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Fable review

The clue is in the title: Fable. It was supposed to be the game that let you write your own adventure. If this were a magazine given to swearing then that statement would be followed by an eight-letter word beginning with 'b' and ending with 'ollocks'. Fable lets you do nothing of the sort. It's probably best to get that major criticism out of the way first.

TALL STORIES
During the game's protracted development (over four years) we heard about how you could become good or evil, make decisions unique to your character and weave a story that would be markedly different to anyone else's. All nonsense. Fable has a linear plot that only diverges to a minuscule degree at certain points depending on your actions. Sure, there are occasional side-quests to undertake should you wish to, but ignore these and you could easily complete the game in 12 hours. Hardly the epic we were anticipating. Or is it?

AL-BION WELL
You see, Fable may have been oversold to us but there's no question it's still one of the most absorbing RPGs ever made. While the on-rails plotting is disappointing there's so much to explore, do and see that it can extend the game's lifespan considerably. Indeed, once you've completed the story quest the game does not end and you are free to roam Albion looking in all the nooks and crannies you may have missed first time round.

MISSION INPOSSIBLE
There are 22 story quests to tackle, but these are bolstered by a handful of optional quests (approximately eight) and some open-ended challenges. This may seem meagre but each quest is meaty and absorbing and you never feel like the game is getting repetitive. Clearly, Big Blue Box found the advantages of having a story-driven game too tempting - the player is constantly motivated to see what's around the next corner. It would be cruel to give away narrative details, but there are some cracking missions ranging from protecting villagers to taking part in a massive gladiatorial arena combat.

What Fable does stonkingly well is make you feel heroic. In this regard the promise of designing your own hero, right down to his morality, has been met. Eat too much food and your hero gets fat, drink too much beer and he gets drunk, go around committing petty crimes and he will be outcast from the community (unless he pays a hefty fine). The good/evil dichotomy is not as sophisticated as in Knights of the Old Republic but your alignment will influence the story in minor ways and dictate how others treat you.

IN YOUR HANDS
There's no getting around the fact that this aspect is pretty basic. If you get a reputation for being evil then traders will charge higher prices for goods and people will cower in fear. Act like a goody-two-shoes and people will follow you, clap as you pass and generally be more accommodating. Later on in the game alignment changes can be swift depending on a few key decisions. However, the fact you can donate money to churches to make your status swing one way or the other gives you some idea of how watered-down this system is. Still, it's preferable to most RPGs that give you no control over character morality whatsoever.

Reputation is also a very important commodity in Albion and this can be increased in several ways. Completing quests is the most obvious, but it's also possible to boost renown by taking on 'boasts'. These optional stipulations range from completing quests naked to sparing the lives of those you vanquish. A successful boast will increase your renown provoking others to respond to you more favourably.

It's also possible to buy titles to make people respect you. Chicken Chaser may be the name people call out when you start but eventually they'll be greeting you with Ranger or Gladiator. It's such nuances that make Fable very special.

Get a few hours into the game and you'll be thinking about marriage. Both men and women can be wooed and your appearance dictates how attractive you are. Get a hideous tattoo etched on your face, or wear a ridiculous dress and your potential partners are as likely to laugh at you as propose marriage. If you're dead set on the idea of getting a spouse the best solution is to give gifts to your intended until their heart grows stronger - literally depicted by an icon above the head. Buying a home and a wedding ring will then formalise the bond. Courting and marriage deepens your immersion into the game universe, but it's a novelty that does wear off. A few wives later and you'll soon be back to slaying monsters.

REEL'EM IN
Taking part in the minutiae of Albion life is optional but there's no doubt it adds to your belief and in the world. Nitpickers will point out that it's only baby steps away from what we've played before in other RPGs, but getting married and having townsfolk react to the trophies you've collected is amusing and impressive.

Fable has a way of infiltrating your subconscious when you least expect it. We guarantee that once you start on the major quest you'll be hooked.

Most of the appeal comes from the world itself. Unquestionably Albion is gorgeous, containing not just elaborate detail but real artistry in everything from the creature designs to the rain effects when you're travelling at night, and alone. But Fable is sophisticated enough to give you companions should you not want to travel the dangerous forest paths by yourself. Along with missions that require you to escort traders, you can also hire mercenaries to help with the difficult quests.

TRADING PLACES
Indeed, Albion has its own economy and you can make pots of money by trading items between villages. There are also thousands of combinations of weapons, clothing and armour you can clad your hero in. Each affects your attractiveness, but sometimes it's better to look stupid, but feel protected when a big battle breaks out. The sheer depth of the spell and combat system is awesome, too. Although weapon attacks are assigned to just the 'X' button, it's possible to launch a special blow with 'B' once your combat multiplier is triggered. Spells, meanwhile, are prismatic, potent and add a huge tactical dimension to encounters.

BIG IDEAS
It's easy to undermine Fable for all the things it hasn't delivered, but isn't it better for a developer to set its sights high and fall a little short than be satisfied with mediocre ambitions? Sure, the original design has been scaled back but the love and attention lavished on every tree and sunlight-dappled glade is extraordinary. Even if you took away the interaction with villagers, the marriage and the home-building, Fable would still emerge as a robust and absorbing RPG. It may not be labyrinthine enough to warrant you playing through repeatedly, but your first time will definitely be something to remember.

Fable is out on Xbox now

A glimpse at the future of RPGs. A stunningly realised vision of everything that's good about story-driven swords and sorcery

More Info

Available Platforms: PC, Xbox
Genre: Role Playing
Franchise: Fable
ESRB Rating:
Mature

2 comments

  • Techfreak313 - September 12, 2008 3:36 p.m.

    the hate and love parts arent showing! I want to see them plz!
  • RHINO09 - September 12, 2009 8:19 a.m.

    Fable is the best game because it lets u choose your own adventure and u do heaps of neat stuff behind peoples back like stealing geting people drunk kicking chickens and my favrite choose to be good or evil.

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