
into an action sequence. Shudder....
developers have been promoting the games endless playtime,
allowing for hours upon hours of exploration even
after the story is finished. While that's true to
an extent once you get further into the game you'll
see that going back and starting the game all over
again isn't entirely necessary as you've figured out
all the tricks. Even such revolutionary ideas as marriage
and divorce end up being more exciting in theory than
they are in execution. All told, you might be able
to wring a good 30 hours out of Fable and that's exploring
every last inch of it, which I don't have to tell
isn't exactly "epic" in terms of game time
when it comes to an adventure this hyped. Personally
I think you'll get the most of out Fable if you clock
in around 15 - 20 hours as the gameplay still has
some surprises and magic in it at that point in time.
Play it much past the end of the game and you run
the risk of Fable wearing out its welcome as that
is when the seams begin to show and you realize the
Wuzard is just a guy behind a curtain.
you've been anxiously awaiting Fable to hit your local
Wal-Mart, by all means pick up a copy and have at
it. It's one of those rare titles that players will
have decidely different experiences with it. Some
will fill in the holes with their imaginations while
others will be nitpicking every hiccup in continuity
along the way. Ultimately it's how you play this game
that will have the most effect on how much you enjoy