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Developer: Lionhead Games | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/14/04 | Genre: Action/RPG

There was once a game called Project Ego in development that was going to change the face of gaming. It was announced early on in the life of the Xbox and was in development by the famous PC developer Peter Molyneax. However, the title suffered many delays and setbacks. Finally, the game was renamed into Fable and several of the features were cut out of the final version. While the game may not live up to all of the hype it received during development, Fable is a solid RPG and ranks right up there with Knights of the Old Republic in terms of fun.

Fable begins as the players assume the role of a young boy who has to perform good deeds to get money from his father to pay for his sister's birthday present. This sets the stage for players choosing if they should be good or bad. As the player progresses through the title, the choices they make will determine how other NPC's in the game will respond to them. If you are evil, characters will cower before you and run away. On the other hand, if you are good, people will clap and follow you around. The more well known you become, the bigger the reaction you will receive. Unfortunately, this is one area will Fable comes a bit short. As I mentioned above, several elements were left out of the finished product. In the original concept, Peter Molyneax said that players would gain an army of followers who would cheer a hero on. The hero would then be able to fight and compete against other heroes in the game to try and become the biggest hero in the world. Of course, this only happens if you are playing a good character. While these promises were nice, in Fable there are only a few times you actually compete against other heroes and there are very few times when people are actually following you around or cheering you on besides a walk through town.

Another element lacking with the original concept is the good and evil part of the game. When your character graduates from the Guild of Heroes and ventures out into the world to become a hero, you are encouraged to choose between good and evil. While this gives the players a lot more freedom in the game, why would a Guild of Heroes suggest a player becoming evil? Even if you do become evil, players can do strange things to become good again. For example, lets say you get married and you get tired of your spouse. If you are in a town that lets you keep your weapons, you can murder your wife to get rid of her and go after another wife or be single again. If you do kill her, you will take a negative hit on your reputation. However players can eat two pieces of Tofu to counter the negative reputation points. If you decide to neglect your spouse and force them to get a divorce, you take a very large reputation loss--much larger than if you killed them. Does this make any sense to anyone?

In other areas of the game, similar issues rise up. During part of the game, you will have to raid a bandit camp in order to complete a quest. On your way there, you have to get past a bunch of bandits and you are actually given positive points for killing them in their sleep! Is this any way for a true hero to act? But after you defeat their leader in battle, you will take a negative hit on your reputation if you don't show mercy on him and let him live.

The reputation system seems flawed because even after becoming evil, you can donate money to a temple and do good deeds to become good again. I would rather have seen Fable be more of a game where if you make choices, they stick with you for the rest of the game. I think this is where their original vision for the title got a little bit out of hand for what the developers could realistically do in the development cycle.

Despite these minor issues, Fable is a very good game. The world is beautiful. Leaves fall to the ground, rain pours, colors change as the day/night cycles happen, and players feel like they are actually a hero saving the land. Fable plays out as a real time Action Role Playing Game. Players complete the vast majority of the game alone and as they kill monsters gain experience. Once you gathered up enough experience, you can go back to the Guild of Heroes to level yourself up. The catch here is the more you use a particular ability, the more experience you will gain for that area. If you concentrate purely on fighting, you will get most of your experience for Strength. The same is true if you concentrate mainly on Bows or Magic. You can, however, always level up other areas even if you didn't use them as much. In my game, my character is part Warrior and part Wizard. The great part about Fable is that no matter what skills you want to play with, you can play the game your way.

As players progress through quests, their characters will grow older. You will reach a maximum of 65 years old. There are ways to reduce your age but besides appearance, it doesn't seem to change how your character performs in battle. In addition to growing older, players can also change their hairstyles, facial hair, and even get tattoos all over your face, shoulders, chest, back, and legs. Also, once you have enough money, you can actually pay to have your nickname changed throughout the land!

Fable also allows players to buy houses to display their trophies, rent out the houses, live in the house, or get married to a female or male. Yes, you heard that right, you can marry a guy. It is quite funny to see how some people react to you if you do that though. Players can have one wife in each town they own a house in. The game does not penalize you for marrying multiple people or marrying a man. In order to keep your marriage happy, you have to give your partner gift, flirt with them, talk to them, etc. You can tell how happy your marriage is by the willingness of your spouse to have sex with you. Fable keeps up with almost every single stat about your character--including the number of times you have had sex!

I really enjoy doing all the optional side quests and other things in Fable. However, for the gamer who is just going to run through the main quest, they may find the game a bit disappointing. The main quest is very linear and players can get through the game in roughly ten to twelve hours. However, Fable was not meant to be played without doing all of the optional stuff. In fact, even after you beat the main quest, players can continue on in the game world by not skipping through the credits.

Combat in Fable is very easy to pick up and keeps you having fun. Players can lock on to enemies, attack them with melee or ranged weapons, use spells, and even fart or sneer at enemies. Emotions and potions are controlled on the D Pad and you can get an additional set of options by using the D Pad and pressing R. Magic spells are controlled by holding down the R button and using X, B, and A. By pressing Y, players will cycle through other groups of spells they have configured.

The controls may be simple but I found that locking on to a particular enemy can be tough. In addition, I really didn't like that I could only have three spells available to me at any one time. In the heat of battle, you can sometimes have a difficult time moving back and forth between different groups of spells. So keep this in mind when deciding to learn all of the magic spells possible in the game.

I have spent countless hours in Fable and despite a few frame rate issues and getting a game that has some unfinished elements in it, the game still ranks high in my opinion. Fable is a title that is meant to be played uniquely by all players. For some, the linear nature and short main quest will cause some to hate the title. However, give the game a chance, try to experience all of the optional areas of the game. If you do that, you will experience a twenty plus hour game that shows a glimpse of what Fable 2 may bring us if the rumors of its development are true.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 09/20/04
ESRB Details: Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence

Screenshots for Fable


LanWerX at PAX '04