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Fable

Review By:  Tim Mitchell

Developer:  Big Blue Box Studios / Lionhead Studios
Publisher:  Microsoft
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure/RPG
ESRB:  Mature
Online Play:  No
Accessories:  Memory Unit, Xbox Live (Live Aware)
Date Posted: 

3-21-05

Fable is a game that promised a lot from the very beginning. The greatest RPG of all time, in fact. Sadly, ďProject EgoĒ fails in every respect to deliver on these promises, instead delivering a patently average adventure game with some of the features once spoken of, though none of them ever feel like anything more than a gimmick. The basis of the game is simple enough. You run about from town to town, fighting monsters, bandits and the like with melee weapons, magic attacks or arrows. Are you thinking that these are things youíve done before? Yeah, me too.

At least theyíre done well here, thereís a lock on targeting system when you hold the L button, you know. Typical fare. The actual controls are quite smooth and fun to use though. Switching between your bow and your melee weapon is made simple with the black and white buttons, while X is your basic attack. B allows you to pull off more damaging flourish moves with your melee weapon, but only if your weapon is glowing. To do this you have to chain together a few hits without taking damage. You get used to pulling off these combos fast. The directional pad can be mapped with items for quick use, while Y blocks. I really like the way the magic has been implemented. Holding the R button toggles you into magic mode, with the face buttons now activating whatever spells youíve assigned to them. This allows you to pull off an impressive number of attacks without shifting your attention or breaking the target lock. Itís quite a fluid system and some of the enemies put it to work, as you have to shift tactics constantly.

Sadly, you wonít be practicing on many different things; there are maybe a dozen types of enemies that youíll encounter throughout the game, not counting any villagers you might choose to slaughter (you evil person you). Youíve got your bandits, then zombies, and some werewolf thingsÖtough at first, but easy enough once you know how to take them. There are also some mini-bosses in the form of Rock/Earth Trolls, and I have to say they make for good fights. Then maybe six or seven bosses, each challenging enough. I mean, itís all fun, yeah. But it seems like there could have been some more variety in there. Still, do not discount what Iím saying here, the combat is done well.

The world itself is disappointingly small, the areas downright claustrophobic at times. Itís also limited largely to paths, with impassible walls of trees rising on either side. That should set off alarms in any gamerís mind. This wouldnít be so bad if there were more reason to explore, but the side quests are few and not terribly interesting. Mostly youíll be following the main story, taking the occasional extra mission in-between. Itís just not very freeform, thereís always something youíre supposed to be doing, and somewhere youíre supposed to be going. Of course, all games do this to a degree, but Fable is just a little too obvious about it.

The graphics are rather pretty. In fact, the world of Albion is altogether so bright and lush in detail that it actually hurt my eyes to look at it too long. Unfortunately, there isnít much variety, and you will often find yourself looking at the same objects and textures, however nice they may be. The character models are generally nice. Particular mention has to go to the player model. As you may have heard, he changes depending on how you play the game. This would be one of those gimmicks I was talking about. You get bigger if you use swords, old if you use magic, etc. I didnít have a helmet early on, and gained a nasty scar across the whole of my face that stayed there the rest of the game. It was sort of annoying, but, yíknow, thatís why you wear helmets. Your character will also sprout horns or a halo depending on if youíre good or evil. Donít get all excited hearing that though, the system is much less refined and subtle here then in games like KOTOR. You can be good, or you can steal stuff and randomly murder people. There are some other, plot related good/evil choices, but they are few and far between, and it really makes no difference in the game beyond guards attacking you and villagers booing or cheering you as you walk past.

Everything Iíve said so far could add up to a good game if Fable werenít so lacking in depth. The story is obvious, the characters flat and unexplored. There simply isnít much depth or absorption to the game. Itís not compelling. Instead it seems to concentrate more on what I think is supposed to be tongue in cheek humor, but basically amounts to bodily noises and innuendo. Being able to belch with the press of a button is only funny for a minute or two, even if thatís up your alley. In the grand tradition of British-developed adventure games (see: Star Fox Adventures, Sudeki) the ending arrives far too soon and is completely underwhelming. Rest assured, there will be a final battle, and a villain will be vanquished, but it will not really matter to you. The plot up to that point will have been so one dimensional and uninteresting that you will be adrift in a sea of apathy, merely beating the game because it is your creed to do so.
 

Highs:

  • Very lush graphics

  • Nice boss fights

  • Good combat, I love the way magic can be used quickly

  • The way the main character changes with time is pretty cool

Lows:

  • Not much variety in enemies
  • Voice acting is reused over and over, becomes annoying
  • Many hyped features left out of final game
  • Plot doesnít take itself seriously, uninteresting story and characters
  • Somewhat rushed ending

Final Verdict: 

I donít want to say Fable is a bad game. The engine itself is fine. But after youíve killed your hundredth or so bandit, you realize there isnít much reason to go on. With a better, longer story and interesting characters, this could have been a really good game. Instead, I would call it an excellent rental if you like Action RPG games. The word is average, and thereís nothing really wrong with that. But for a game that promised so much, was in development forever and was hyped to death, we deserved a good deal more.

Overall Score: 7.5

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