Distributed By: Lionhead Studios

Reviewed by Firedancer34

            When I was younger, I was a video game addict. It took all of my parents’ willpower and every scare tactic in the book to pry the Atari Joystick out of my hand many a night. When I hit Junior High and went through a slightly rebellious phase, one of my favorite past-times was ditching school in favor of hanging out at the local 7-Eleven to play arcade games. When that landed me in some rather serious trouble however, I was banned from gaming for years after that. And having seen the error of my ways, even I steered clear of them well into adulthood. But at 33, after moving in with an old friend of mine who owned several game consoles, I was reintroduced to the modern gaming world with a game called Fable.   With a massive smile on my face, I admit that it was the beginning of my downfall.

Facts and Stats:

            Fable was an RPG (role playing game), developed by Big Blue Box which is tied to Lionhead Studios. It was released for the original X-Box, and for both Mac and Windows users in September of 2004. A year later, after having so much success with a product they weren't even sure about to begin with, Lionhead released an "Extended Chapters" version that added several missions and as the title suggests - extended the story a little from where it originally ended. Due to the violence, strong language, blood, and sexual themes, the game received an appropriate rating of M- Mature 17+.

The Game:

            Fable is set in a land called Albion, in a medieval-like time where swords and magic are your only true companions. You start as a mere boy in the game and are run through the basic tasks to help you get familiar with the basic controller functions. It also shows you how you can look for and interact with various characters later in the game. Once you accomplish this basic run-through, the main story launches: Disaster strikes your hometown of Oakvale, and a Hero named Maze rescues you and brings you back to the Heroes' Guild where you embark on your training as a Hero.

            As you progress through the game, you are trained in both combat and magic skills...and you will need both if you are to succeed in both the Fighting Arena and in the Final Battle. With each mission and fight you succeed in, you gain experience points in the various skills that you used and then you can choose to focus what specific areas within those skills that you would like to level up in. And of course there is the money you acquire along the way that can be used for anything from a mug of beer, to potions and armor.

            One thing that really intrigued me with the game was that you have the ability to choose how your character develops throughout the story. In other words, you can choose to be a good Hero or a bad one. This choice is given to you from the start when you stumble across a cheating husband and are given the chance to take some bribe money to keep quiet or tell his wife about it. The choices throughout the game are plenty as well. Do you steal, kill at random, beat up innocent people, fart, belch and over-drink in public. Or do you woo admirers, present gifts to people, and do good deeds in general? Do you wear the dark scary clothing and get the 'evil' tattoos? Or do you wear the 'white knight' armor and wear symbols of honor and purity?

            The more you choose one way or the other starts to have a significant effect on the appearance of your character. The more evil you become, your Hero starts to grow horns from his forehead and his eyes glow and flies begin to circle. If you go the high road, you really are the 'white knight in shining armor' completely with butterflies circling you. It was entertaining to compare my character with my roommate’s: she was the White Knight, I was the Spawn of Satan.

            The catastrophe that struck your village as a lad becomes a crucial storyline as the story develops and long lost family members suddenly reappear and warn you of impending doom if you do not tap into your true and hidden potential to defeat a former Hero and the current Bandit King: Jack of Blades. You and Jack have several brushes throughout the game, but ultimately you face him in the end, and are faced with a choice of what to do with an object of ultimate power. A side note: In the Extended Chapters Version, the game actually continues on with a few more missions after this choice but I'll save that for a separate review.

My Opinion:

            The story is what hooked me for sure. Now normally, I'm a FPS (first person shooter) gamer. I have a hard time getting in an RPG unless the story gets me from the get go. Fable most definitely did that. The depth of the story, the various plots and subplots were both entertaining and intriguing. The many characters are also engaging, giving you plenty of chances to flex your good/evil muscles. Some of the things you can do are just outright absurd and hilarious. For example: you can drink enough beer so that the whole screen turns so fuzzy you can't see and then you start puking. I whole heartedly agree with the Mature rating on this as you hack and blast your way through Albion and can wind up with more than one wife, and even a husband or three if you like. And yes...you are a male Hero.

            I thought that the graphics were well done also. Again, advances in the industry make it look blocky and archaic compared to today's standards. But extensive work that went into developing Albion and its many facets are seen in the vibrant colors, various types of towns and villages, each with their own unique features, and the attention to detail in even the little things. Along with the visual feast, was the soundtrack, scored by Danny Elfman and Russell Shaw. From the dark Batman-like rising theme to light and airy arrangement composed as the theme for the Oakvale village, you have a beautiful mix of orchestral and vocal pieces that fit each and every component of the game. Whether you are strolling through a fishing village or fighting in the Arena, you have the proper music accompanying your adventures.

            The game does of course have its cons as well. Originally I found the controller functions difficult. I'm willing to admit though that part of that was the due to the fact that this was the first 'modern' game I had played in well over a decade. I was just not used to so many buttons! Even now though, I have to admit that there are some control issues that I hope to see improved with Fable 2 due out in October of this year.

            For one, the 'look' control is not very smooth and can be a little detrimental in battle...especially when your trying to aim a crossbow/bow! And while you can hotkey certain attacks or actions, they do it on the d-pad which is not always very reliable. Granted, technology has advanced considerably since Fable's release and I'm also probably a little spoiled.

            I was also a little disappointed by some of the linear restrictions. Unlike games such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, where you can go where ever you please and possibly find extra goodies, you are restricted to keeping on the path for the most part in Fable. Early reports on Fable 2 however, show that this is something the creators are remedying. I was also a little disappointed by where the story ended in the original version. I was very pleased by the extension though, even if some of the immediate choices were a bit...unorthodox. For you evil warlords out there though, it was the ultimate chance to be the sick twisted beings you loves to be. <smirk>

            An amazing game for sure that I highly recommend to anyone- especially those who like RPG's. I have since replayed the game through twice, enjoying the chance to try different choices to see where I might have gone in the game. Fable 2 is due out in October 2008 and I am very much looking forward to this game. Previews show that control issues are being resolved and simplified, and while they are expanding on the platform that they built with Fable, they recognized what caused the game's success and aren't messing with the original formula. I will definitely be at my nearest game shop the day it hits the shelves with cash in hand.


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