It seems these days the words overhype and Peter Molyneux are quickly becoming synonymous. As was the case with Black & White, yet another game has been released with such hype and winds up being a solid game but nowhere near the expectations to which its hype would lead one to believe.
Fable is just that — A solid game. With four years of development time under its belt, I expected at least a little bit more in scope, but instead we get about a quarter of an Elder Scrolls game, and that’s being generous. Unlike the Elder Scrolls series, traversing the world in Fable is simply a pain. One should feel fortunate that after four years of development, a portal system was actually implemented to rid the necessity of running around. The fighting system is fun and well implemented, but not fun enough to warrant random LONG wanderings looking for a town…unless of coarse that random wandering leads to said town where you plan on killing every inhabitant, which leads me to morality. Fable managed to implement the morality system quite well and ultimately it is what allows Fable to stand out among the mass of action/RPGs on the market. What can be more gratifying than sneaking into a trader’s shop, stealing all of his displayed items, and then sneaking into his house and killing the man who’s life you’ve just ruined? Well, nothing of coarse, unless you’re one of those guys who enjoy being, pfft, good. Fable offers a wide range of actions to secure a ticket to either the 9th level of hell, Cocytus, where you shall reside for eternity inside Satan’s cruel mouth or a feast upstairs with the Big Guy. (*Note: no actual visit to Heaven or Hell in this game, sorry) From killing traders or protecting the traders from bandits to choosing the evil rather than the good side of a quest, only you can define your destiny.
The fighting system has its ups and downs. With a huge array of categories to pump full of experience, one decides upon archery, sorcery, or pure brute strength or a combination thereof. Once engaged in combat, each successive hit lands more points to the multiplier, which nets you quite a nice bounty of experience if you manage to get the multiplier high enough. The combat is pure and simple with an easy pounding on the B button for melee, holding and aiming for archery, or holding L while pressing a corresponding button for sorcery. Unfortunately, the combat never becomes difficult considering the sad fact that Albion is littered with Resurrection Phials and Magic Potions and your hero is completely invulnerable to enemy attack while rolling. So flip your enemy the bird and get your decapitation counter +1, it’s not hard.
Despite what has been said about its story, I tend to think Fable is a refreshing take on the common story of revenge. As a young boy, without divulging any spoilers, the hero’s father is killed and his mother and sister kidnapped by bandits, but the hero is saved by Maze, the man who will introduce the hero into the Guild of Heroes, thus starting your epic tale of revenge. Unlike the usual tale, in the world of Albion one has the option of killing everyone and everything good and bad in the quest for revenge, and in doing so, filling your heart with so much blackness that revenge no longer matters nearly as much as becoming the ultimate power in Albion. Advance through the quests and you will gain Renown—the more renown gained, the more recognition the hero receives. Continue on your path towards darkness and townspeople will cower in fear as you pass by, continue your path towards good and become loved! All along the way the Guild takes it upon itself to save your progress via pictures on the walls of the story room inside the Guild, displaying a beautiful pictorial of the chronicles of your life.
Then there’s the pointless. Fable can keep those easily entertained occupied for hours upon hours on end doing completely pointless little deeds from buying and renting/selling of houses and shops to marrying and having sex with your wife(s), male or female. Purchase a spade or fishing rod and dig up the graves of dead people looking for treasure or fishing for magical fish in ponds and oceans. Want some reading material? Fable has that too—around Albion is scattered a multitude of different books ranging from how to be ugly to "choose your own adventure" books. Humor? Need go no further than the local cemetery. I only wish people would inscribe such funny quips on their tombstones in real life. Attend the local barber and get a Mohawk, or shave it bald with a Sheriff moustache only. Find the tattoo artist and suddenly look like a local monster. Hit up the pub and drink yourself into a stupor to the point where you no longer see straight and instead puke on the floor, or maybe you’d rather blow your money on Blackjack than get drunk…or maybe gamble while intoxicated!
When it comes right down to it, Fable seems to be no more than a glorified life sim with a good story and combat system. The game is all too short and confined, and when coupled with its easy difficulty, it fails to live up to the hype. I guess I just expected so much more after 4 years, but that’s not to say Fable isn’t a great game. It is, just don’t go into it expecting the RPG to end all RPGs, because you’ll walk out fairly unsatisfied.