September 22, 2004

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fable/cover.jpg[/floatleft]I am pretty sure that unless you have been living under a rock for say the last 4 years then you have probably heard of Fable or Project Ego as it was once called. In case you haven’t let me give you a tiny bit of background on the game. Fable was to be an incredibly open ended RPG from Peter Molyneux, the man behind Black and White. He was a man with an idea and he set out to redefine the genre of RPGs. Several years and thousands of man hours later we have the finished product. The game we have is vastly different from the game Molyneux set out to create, but time and money played some large roles in stripping out many of the features that seemed so promising. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t get the game that was originally intended, but Fable definitely lived up to my expectations and I can only hope we get a sequel with some of the features that were slated for the game in the beginning.

As with any game that promises features or concepts that are new and groundbreaking a certain level of hype begins to build. Over the course of 4+ years that hype has ballooned to massive proportions. I had a few news posts that described the impending fear I had that no matter how good Fable actually was that it would fall flat on its face because of this level of hype. I also went on to tell you that it didn’t happen and one of the main reasons is that Fable is so incredibly polished. From graphics to gameplay to the storytelling, it is all there and in fantastic form.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fable/10_thumb.jpg[/floatright]To accurately describe Fable I would have to say that it is a cross between games of many genres. It extracts elements from each of these games and uses them in a brilliant way. The character interaction and relationships could easily be compared to The Sims which may deter a few people, but it isn’t quite as involved as the Sims. The combat is definitely of a hack and slash/action rpg style which could resemble something like Kingdom Hearts and maybe even Dynasty Warriors. The way that these elements were carefully mended together to create Fable is quite impressive and gives the appearance of a free roaming world without there actually being one.

As much as I love Fable and could easily say it is one of the better games I have ever played there have been a ton of complaints about the limited exploring in the game. The initial concept was said to have completely expansive worlds much like Morrowind does, yet the game we are all playing has very restricted paths where you can explore and visit. While I can see it to be a problem if you were expecting something vastly different, but it honestly didn’t bother me at all during my time with the game and I would be willing to bet that it didn’t bother most people.

I mentioned how well done the graphics in Fable were and they really were stunning. Not in a super realistic “I feel like I am in the game kind of way”, but more of a perfectly created animated world. The lighting and shadows of the game really brought the environments to life. At one point after playing for about 5 hours I was walking up a hill and the far background environments seemed to disappear and turn dark grey. As I continued up the hill, all the details suddenly disappeared and I was walking on a bright green slope. A few seconds later they came back. I haven’t the foggiest clue what the problem was, but in my 13 hours of gameplay with my first Hero that was the only graphical glitch I found.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fable/209_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The control scheme intimidated me when I first started playing because it seemed like there were so many buttons, but as I played it became very simple. Well, all of it did except the use of magic which seemed very cumbersome especially if you had a large number of spells. The reason being is that as you purchase magic with your XP you assign them a place in your shortcut menu if you will. Pulling the right trigger activates the magic menu. The magic menu is broken up rows that each have a place for 3 spells. Pulling the right trigger assigns a spell to X, A, and B. Y is used to shift the magic menu down one and in turn changes which spells are assigned to each button. If you have say 12 spells then your magic menu has 4 rows. Scrolling through the magic menu to find the right spell in the heat of a battle was no fun at all and so make certain that you group your commonly used spells otherwise you could find yourself running away from an enemy trying to equip a spell. Heroes that make light use of magic will not be as affected by this.

I mentioned how impressed I was with the storytelling and I was being serious about it. The storytelling was paramount to being drawn into the game in my case. I almost felt like I was the star of a storybook. It was a very original method to further the story compared with FMVs that can be more glitz than substance.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/fable/104_thumb.jpg[/floatright]As I played through Fable I pretty much ran through the core quests of the game and tried to do as many of the side quests as possible. I ended the game at 13 hours and 45 minutes which is a respectable length. If you sit through the credits and don’t press Y to skip them you are given a chance to save your Hero and continue playing in the world. You cannot complete Guild Quests but you can carry on and complete side quests to your hearts desire. Likewise you can start a new Hero and maybe switch your alignment or create a stealth based characters. The possibilities are endless in terms of customization of your Hero. Originally the game was expected to be a “choose your own adventure” type game where you controlled the storyline based on your decisions and that is not entirely true. You will control the course of the game and how your character is developed but the core quests will essentially remain the same. You will notice on many of the side quests that you are given the option of being on either side of the quest, as a good guy or a bad guy. So you do have quite a few choices in Fable, but don’t think that the main story line will be drastically different each time you play because it won’t. We can only hope for this level of detail in a possible sequel.

While I found Fable to be an incredible gaming experience, there are plenty of people that found Fable to be lacking. Instead of blindly taking my word for this one I highly encourage you to rent this. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a fantastic game and no doubt one of my favorites, but there is such a split in the opinions of the game I can’t recommend that it is a blanket purchase for everyone. If you will excuse me, I have a few more Heroes to play as.

Score: 5/5

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