I loved it.
I only borrowed an Xbox for a short period, but Fable was one of the best games I had played on that system. Microsoft's Fable, the very RPG that's been touted by its creator Peter Molyneux (that same guy behind Black and White) many times for being the greatest RPG to ever grace its way into gamer's aspirations for the evolutionary genre. Known even before the Xbox's time, Fable once went by the name of Project Ego. The most gorgeous screenshots YOU'VE ever seen were paired with details surrounding a fictional world in which you the player could tone your character to be a man of praise and recognition, or fear and loathing. In the four years we've been sitting on our fannies sighing and sweating for the final release date, Fable has certainly made a name for itself as undoubtedly the most delayed and most anticipated RPG on the Xbox. Now we, the gamers, have an opportunity to create a history of our own.
There is a story of great importance I must relay to you, dear readers. You are but a meager young lad. You may be forgetful at times, but you are still undeveloped. Some things you may not comprehend at first. But one of these days you will catch on. That's that day you will become the man (or a woman trapped inside a man's body) who will obtain unmatched powers of might, magic, and mobility. To get there, though, you first must experience the horrors that happened so suddenly one peaceful day in the quiet town of Oakvale. It's your sister's birthday, and once more this day has completely slipped your mind. Or has it? Whatever the case, lazybones, you're going to get her a present for your father's sake. The man who made you, and the man you will mourn from this day forward. Raiding bandits will storm the gates and murder every friend and loved ones you know. All that is left now is a mysterious hero that goes by the name of Maze. He will guide you through the doors of the Hero's Guild, a place where wimps are transformed into muscle-bound butchers, fat sloths, or even vile masters of villainy. From here on in, it's your story hero. Go make it happen.
Known reasons as to why Fable has been destined for greatness for so long points to its origins. Back in 2000 when Project Ego had its assigned seating among the upcoming Xbox launch titles, one Xbox shooter game would boast it'd have revolutionary physics, while another set for a massive platform setting where you could smash things to bits and pieces. Fable aspired for something much greater, however. This action-based RPG would hold its claim as tossing out all the standards that concocted all previous games in the genre great by slipping into an unconventional and open-ended roaming land where your own character would be affected by his every action. Be a courageous knight of sorts, and villagers would look up to you. Brandish yourself with a tattoo, formulate a haircut, wear a certain type of clothing, and followers of yours would do the same. In this respect, it would have been also possible for respect to turn into fear. Do evil deeds, and townspeople would hide from your very presence. Instead of attraction, you'd be treated harshly. It was really a game meant to raise the bar based on how your character's reputation developed. Due to time restrictions, and most likely the cost it took to get Fable warranted out to Xbox owners before the system's death toll arrived, some of the originally admired conquests this game initially set out to accomplish were all but lost. Despite this, not all is gone, and what has remained is what glues the relative entertainment values together.
Like most action-RPGs, Fable's emphasis isn't heavily dosed by storyline, even though it has quantities of plot development. More so, Fable's strength focuses on character growth and the environment for which constitutes the reflections of your every continued action. This is an RPG where it's all about you. Your world. Your decisions. Your fate. It's a game where every town and every road you travel leaves it up to you to decide where you're headed. And in these ties, you'll face penalties for evil deeds or solace for good ones. If you're headed down the dark road (the decidedly easier path), you could stroll down any town's streets or inside their houses to find cabinets, shelves, and barrels that contain products. If you're a curious one, you could snatch these items into your clutches to become your very own. But then you'd have to think about the evil points you'd receive for swiping or breaking property that isn't yours. You also have to consider guards too, as in the case of daylight robbery, or to a greater extent murder, actions in this particular field can lead to disaster. Get caught in the act of a dastardly deed, and a guard will approach you with a fine. Get caught numerous times chopping through townspeople with your sword like a butter knife through sticks of butter, and eventually you'll rank higher costs to pay. In situations like this, if you don't fork over your loot you'll forever be confronted by guards in the town that will forever hunt you to your demise. Keep in mind, however, that this is just one example of how one thing can lead to the next. There are several more possibilities ahead.
