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Fable Review

Developer: Lionhead Studios Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: September 14, 2004 Also On: None

Ever since the launch of Xbox in 2001, everyone had been hearing the rumors about a top secret project coming out of Microsoft Game Studios. Though most information about the game was kept secret, this was the biggest hyped game for Xbox, even bigger than Halo 2’s. Code named Project Ego, the RPG grew in front of the eyes of those keeping tabs on it until the title changed names to Fable. After more delays than you could ever possibly imagine a game to have, Fable finally made it to shelves in September 2004. But was Fable all hype and no show? Many expected ground breaking experiences from Fable, hoping this would be the RPG the Xbox was waiting for, one that would even top KOTOR. Though a brilliant game by my stand point, it seemed as though it was a bit rushed out and hurt the final product a bit.

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The world of Albion opens up to your fingertips in this game and looks fantastic. Environments are highly detailed, showing much texture and depth to the backgrounds of the game. Weather effects are well done as well, showing the imprints of the water dropping on the ground and hearing your feet slosh around in it. This just gives the game that extra effect. One of the great features of the game is how your character ages over time. At the beginning of the game, your hero starts out as a kid, one with seemingly humongous hands. It seems as though the hands were really balloons the character was holding. Once you pass this age however, the hands seem to be normal size. Once an adult, you see that your hair grows and sways just as a true person’s hair would. You begin growing a beard as well throughout the experience. Wrinkles and scars on your face show up with immense details, adapting to the face as it would in real life.

The choices you make will also affect your appearance. If you eat too much for example, you will get fat, battle often, you will get scars, etc. A good thing about Fable is that the NPC’s look equally as good as your main character in the game does. This includes enemies as well. Although you will see many familiar faces on people, it is still good to know that the time was put into making the characters look as good as possible. Frame rate is solid, but there are times where you experience slowdown and some points of the game when you enter an area don’t load all the way. Though this isn’t a big problem, just something to point out since it doesn’t occur too often.

Sound is normally a standout thing in most RPG’s, and Fable delivers for the most part. The in-game music and theme were developed by Danny Elfman and fits in perfectly, surrounding you with the type of scene you are about to encounter. If you are inside a peaceful town, you will hear a score of wind instruments that put you at ease. Entering a fierce battle? You will be introduced with a score full of heavy drums and evil sounding music. It ties into the storybook world very well, something you would expect during medieval times.

Though the music is good, some of the voice acting does seem to get a tad repetitive. Just as you have repeating skins, the same goes for the voices of the townsfolk. The creatures all make the same sounds, making you wonder if they are all related somehow, especially the hobbit looking Hobes.

The main characters were portrayed very well however. Each of them brings in a guiding voice throughout the game, although the voice of your master tends to get on your nerves if you do not feel like taking part in the many missions in the game. The story is well narrated throughout the game through storybook pages that help to tell you of just what is really going on in Albion. Overall, Fable balances out in the sound depot to turn out being above average as far as most games go.

Being in development for so long, you would expect Fable to play flawlessly and be of decent length as well. As far as the way Fable plays, it really has been handled well. The combat system is similar to that of the Phantasy Star Online series. You lock onto your target and slash away with the X button. Once in the middle of combat, you can perform a power attack that may sometimes double your physical attack damage against a creature, depending on the situation. You are also able to carry ranged weapons in the form of a crossbow or bow and arrow. These too have advantages depending on the creature. You will also be able to augment your weapons with power ups that give them a special trait.

Certain weapons, however, allow only 1 or 2 of these to be added, but better weapons will allow 3-4. There are about 50 different weapons to find or purchase in the game, giving you the power to use this variety to fit your style. Magical Powers are also available in combat, adding more firepower to your character.

