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Xbox Review: Fable

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Peter Molyneux and Lionhead satellite Big Blue Box have finally after more then three years released an amazing action-RPG that deserves your hard earned simolians. If you like your hack and slash with a bit of role playing mixed into the fold, you can’t go wrong here.

Fable has been one of the most anticipated games for the XBox. Forget Halo or Halo 2. Fable has (publicly) been around under one name or another since 2001 when it was introduced at E3.

There are not many RPGs out for the XBox, and their are even fewer good ones. I always jump at the chance for one of those good RPGs. I have been patiently waiting for this game for a long time. I say patiently waiting only because I have other things to fill my days like Art History class, and works (yes, plural).

Even though not everything promised was delivered, what is in the game makes for a very complete experience. There are a couple large features that did not make the gold master, they are: NPCs do not age over time; There are hardly any Heros to interact with; You cannot have children. But the laundry list of things that are in the game is just staggering.

Originally thought to be a game like Morrowind, Fable is more like Zelda. Be it a more grown up Zelda. But lets stop comparing games. In Fable you take main story quests as well as side quests from the Heros Guild as well as other NPCs. You gain experience and fight big bad boss characters, blah blah blah. But this RPG has an intriguing story.

You start out as a little boy day dreaming, and have to find your sister a birthday gift. Pretty soon all hell breaks loose and you are out for revenge. Your typical plot for any RPG hero, yes, but I have had more fun following this story then most.

Once you complete enough quests your world renoun (how famous you are) gets high enough that women (and some men) will start to fall for you. Gifts and some flirting, a manly fist pump and a sexy hero pose here and there, and you might just get hitched. You can even have (censored) sex, which is important to keep your relationship going. Not only that you can marry someone in every town, although that might take a lot of work to keep all your partners happy.

The main story in Fable is not that long, it is rather short for an RPG. I have heard it should take 25 to 35 hrs. to complete the game. Hard core RPG fanatics will have a short but sweet ride. The adventure aspects of the game, some might call them tedious, could very well turn some people off.

I think I am about a third of the way through the game and I have played for three days now. I am about to go to the Arena and fight a bunch of monsters. That should be fun.

One major negative aspect is the difficulty level of Fable. I wish there were a few difficulty setting. There are so many revival potions, and food in the game to keep you healthy. This is a game, however, that you will not get so frustrated at that you break your controller (Ninja-Gaiden comes to mind).

That being said, Fable is not a pushover, especially when you are surrounded by many enemies, but it is not overwhelmingly difficult either. I am progressing through the game at a great pace. I am the type of player that likes that. This is why I will not be finishing Ninja-Gaiden any time soon. A harder difficulty settings might add some replay value to the game. I have found that the enemies in revisited areas are harder to defeat later in the game, as you do a bit of backtracking. It would be less fun if those enemies were as weak as they were when you first encountered them.

There is an appreciable amount to discover in the the world of Fable. You can play card games at the local pub, you can get drunk, (thats always fun) try out your hand-to-hand boxing and so much more in the different towns. You can even buy goods and sell them for a higher price in a different town. The laws of supply and demand exist, which is a nice touch. If you learn how to fish you can catch not only fish but other treasures in the many lakes and rivers. And if you go digging in the right spot, you will find other treasures that have been buried.

Character building is paramount in Fable. Your character is your character. You cannot say that for most video games these days. You can also choose to be good or evil. I am playing through as a good character right now, but I think I will have more fun being evil. Others react to you on how you physically look in the game: your hair cut, facial hair, tattoos, and what type of cloths you are wearing, all of these elements change your alignment towards good or evil, as well as how attractive you are to others.

If you take damaging hits through the game, you have the possibility to become scared. Your skin and your tattoos will be affected by the scars. One of my characters got beat up pretty badly by some Hobbs and now the right side of his face has scars running down his neck.

There are a number of expressions to use. Just don’t go around farting all the time. You will not get much respect that way. Also it might be a good idea to buy a new name, which you can do early in the game if you wish. Chicken Chaser, while funny, is not the most flattering thing to be known as.