Elsewhere, for example, you can sacrifice followers to a dark cult, or let's say you can accidentally (or is it?) murder NPC merchants along the passages that intertwine Albion. Bad isn't always so good though, at least not all the time. Morphing your character into a wicked, wicked person literally scares folk throughout the land. Respectfully, they'll cower to you, but if say you wanted to get married that'd be a problem. Being the good guy is what most women in Albion really want you to be. If you grow your character toward righteousness, you'll effectively receive social abilities with your Renown talents. Renown is an experience tool that enhances conversations with others. It allows new communication skills to arise whenever your level of expertise grows bigger. Keep doing good things, and you can flirt, flex, and fall in love with the ladies (or guys if you prefer). Keep bringing in the bad, and you'll learn scarier dialogue traits from sticking up your middle finger to using vulgarity in which to offend passerby's with. Buy items instead of stealing them. Protect merchants instead of killing them. You can be good or bad, but then there are consequences and objectives you won't be able to achieve without obtaining one mode of the aura or the other. It's these ideals of right versus wrong that write the laws of Fable and make the game more enjoyable.
Pursuing enticements to feed your inner darkness or your bright light, doesn't always happen with sidetracking your way through the game. There are missions out there with set goals and structures that will greatly determine your duality meter more so than ever. Here is where the Hero's Guild comes into play as something a central area you'll return to from time to time to accept these tasks and reap their rewards. From within the building's entrance lies a circular map table that retains quest cards often as you get further into the provisional story segments. You may be fitted with the task of guarding a couple of traveling merchants through a dangerous road. When a third trader that's been injured and infected by a monstrous Balverine (a werewolf type of beast), do you let him tag along with the first two men? Or do you leave him to die in whatever way seems best? A later mission asks you to decide if you're going to slaughter a fallen giant of a man who has done you nothing but harm, or to leave him and his minions be. However you decide to do it the easy way or the hard way, and the right way or the wrong way will always lead toward kindness or bad. Some of the game's quests are required, while others aren't. You can venture through the optional paths if you want to, though you don't have to. It's recommended to do this, as Fable's major story path isn't very lengthy in complete duration. Exploring through these opens up the game's horizons, extending it by giving you more to do. You'll want to do this too. You'll want to actually unearth the hidden options, because when you do your very character will be better off for it.
Because...Fable rewards its players with experience and trinkets galore. Not every RPG game makes it fun to level up. A lot of times in games you'll be forced into unavoidable random battles where the combat is fun, but gaining experience isn't a separate issue you get a chance to deal with. Where Fable does things a bit differently, is it lets you spend your points into three major dividends. Returning to the Hero's Guild allows you to expenditure these points then on the three prospects, as the points are supplied by how many you've gotten from either the mission's offerings or the individual enemies you've taken down. Through strength, skill, and will, you can mold your character around the nature of garnered statistics you'll receive. Strength is a characteristic in which determines your field of health, your energy to lift heavier weapons, and your accumulative toughness. Skill permits you to barter better with traders, shoot arrows more accurately, and even become speedier in attacking. Will, lastly, is your magic field. You can make your magic bar grow, as well as learn bundles of different spells. Heal, drain, dash, thunder, and even summon magic are just a few of the many wizardry abilities permitted to Will users throughout Fable. But again, this all depends on where you're going to take your character. Do you want to be a magic user or a swordsman? Whichever path you take, you'll likely want to spend enough points to reach a certain level of expertise in one attribute more than another. This really makes you think about how you want your points distributed depending on the balance of each act that can be influenced through several defining options.
Experience doesn't appear out of thin air, though. You gotta fight for your right to paaaaartay! Sorry. With Strength, Skill, and Will in mind, we retread to the three pieces that enhance your character's ability to wield steel, arrow, or the forces of nature. You have three parts in deciding what kind of fighter you are in the game. You can be a master of melee with swords and axes, a sharp-eyed sniper with a bow, or a multitasking magician of sorts with magic feats at your aide. You can be all three things, or two, or one. You can use and reuse tricks at any point. But, as said before, it's by rising in rank through the levels of experience that helps you get to where you want to be. For instance, the only magic you'll ever know of in Fable is a lightning spell that you'll receive by default during your process to become a hero if you never follow into the area. All other spells aren't free, and require relinquishment of your stored points. So, you could throw all your points away if you're pro toward being a magic user. Again, it's your decision. If you're more comfortable with melee or ranged onsets, or all three, Fable is all but a balance act in which the game's the one pointing out the rope while you're the one who has to strategize your way across it.
