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game: Fable
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Microsoft Games
developer: Big Blue Box Studios/Lionhead Studios
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 12:00 AM Thu Nov 4th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Thu Nov 4th, 2004

Click to read.    For every choice, a consequence?.  One of the most talked about games of the year, Fable has finally landed on the Xbox and is prepared to show its hand.  But is it holding all aces, or just bluffing with threes?  The game puts you in the shoes of a young boy who watches as not only his entire family is killed, but his entire hometown goes up in flames during a bandit raid.  Managing to remain hidden during the attack, you are rescued by a sorcerer named Maze.  He takes you to the Heroes' Guild where you accept training in the hope that you will someday be able to avenge your family.  Upon completion of your training you begin to receive quests, and this is where the game takes off.

    The gameplay is easy to learn, and the well set-up tutorial stages make getting a grasp on the whole style of the game even easier.  You progress through the game in a very straightforward fashion.  Get a quest, complete the quest, find out about another quest, etc.  Never once was I left in limbo wondering what I should do or where I should go. 

    The game itself is gorgeous.  The houses, trees, hills, scenery, everything is beautifully done.  You can't help but say whoa? when you first see it.  It's not just the environment that looks good, either.  Some of the magic you can use makes for quite the fireworks show.  And not only does the game look amazing, but it sounds just as good or better.  From sword clashes to crackling magic to the vast array of environmental sound effects, all of this does even more to submerse you into the game world.  Another one of the things which struck me immediately was the voice acting.  In far too many games the voice acting is just plain bad and can easily take you out of the game no matter how entertaining it may be.  Fable, on the other hand, contains voice acting which is not only masterfully done but adds even more to the atmosphere of the game.

    Fighting is fairly simple; however it is very easy to mix things up with a little variety in how you annihilate enemies.  You have three main attack attributes to use whenever and however you desire: strength, skill, and will.  Strength is your up-close and personal mode of attack with swords, axes, and other such weapons.  Your skill ability represents your use of ranged weapons.  I found this mode most useful for shooting guards from their posts or pruning a few members from a good sized group of baddies before they spotted me.  The longer you keep your bow pulled back, the stronger your attack.  Thus, your rate of fire is either too slow to get more than a couple shots off, or your shots are too weak to do any significant damage for you to use the bow as your primary weapon.  Finally, will is your magic ability.  One feature of this game that I loved was that you didn't have to be the mage? or the warrior?.  You can mix and match whatever fighting styles you please.  My personal favorite was to knock an enemy down with a strong attack and fry them with lightning as they writhe in pain on the ground.  This is also a nice feature because there are some points when you are fighting, especially though literally endless waves of undead, and things start to get a little tedious with just a longsword.  Also tying in with the do things your way? theme is character advancement.  You gain general experience simply by defeating enemies, but you also gain specific experience for one of your three attributes when you use that attribute.  You gain strength experience by using a sword, for example.

    Another thing that makes Fable truly unique is all of the neat little touches placed in the game.  You can get married, to a woman, or a man!  Or, while you're at it, why not both?  Yes, this game does allow polygamy.  You can buy a house, pick a fight with whoever you want, kick chickens; the list of detail and gameplay elements they put in this game just goes on and on.  Also, while not providing any practical use, the game records nearly every thing you can think of.  From favorite weapon to money spent, from number of times you've had sex, to longest chicken kick, it is all there.

    Yet, for all its virtues, the game suffers in some major areas.  First is the simple fact that the game never delivers on its promises.  Claims such as, for every choice, a consequence? and never the same game twice? don't hold up.  Whenever you perform an action you do get good or evil points for it.  But the trouble is that choosing to be good or evil only alters your appearance to a relatively small degree and has nothing to do with the course of the game.  The story itself is also very linear.  Even when it appears as though you are making a life-altering decision, nothing truly changes.  The same things will still happen later in the game but just for slightly different reasons.  But the thing that I found most disappointing was that the game is only about ten hours long.  Ten hours!  Now, I didn't set out to beat this game in record time, on the contrary as a matter of fact.  I took my time, smelled the roses, bought a house, got married, and even completed a number of side quests.  Even if you completed all the side quests and managed to unlock all of the secret items and areas, you would still be hard pressed to hit fifteen hours of play time.

    Another lackluster area is the frequent and long loads.  Whenever you change areas, the game spends around ten seconds on average loading the area.  That doesn't seem so bad until you consider that if you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, you go through ten seconds of loading to run through an entire area in twelve just so you can exit and wait for it to load up the next one.  At least there is a healthy number of teleport pads to reduce travel time.

    All things considered, Fable is still a truly awesome game achievement and, while it lasts, is a blast to play.  The graphics and sound effects are astounding, and the neat little touches placed in the game set it apart from anything else out there.  But with only ten hours of gameplay and a linear storyline, it would be difficult for me to play through more than once or twice.  Fable might not be the greatest game EVAR,? as it was once lauded to be, but it should definitely be on your list of things to do this month.

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