WHAT IS IT?
This is the story of a hero. And since this hero is—in fact—you, he’s perhaps the greatest swordsman and doer of good deeds ever, a knight so saintly, sunshine pours from his rear. Or maybe he’s a downright creep, the kind who would rob a blind beggar and then use the stolen loot to buy a sword to stab him. Perhaps he's even the sort who likes to wear a chicken suit into combat while fighting off his foes with a frying pan. Formerly known as Project: Ego, Fable promises epic RPG action and a totally malleable hero. Game designer Peter Molyneux has gone on record claiming this Xbox game will be the best RPG ever, and although the jury is still out on that boast, there’s no doubt Fable's creators at Big Blue Box are aiming sky-high. The game takes place over the course of the hero’s lifetime, sending him on an epic quest to find his parents’ killers—and then on to explore the larger mystery of how their deaths fit into the world around him.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
What you do in Fable's world shapes your hero; your three different attributes (Strength, Skill, and Willpower) can be developed separately, in conjunction with one another, or not at all. “If you just hit things over the head all the time with the sword,’’ says Lead Programmer Simon Carter, “your Strength will go up. If you take things a bit more carefully and use your bow and stealth-attack people, your Skill will go up. And if you use your magic an awful lot, your Willpower will go up. As you develop all these things, your hero will slowly change.” Specifically, your hero’s appearance changes to reflect his development; a magically inclined character will begin to lose his hair, sport arcane tattoos, and eventually be trailed by a silverish-blue haze. Moral choices will also have an effect—a totally evil character will draw bugs. “Flies are obviously attracted to evil,” Lead Designer Dene Carter points out.
Fable's world is inhabited by (among others) huge rock trolls, pants-stealing nymphs, and werewolf-like creatures called Balverines that can infect the hero with lycanthropy. It’s a European fairy tale brought to life, and from what we've seen, it looks gorgeous. In motion, the real-time combat and icon-based spellcasting system seemed smooth, but the real test will be how well the developers can balance the need for combat options while not pulling players out of the fantasy.
Filled with dry British wit and sexual innuendo, Fable is an adventure game from Sirtech that may not knock your socks off but might occupy some of your time in an interesting manner -- if you can live with some of its quirks. Your character, Quickthorpe, has been given a quest. He must travel to the four worlds of his planet -- ice, mist, water and fire. Once there he must defeat each beastly ruler and capture the guarded jewels. But beware; strange happenings and even stranger conversations await.
I found the puzzle-solving aspect of this game interesting, and at times even unique. The puzzles were fairly difficult, but not so hard that some good sleuthing, and maybe just a little off-the-wall thinking couldn't solve them. For example, I was able to kill off a shark with some smelly socks!
Character interaction played a prominent part in the game; unfortunately, it needed some improvement. Most character interaction involved a lot of talking on their part (which often became tedious), with the occasional chance for you to choose from three (or less) questions or statements in response. Although these responses ranged from extremely serious to outright silly, I found that this type of interaction tended to get in the way of the overall flow of the game. I didn't want to keep stopping to listen to conversations between characters ... I wanted to explore.
But what sets Fable apart from other games of its genre is its offbeat sense of humor. The game as a whole was very bawdy, with big-chested women hanging out of windows and water spirits that hint at sexual rewards. This brand of humor sometimes borders on blatant sexism, but in this case it was woven into the game well enough to avoid that effect.
Although the Fable world had many of its own unique features that made me want to explore every nook and cranny, I was disappointed that there wasn't as much interaction with the environment as I would have liked. As in many adventure games, there were often objects lying around in Fable that beckoned you, made you want to grab them or use them, but you could only interact with a precious few of them.
While the characters themselves were graphically well-detailed, the animation used on them looked outdated. There is almost nothing more annoying than watching a close-up of a character whose mouth action doesn't remotely relate to the words and pauses you are hearing.
The sound effects in Fable were realistic and convincing. When crawling through an underground tunnel, I could hear rocks rolling around, water dripping from the ceiling, and rats scurrying across the ground. I can tell that much time was taken to make this area one of the highlights of the game.
Fable came with a nice-sized booklet that was helpful and complete. The booklet contained sections on the basic setup, troubleshooting and options, as well as a prologue to assist in your understanding of the storyline.
486 or faster processor, 8 MB RAM, VESA v1.2 (or higher) compatible SVGA video card, 2X CD-ROM drive, 2 MB hard drive space, Microsoft-compatible mouse
Reviewed on: P-120, 32 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 64 video
Fable, by Sirtech, is an interesting, humorous and creative adventure game that unfortunately just didn't thrill me as much as I hoped it would. I enjoyed exploring all of the environments and listening to the humorous dialogue (when I got it, of course); however, the game just didn't seem to flow very smoothly. That, coupled with the outdated character voice animation, forces me to call this game good, but not great. It rates a 65.
For an RPG to be extraordinary, a number of key elements must be present and working harmoniously together. Getting that magical combination has become exceedingly difficult and risky as pushing the envelop on game development often has awkward results. Without a doubt, Fable has pushed that envelop, maybe farther then any game before it. However, has it survived this ambitious feature set with an innovative and remarkable result or did they lose their way and end up with a mess of features that fight each other?
Fable has been in development for years now and although it has gone though numerous changes, the end result is impressive. The size and scope of this RPG is clearly ground breaking with a number of features that have to be witnessed to appreciate. Your actions for instance, whether good or evil, will determine how people respond to you and affect your outward appearance. In addition, the type of attack you use also effects your body structure as using a sword increases your muscle mass or using magic makes you look more like an old wizard.
The story line of Fable also offers many different possibilities. Although there is a central story line the game leads you down, other side quests are available in addition to numerous other distractions such as the ability to buy property or even get married. Really, almost anything you can do in real life can be done in Fable.
Experience points in Fable are also handled differently then other RPGs and are gained though battle and completing quests. The difference however is the experience points are allocated to the method chosen for attack. For instance, if you attack with your sword, experience points are allocated for physical modifications or if magic is used, experience points are allocated for will upgrades. In other words, the more you use a type of attack, the more you'll be able to upgrade it. In addition to experience points, renown points are also collected. Your renown is what causes those around you to recognize you as the hero you are. Renown points are achieved the same as experience points expect showing off war trophies around town will also increase your renown.
The graphics of Fable are more then adequate and add to the experience. The enemies are diverse, environments varied and detailed, and characters are unique. In addition, the audio offers great sound effects with unique attack sounds, voice-overs that fit the characters perfectly, and environment sounds that help to immerse in the game.
There's a lot that can be said about Fable but clearly this is one of the best games released in some time. Whether RPGs are your thing or not, Fable will more then return your investment.
Like the noble, plodding turtle, Microsofts wildly ambitious life-simulating RPG, Fable, is moving slowly and steadily toward the finish line. Heres some good news: We hear that the game will hit in August. Also, we hear that award-winning composer (and former Oingo Boingo frontman) Danny Elfman (Batman, The Simpsons) will be scoring Fable's main theme. Classy.
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