Different is how I'd describe Fable's mechanics of control. It's easy, but then it's hard. Somewhere in between, though, you get a real feel for it. Actually, it's surprising how second nature Fable functions once about half an hour or so is spent familiarizing with the button sequences and menus. Fable actually uses every one of the Xbox controller's buttons fairly regularly, while a few not so much. But how they're used isn't either complicated or conventional. When in combat with enemies, you have three sets of properties at your finger tips always ready -- these being melee, ranged, and magic attacks. At any point in time, you can switch among the three options by clicking or hold down onto buttons. The white button unsheathes your sword tool, black takes your bow off your back, and squeezing onto the right trigger reveals a four-way pattern for spells you can align to the four face buttons. Using melee, you can lock onto individual members by holding down on the left trigger, attacking with the X button, and blocking and rolling around with Y. Ranged is probably the most time consuming of the three to get a grip of, as once your bow is out, you can click onto the left analog trigger to scope out what's ahead closer. From there, only holding down onto the X button will release your shot. Hold it down long enough, and you'll score stronger strikes. These three components are all performed in real time, so it may sound a little ambiguous at first. And it will be until you find a natural selection in your own performance, as your hero's performance is really reflective upon you.
What you can do aside from what you are meant to do is another major theme strewn through the game. Fable isn't just about sorting out death to others, it's also about taking your time in the world that welcomes you to understand and unearth all its secrets. Want to fish in the watery beds planted throughout the land? You can do just that if you're one of the lucky ones who explore every nook and cranny there is possible in the game. With fishing you can pluck the fish right out of the water, or even dig up items like tattoo and barber cards, or silver keys. With tattoo or barber cards, you can approach a tattoo artist or a barber in the game to ask them to design the fashion as seen on the card itself. From a mohawk, to a beard or mustache, going bald, or getting a form of art printed on your body of flame to lizard patterns, there's a whole mess of items like these to have your way with. Silver keys, on the other hand, are used to unlock treasure chests you'll notice in the game. Only with the right amount of keys is it possible to undo their lock mechanisms. You'll also find specialty demon doors in Fable, with each requesting a certain show of attention. One door wants to see you become evil. Another wants you to be fat. Slay guardian protectors for one elsewhere, while you'll present another with a gift. To say the least, Fable's big in terms of the leisurely time you're able to partake in outside the needs of the game. You can get married, gamble, and even sign up for fist-fighting tournaments. There's really kind of sense of a game inside a game for Fable.
Staring may be a rude lot in life, but not for Fable. Look at the game all you want...you're going to like it. In this fantasy setting, it's all real. Real in a way that you'll enter a forest and the sun shines through the leaves, lighting up the weeds and grassy patches like real life would depict. The game is real in a way that descending into a gloomy cavern or walking along an orchard road, you're going to notice an almost surreal perfection. Water that you can and sometimes can't wade into at times is always shimmering, and splashing when you step in and out, and just looks divine. Apple bushels and red roses flourish in places, while inside towns there are colonial-like houses, shanties, shops, signs and lamp posts. There are true-to-life texture works that bring out the rich detail in wooden bridges, stone walkways, charred walls, statues and numerous other things to draw your attention to in the game. If there's any complaint at all, it'd be that there are noticeable pop-ups as you roam throughout Fable. You'll walk or run a lot in the game, and catch sight of the upcoming scenes filling in the blanks as you go along. This minor quibble doesn't affect the game's performance much (aside from the occasional slowdown), but it does happen to rear its ugliness at times, and is somewhat bothersome.
From boy to man, your character (as do other characters in Fable) looks genuinely attractive. I can't tell you how your very own creation may be gussied up as, but I can relate to you the alterations that have been undergone by my own hero. Once I was a scruffy haired kid, who with a darkened temple turned into an older man of similar nature. Gradually, I clothed and armed myself with new attires and weaponry. For the moment, my guy's hair has been parted down the middle and of medium length. My hair's lightened too. I almost look like a natural blonde. My style of clothes is all made of mostly blue and brown leather -- from the torso top right down to the spiked boots. Located on my back is a flame-imbued Obsidian Greatsword, while a dagger is sheathed on my right arm. Even though I can't use it, I suppose this gives the game the full effect of heroism. A halo and a flock of lighted butterflies glow above my head for the good-mannered character I have been leaning toward.
