Fable (Xbox) review
It inevitably entangles us in every single aspect in the confinement of the gaming world. It is usually triggered by droughts of quality games on a system or just an orgasmic display of an incredibly innovative looking title. Now Fable never really struck a chord with me as it did with the endless stream of X-Box Fans salivating over its upcoming release. However, as time grew on the excitement pulled me in as well, as I was hearing of a game whose freedom would possibly rival Morrowind’s. Endless worlds of exploration, enormous amounts of customization, and a free-flowing time system with endless things to do seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately that is not what I found in my venture throughout the world of Albion. Though it is a creative and well approached game in its own right, it seems that over time, it failed to reach its heightened destination.
From my understanding, the creator of the game, Peter Molyneux, had to apologize to everyone on the disappointing outcome of the game. Regularly, I would propose that this announcement be a totally ridiculous and unnecessary action, but for the promises he made, he kind of had it coming. Now I am not putting all the blame on him, as I know how time constraints work, and I thought people just up and took it out of proportion. I could name a list of games that hype threw way out of expectation, but I won’t. Now being an understanding fellow, I can see that late in development, he was not going for that “blown away” feeling. Instead more of a well rounded, well-done system was in order. I would say that it does do what it set out to do, but definitely leaves a lot to be desired.
Now with such a strong forthcoming to this supposed legend of a role playing game, the story must be something immerse right? Well, you play a boy living in a quaint little village, doing chores and errands to stay out of trouble. Finding lost toys for a little girl, beating up on a bully, and working to get some allowance money for a gift, ah the simple life. Well, joy shortly turns to hell as a group of bandits come in and annihilate your entire village. You are saved by a mysterious man and taken in to live in a prospering guild of heroes. In short, you must grow strong and try to gain renown and fame as you play the hero in a quest for vengeance. I’d say that is pretty cliched wouldn’t you? Though it is a plot that has been used many times before and is pretty easy to follow, it puts you in the setting for a game that is all about choices. Will you destroy an entire village and work toward your demon’s license or go on heroic quests and be rewarded with praise? Though there are paths to follow, it is the lack of depth clinging to these choices that brings it toward the path of linearity.
Since this is a medieval time period (or something like it) your primary weapons of choice will be either melee, bow, or magic. Using such freely or in battle will earn you experience towards your attributes and your overall income. The list of options for melees and archers are disappointing, and in the end you will find yourself upgrading magic more than anything. From these options battling is as open ended as you can get, and by that I mean real time. Though a role playing game at heart, combat plays like an adventure oriented hack and slash. Strategy can be implemented into the fighting, but you will constantly find yourself blocking, rolling, and attacking over and over again. Though it may sound generic, what helps, in a sense, to bring it together is the use of the lock on system. Being as uncoordinated as I am, a good targeting system is always vital to bring an action RPG together. However, the disappointment I found in the accuracy of the system in Otogi: Myth of Demons was what brought about a double fold here. Though it is easy to quick target enemies, it is very loose, in the fact that many times I would be hitting my unsuspecting allies. Picture shooting an endless stream of arrows into a group of enemies only to find out you have been impaling the person you were trying to save. Well, that is not always a detriment, but when you are trying to be a happy-go-lucky hero, it sucks.
Do you want to be a big strong muscle man or a thin and fast little bugger? Well, the saying, “You are what you eat,” definitely comes to my mind here. Affecting how much experience you will gain in your attributes ranges from; what weapon you use to topple an enemy to what you put in your stomach. Now strength, willpower, and skill are your experience elements as you grow throughout the game. Within strength lie health, toughness, and power, this will determine how much damage you can take and how much endurance you possess. Skill is for the more sneaky craftsmen, who want a little more speed and accuracy. Lastly is the realm of magic, which the force of will encompasses. From this trait, you have over twenty magic options to choose from, from the ability to slow time to turning into the Hulk himself. Each of these priorities has levels, and as you grow in experience, you can continue to customize your character. Want to be a swordsman? Then focus more of your experience spending in the strength region, while archers would essentially want more skill. You have a high variety of choices. And applying them to the uniqueness of your hero is vital in order to continue progressing through the game’s toughest challenges.
Quests will be your primary objective throughout and will be how you continue to access the storyline. The world moves in a pattern of connecting stages and areas that are all laid out for you and even give you the heads up on where to travel next. Want to go explore the horizon of what looks like a wide open valley? Well, unfortunately you cannot as you are surrounded by invisible barriers or cluttered rock mounds. In fact the majority of the quests that you will be taking part in will be simple hikes through linear roads, battling what little enemies are in your path. While it is fun decapitating unsuspecting bandits and blasting ogre like creatures to cinders, the “hold-your-hand” game-play definitely got old fast. What also disappointed me was the lack of ideas coming from the majority of the quests. Slaying all of the enemies and getting to the end of an area or concluding a simple search and rescue was always the apparent task I was undergoing. Also, the lack of difficulty and easy to exploit nature of some of these quests were laughable. One such example was my mission to rescue a boy from a cave and get him out of its murky depths. After retrieving the kid, the difficult task of getting him out alive and past the dangerous enemies had me worried. That hopeful challenge became dashed as I ran from one part of the screen to the other and noticed that the boy mysteriously appeared next to me in perfect condition, every time.