As with most RPGs out there you can gain experience with melee combat, ranged weapons, or magic. Fable balances these three abilities very well. You (can) always have a melee weapon and a ranged weapon strapped to your back, and have quick access to magic.

Your physical appearance also changes depending on what type of combat you choose. If you use melee combat a lot you will be a big barbarian type character. Right now I am a Well Known Spellwarrior known as Liberator (I finally gave up Chicken Chaser). I use melee and magic and not much long ranged combat.

What I like:
Combat system: You hit X, again and again and again. You can also use what is called a Flourish once you land enough hits. A Flourish is a massive attack that cannot be blocked. The combat system is simple and strait forward. You can augment weapons with abilities such as fire, lightning and silver damage, as well as damage multipliers. There is a block/roll button, and if you get good you can build up a combat multiplier from multiple attacks without getting hit yourself. The more consecutive hits gain you more and more experience.

The combat system is not too simple, but its not overly complex. Not complex in comparison to more dyed in the wool RPG franchises anyway.

Camera: Fable has a wonderful camera that just seems to work. There have only been a couple places where I had to manually adjust the camera to see while in combat. I am happy with the camera. The auto targeting system is good as well, it moves with the camera.

Chickens: This game has chickens! And you can punt them. There is even a statistic for this. My farthest is 15.234365. Its just fun to punt the chickens. Not that it has anything to do with combat. When you are in a town you can hit the X button to send a chicken flying. The older you get, the farther you can kick them. The NPCs seem to think its funny too.

Magic: This game has some great magic. There are 16 spells, and so far I have achieved seven of them. You can upgrade the magic four times, as well as combine spells. I usually do not play RPGs as a magic character, but the magic in Fable is very accessible and fun.

NPC interaction: You can marry people, buy and rent property, own shops, plus more. There is an expression system, and you learn more expression as your quest continues. I just learned Sexy Hero Pose, which works great on the ladies. You can also give people the finger, sneer at them, and the maniacal laugh is pretty good too.

User interface: Both the HUD (heads up display) and the button configuration of Fable are well designed. The controls to get to your magic spells and favorites are right under the R trigger. The XBox controller is really well designed for the large number of controls of an RPG. The HUD does not get in the way and you can set it to be semi-transparent, I wish more games would do this. Switching from melee, to ranged, to magical combat is very smooth. Fable’s user interface design is well thought out.

Graphics and sound: Fable has lush environments to walk around in. Very pretty eye candy all around. The score is great. Nothing to complain about there. The voice acting is above par. The NPCs get repetitive, but you will always have that.

Creature design: The creature design and the amount of different creatures in the game are well varied. Cool stuff.

What I did not like:
Time and age: If you play through as a mage, and just use magic, you will age very quickly. If you use ranged weapons you will stay younger longer. I have one character that is very old and one who looks not that much older then the 19 year old kid leaving the Heros Guild for the first time. Both characters are in similar parts in their quest. It is not annoying, just odd.

Frame rate: This game skips frames every so often. And I have found it to be jumpy when it is only you on screen and not you with a swarm of enemies (although that has happened too). It is not enough to be terribly annoying, but it is noticeable.

Picking up Items: If you examine something, and it has an item, you have to pick it up, you cannot leave it. I would have liked a system closer to Morrowind where you have the choice to leave items, as well as drop things. You receive evil points for stealing, so you have to weight the consequences unless you are going for the evil side of things.

NPC skins: The attention to detail to you and the main NPCs in the game is great, but there are a lot of very bland skins that you see way too often on common NPCs. This is nit picking but it would have been nice to see more variety.

Final Note:
Fable is by no means as involved as Morrowind or Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), but it is as fun and rewarding to play. The more action and the less role playing elements of the game balance themselves out nicely. This is a game, like KOTOR, that I want to play over again. Replay value does not come often these days. Take advantage when you can.

There are some things that are not completely fleshed out, and some things missing that we would not be complaining about had we not heard about them for years. Fable exceeds my expectations and keeps me sitting on the couch wondering “what can i do next?”

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About Ken Edwards