That's not to say I haven't walked the path of the dark side. I have, and it was very intriguing. Coming in contact with guards who protect villages, to chopping my wife with my sword, to brutalizing travelers for no particular reason other than to gain sinister leanings, I was having a wonderful time. I even decided to play along dressed up in my bandit outfit while this venture occurred to me, as I thought the bandits would understand I was on their side for the moment. Wasn't happening. Gradually though, over a lump of time I started to notice my hero's face scar and darken. My hero became very pale and bald. Devil horns were strewn from my head, as my eyes lit up red and a bloody aura flowed with and from me as I ran along in my newfound nefarious steps. When I entered into towns then, the ones that didn't already have a price for my head, folk scurried away. Others would calmly shiver in front of my sight. It was truly good to be bad, baby! Of course, Fable isn't always about you. There are other people in this tale. They can never match the versatility your own character possesses, but other humanoids and troll-like, wolf-like, evil fairylike, rock-monster-like, and other things do appropriately do justice to the gratifying formula for which encompasses Fable as one of the, if not the, best looking games on the Xbox.
If Fable's able to handle itself in the ring of play and poise thus far, you're probably wondering how it does for its round about sound. Not great but very good is where I'm thinking this spot is situated. For the bits and pieces of audio, Fable touches on all the right bases for one thing. Yank a sword from your backside, and the effect of steel sliding out is produced. Clang metal on metal or metal on wood, and there are distinct banging noises to be heard. Smash things, from shattering glass in windows to the breaking of a door will ring true. Mush through water, over grassy meadows, traverse bridges, and charge along grainy walkways, and you bet there are likened pitches of sonic fibers in these in-game sounds. By way of heaven or hell, the soothing but slim selection of music tracks in Fable is another example of its finer qualities. Though, epic or classic are not the terms to use when defining the embodiment of Fable's musical score. It is clear, however, that the thick bodied tempo of these harmoniously paced and orchestrated sets are definitely enjoyable without being seated at the benchmark. Instead, Fable's flowing rhythms of fanciful peace throughout town squares and its menacing buildup of doom when enemies arise sit right next to it. Even as the music in the game isn't very differential, it's music that you're going to both notice and enjoy. And that's saying something good about it.
Decent at best, Fable's voiced sessions are of weakness and of tolerability. English chaps and chicks spin these vocals in sameness and in lameness at times. Every hero has a title. You can purchase a title from the game's title vendor to achieve a name that suits your character. Of these, such titles of assassin, ranger, liberator, and even arse face pile into the list that'll affect your status for outsider's responses. If you were so inclined to collect on a fearsome name, folk throughout the town will comment. Just the same, they'll mock sillier titles, or stand in awe and praise at the bolder ones. There aren't more than maybe a few variations on the actors, though. You'll hear a lot of the same words spoken too. It's not really bothersome, but sometimes it is when people applaud and repeatedly say, "Yay!" Their throat starts to exasperatingly deepen, which is awkward. Those who talk the least are the monsters that can howl, roar, and giggle, and your hero who can only apply his renown abilities through voice actions. Renown, the talent to scare, shock, or even fall in love with others, allows you to assign your talents to the d-pad control. Place the follow command there, and your character will quickly speak out in his heavy English voice, "Follow." He can thank, laugh, sneer, or flirt too, with an exaggerated, "Hey!" Outside the gameplay, your hero doesn't say a word. Not that it's important, but this further goes to show that emphasis on the tale at hand cannot be weighed on a scale for grander proportions at all.
By no means has Fable reached the hierarchy status its developer's Lionhead Studios and Big Blue Box Studios were hoping for. Though, instead of dreaming for the big, the bald, and the beautiful, I think what gamers should be doing is halting their search for the stars and look under their very noses. Fable has finally gotten its butt out of the development door and into store shelves. It's out there and it's waiting to be played. No, we didn't get everything. What we got is only just one of the best damn RPGs the Xbox has to offer. And that's fine by me.