Published by: FinalCloud on 2007-06-17
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Greatest RPG or the greatest hype of all time?
RPGs are typically defined by their stories. A great RPG needs a great and epic story -- just look at Knights of the Old Republic, Chrono Trigger, or Kingdom Hearts. Fable''''s story is serviceable, but not extraordinary, which is really what keeps it from the upper-echelon of role-playing games. A simple tale of revenge, you play the role of a young boy whose village is raided by bandits. Your mother and sister are taken captive, your father murdered -- the typical crap day for a young adventurer. Your mission, from that point on is to avenge your father''''s death and discover the whereabouts of ma and sis. And while there are a couple of relatively obvious twists along the way, the story unfolds pretty much as you would expect. Unlike Knights of the Old Republic, which has one of the greatest twists in RPG history, Fable isn''''t so much about the story, but your journey that takes you to its climactic conclusion.
Fable is an open-ended game, with specific story points that help guide you towards its conclusion. Once you''''ve finished your training at the Heroes'''' Guild (which could last a few hours if you choose to take your time), the world is completely open to you. Right off the bat, you can wander to the majority of areas in Albion, a sizable medieval world packed with hundreds of NPCs who all eventually become focused on you and your journey from nobody to the greatest hero the world has ever known. Of course, the deeper you enter into Albion''''s wilderness, the more dangerous the path. So, while you could technically make your way to a lot of Albion the moment you enter manhood, you probably wouldn''''t survive long.
Fable is made of several layers of detail. Casual gamers who want a quick experience and some fun can run around the surface of the world, complete the main quest and sidequests, and get out after 15-20 hours of play. However, those who want a little more detail can read into the history of the world, learn a bit more about why certain events have importance. Then you can go a little deeper if you like, interact with NPCs, get married, have censored sex, buy and rent property, sell merchandise, kill everyone in a town (though they will respawn over time), play with kids, terrorize kids, kick chickens, or just get piss drunk and vomit all over yourself. And there is another layer after that. If you really want to spend a good 50-100 hours in Fable, you can. Go searching for all of the Easter Eggs -- Unlock ever silver chest, stumble upon time-sensitive events, figure out how to get hold of the Sandgoose, whatever that may be, or conquer the world with a frying pan.
It''''s these layers that make Fable accessible to a much larger audience than a truly open game like Morrowind. That doesn''''t mean that games shouldn''''t strive for branching story paths and completely open exploration, but Fable is a game that can be played by a casual gamer and a more hardcore gamer and be enjoyed by both on different levels. There aren''''t that many Xbox games that do that, as most are basically a one-note experience, even if it''''s a great note at that. When you finally get full control over your character''''s destiny, you''''ll just be leaving your teens. There is no character creation system in Fable -- everyone''''s character will look pretty much the same heading into the world for the first time. Everyone''''s gonna be young, slender, with scruffy brown hair -- so we''''re all gonna look like adorable little Joey Lawrence for just a wee bit. However, once that required training section is over your character will quickly begin to change to reflect how you play your game. There isn''''t just one factor that affects this change, but a multitude.
The controls are typical of any third person game and the combat is actually a lot of fun. Nothing too complex then? Well, no, not really. Anyone who''''s played games like this before (Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons) will be all to familar with the style and layout. This is an RPG and as such you are gonna be earning experience points and spending them to increase certain traits. Your character''''s abilities are separated into three different attributes: Strength, Will, and Skill. Each governs a different way of playing Fable. Strength is good if you want to perform melee combat with any of the dozens of available weapons, will is for using any of the 16 upgradeable spells (which may age you, but also look incredibly cool), and skill is for using ranged combat, thievery, and bargaining tactics.
Unlike a D&D game, where you have to choose to be a fighter or a ranger or a magic-user, Fable enables you to be any three or a mixture of all three. Be a spellwarrior with both might and magic to aid you in battle or be an incredibly strong thief, whatever you want, it''''s all dependant on how you play the game and spend your XP. That XP is earned mainly in combat. You''''ll get general XP for anything you kill, but then bonus XP for the way you handle yourself. Use strength often and you''''ll earn extra strength-specific XP. The way you play governs the way your character grows.
Sound and Vision
Though the NPCs are repetitive and have some occasionally dumpy animations, the creatures and your own character are handled brilliantly. Nothing in the world has more detail than your hero, which is as it should be, since he is the focus of the entire universe when you think about it. The sense of scale to the world is perfect and watching your character progress physically is something quite special and unique. Sure, you age way too fast and no other NPCs really do (expect some that you meet as a child), but it''''s still a great effect. Not perfect, but lovely nonetheless.
Danny Elfman provided the orchestral opening song, which also plays in pieces throughout the game. The mixture of flutes, lutes, and stringed instruments creates the perfect mood. I like to leave the game on, just to listen to the fairy-tale theme play in the background during my day. It really couldn''''t have been a better score.
The NPCs have a mixture of quality in voice. Some you will actually recognize from other games, and most are good. A few are just sort of, well, average. It''''s the unfortunate repetition of NPC sayings that really start to get monotonous, particularly if you spend a lot of time in towns. More NPC dialogue would have been golden. As it is, big ups to the writers for keeping the majority of big scene dialogue from sounding corny. Sure a lot of it is suitably melodramatic, but none enough to make my lactose-intolerant grandmother ill from all the cheese.
The ultimate question must be asked since Peter Molyneux proposed the idea several times during Fable''''s development: Is this the greatest RPG of all time? No. No, it''''s not even the best RPG on Xbox (KOTOR''''s engaging story retains that crown). Okay, so it''''s not the greatest RPG ever, but I have to say it''''s one of my personal favorites. I really dig playing Fable, even multiple times. I know that some folks will be disappointed, that some will complain about what isn''''t there, but I still had a lot of fun and marvel at how involved I have become in my hero''''s life.
Fable opens a door for you, lets you see this wondrous treasure that the idea of an open world, competing heroes, and NPC interactions can offer -- but it doesn''''t let you through. There''''s a lot of great notions in the game that aren''''t fully realized. As I played, I kept thinking, Why didn''''t they do this or that, but in the end I still had a blast playing Fable and to me that makes all the difference.
Fable''''s freedom is allowing you to play how you want, to make your own choices as to how you will reach the climactic battle at the end of your adventure. You will be a hero, but you can be noble like Galahad, a rogue like Robin Hood, or a tyrant like Genghis Kahn. There''''s not a lot to the main story, but the path to reach its conclusion is full of extras, including secrets, a bevy of collected stats (including how many times you''''ve gotten wasted), and a giant sandbox world to mess around in. It''''s very difficult to enter this world without thinking about the promises made (but not kept), all of the things that once had everyone so desperately hyped for Fable, but if you can go in with an open mind, I think you''''ll find a game that will become one of your treasured Xbox favorites.
Related Link: Official Fable Website
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