When leveling up, you have many ways in which you can go, adding to the customization effort Fable has in place. The powerups are divided into 3 categories: strength, skill, and magic. There are about 25 magic powers you could learn and would be your prime focus if you wish to be a wizard. In skill, paying most attention to this will develop a thief-like character, who is great with ranged weapons, stealing, breaking into homes, and has the speed for quick getaways. The Guile feature is probably the most important, because it not only gives you the ability to steal and use lock picks, but allows you to gain lower prices among traders. This is a smart thing to do if you wish to gain a certain item, yet do not have sufficient amounts of money.

Another thing to do is by checking when an item gets a new shipment. Then, find a bed and sleep until the shipment arrives. The more the shop has of an item, the less expensive it would be. This is a great plan for trying to buy weapons and armor. Sleeping is good for your character either way. If you do not sleep, your character will begin to show signs of fatigue and slow down. Dark circles will begin to form around his eyes and you will be forced to sleep before you can really make it through another mission. Sleeping is a quick and easy way to pass the time in-game and to restore your heath and mana fully. Sometimes, finding sleeping quarters can be tricky. If you sleep in someone else’s bed, then they will call the guards who will fine you for trespassing on the person’s property. The smarter thing to do would run out of town and wait to be forgiven.

The aging feature brings Fable to an all new level. As time progresses, your character will begin to develop wrinkles and his hair and beard will grow. You can go to a barber in a town that will give you a haircut for a price, removing the shaggy looking hair all over. The only thing that you cannot do is change your hair color. The hair starts out black, and as you get older turns white. When in battle, your character will also develop scars that stay on your body. Although armor resists the formation of scars, it is inevitable that you will take a few good lickings from an enemy. The most common area affected is the face, giving you a battle torn appearance. The more you eat, the fatter you will get.

The consumption of alcohol is possible in Fable. Drinking however will cause your vision to become distorted and you will vomit if you happen to drink too much at a time. The sad thing about this is that you do not walk or talk any differently when under the influence.

Tattoos are another form of expression that many people take up. These make your character look good or evil depending on the symbol you imprint on your body. Marriage is available to the lonely hero who has the skill to woo another NPC in the game. Being a Mormon is a good strategy as far as money is concerned. For every marriage, you are paid a dowry of the person’s money. Every time you marry, you need to have a separate house to accommodate your spouse. Most of the things you can think of that would be possible in real like are possible in Fable.

The scale of good vs. evil affects how you are viewed in the world of Albion. If you are a hero, NPC’s will applaud you and try to be like you. Sometimes, dolls mimicking you are created so that everyone may have a remembrance of your character when you’re not around that particular town. Becoming a villain will cause horns to sprout from your head and eyes to grow red. People will begin to cower from your presence and scream in fear of what you may do to them.

The slogan of Fable is “for every action, a consequence.� Help someone in need and others may reward you well, while committing bad deeds may bring people to attack/insult you. There are about 30 quests to complete, most of which you are able to boast about in order to gain more money. Doing things like using no magic, no armor, and no weapons will reward you with about 100-200 more gold. Fail and you will loose 80% of this. Some quests will affect your alignment as well.

During the quests, you will travel around the massive world of Albion, finding secrets and treasures along the way. Getting from the Northern-most part of the map to the Southern-most part will take you about 20-30 minutes real-time, unless you fight the monsters. This is why teleportation is built into the game, allowing you to warp to certain zones, cutting down the travel time needed to get to your destination.

Fable’s major problem lies in a balancing act between size and length. The size of the map could sustain a playtime of 30+ hours if worked on long enough. However, the box only gives you about 10 hours to complete the game. With two different endings, Fable is worth beating twice, totaling to under 20 hours of gameplay. The after game only has you running around buying real estate and marrying. You cannot accept any more quests for the most part unless an NPC gives them to you. All there should be left to find is the secrets, if you have the patience.

The multiplayer features for Xbox Live were removed, hurting the final product immensely. The life of Fable would have easily been extended months if the party feature were enabled. This would have made Fable more like Phantasy Star Online. A game that was in development so long deserved a much longer game. Making people angry and stealing is fun, but it won’t keep you occupied. Fable is a fun game that is possible for a rental to consume enough value for this short RPG.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 8.8
Written by Shawn Review Guide