Needing a break from the tiresome missions, I decided to check out some other things the game had to offer. Walking along the streets of Bower-stone, I decided to buy a house that was for sale and rent it out to earn some income. Feeling social I walked into the bar and noticed that some people knew my name and started to cheer for me. Free drinks all around, I proposed, and followed through with a game of blackjack between me and the resident gambler. I can say one thing, the longer intervals you take between your quests the more fun the game is. Going to the local fight club, doing some short errands for the residents in town, competing in the local archery events, or claiming a town for your own, are just tidbits of the options you have available. There are plenty of things to do here that add more enjoyment aside from the repetitive missions and, in all honesty, are what I found to be the most interesting.
Simply put, Fable has one of the most short-lived, but addicting pulls in a role-playing game that I had ever experienced. The desire to accomplish more, get more equipment, and gain a higher renown constantly had me mesmerized till I finished. One such feature was the appearance altering system. Based on your choices of good or evil, you will grow into a vibrant and wise old man, or wickedly deceptive looking demon. From this aspect, you will either have a crowd of adoring fans or a group of haters mocking you or trembling in your presence. While it is quite impressive, I just wish the people had a bit more to say. After the thousandth “yahoo” and “yes” from my supposed fans, I was literally about to demolish the town (which is why I switched to the dark side later on.)
Another let down came in the form of the marriage system. While minor in most titles, promises were made that it would be vital, and that your son would be playable as he got older. Well, unfortunately that idea performed a complete 1080, as all you get from marriage is a non-viewable cut scene of sex and a headache. Though you can end up marrying virtually anyone (men too), there is practically no difference between them. I think I can speak for some people who used marriage as a way to get a higher evil percentage. Jokes aside, there were plenty of factors, related to the right or wrong decisions, which could have been built upon. And while they are intriguing, in a sense, they leave a feeling of apparent mediocrity.
I can assuredly say that the developers were not afraid of putting plenty of violent sequences in the game. Blood spouting, decapitations, singed corpses, and other lovely moments all make the fighting a little more vibrant. Though realistic looking, they are not distracting, and really give the flow a better feel. Speaking of which, battle action plays along very precise, and there is never any slowdown or frame-rate distortions that plague other action titles. While it is not the most beautiful game on the XBox, the environments are eloquent and character models satisfying. Delving a little deeper into the character graphics, Disney definitely comes to the brain here, as the majority of models have the big feet, big hand syndrome. It brings down that realistic factor I spoke of earlier, but it seemed to fit in this type of game nicely. Deriving, in part, to the whole fantasy facade Fable displays. Faces and emotional expressions are all here, though a bit more personality in the main hero would have helped. However, what I enjoyed most were the great CG sequences between quests and how they helped me take the visuals for what they were.
Credit goes out to the audio department for a top notch performance. The metal clanging against metal, fireballs scorching over the environment, or a hilarious gesture from the protagonist, all sound perfect. The voice acting is also some of the best I have heard in a game yet and mostly seem to be of British origin. From the rough sounding voice of Maze to the older sounding quotations given by the Guild-master, everything is right on target. I did cringe a couple times at the rambles of the children in the early portion of the introduction, but thankfully that does not last long. The great orchestral notes that play alongside story sequences and dramatic segments help bring about a great correlation between the surroundings, and put you in the medieval environment. It is probably one of the primary factors that Lion-head studios did flawlessly and is something to look forward to when playing along.
You have the presentation, draw, and climax, but something Fable missed was an aftermath. After I completed the title, I had absolutely nothing left to accomplish. My character was maxed out, every quest and side-quest finished, and both personality traits accounted for. It is unfortunate, that even including additional secrets and hidden weapons, the game maxes out to around 20-25 hours. If you use your imagination you can no doubt pull more game-play time in, but others will be up and done with it after the final boss fight. Inclusion of a multi-player element would have been nice and easily obtainable due to the simple combat nature of the game. Though it seemed like that was another proportion thrown to the wayside.
In the end, it is in no way Knights of the Old Republic or Elder Scrolls, but it is a one player experience you should really give a chance. It seems that the developers were trying to do too much stuff at once, instead of keeping what they had and expanding on it. The good and evil choices and factors based on such were interesting, but shallow, as were most of the other parts of the game. However, if you have a forgivable nature and like to mess around a little, you will find there is some hidden charm. The mini games, fun housing system, and sheer amount of magical spells to fool around with are plenty to keep anyone entertained. If you follow sayings, then this game is truly a double-edged sword or love or hate experience, and strangely enough, I am right there in the middle. Expect a revolution in the world of RPG’s and you will be disappointed, or take it as it is, a good action title with some surprising substance. One way or another the choice is always yours, and how far you take it, is up to you.
Community review by destinati0n (October 31, 2004)
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