The game that has been massively hyped for well over a year. Peter Molyneux promised TONS of things that people thought weren't possible in games yet. And then came the delays. And more delays. AND STILL MORE DELAYS. But the madness didn't stop. "It's delayed because it's going to be THAT MUCH BETTER!!!" And then came Peter's comments that some things would be removed from the game. But that didn't matter because it was FABLE! And it was destined to be the greatest gaming miracle ever..
But I noticed. And I heard of the magazines praising Fable. And I also heard about the Fable bashers. So I decided to play for myself. And this is how we end up at this review.
Story: Fable is about a nameless silent hero. For those who have played games such as Chrono Cross, you will know that these types of heroes serious inhibit any meaningful character development right off the bat. The young boy, who is obviously deformed as his hands are the size of his torso watches in horror as his family and village is burned to the ground and slaughtered by mysterious bandits. He is saved thanks to a great hero named Maze. Maze teleports the nameless boy to the Hero's Guild of Albion, where the boy becomes versed in the arts of sword, bow, and magic. Then he grows up and sets off to forge his own legend.
That's the plot. No really, that's it. There's a twist or two, but they are well foreshadowed in advanced. People that defend Fable will point out the extras you can do, such as getting married, having sex, or getting a tattoo. But it's all style, NO SUBSTANCE. There's no actual effect on the plot. Fable promised to be a game where you can do everything. But in fact very little of what you do has much of an effect. I can butcher an entire trader's outpost and my Good/Evil bar barely moved. Very disappointing.
Fable is a second rate open ended RPG. Morrowind or Arcanum both is better by comparison. Both of those have a lot more options that you can do. As well, your choices in those games have more of an effect on what happens later in the game. Fable had all this hype, and really it's doing things that were do-able in 2002, and even worse, to a lesser effect.
Graphics: It's nothing great. Something about the facial expressions just seems a little off. After all the talk of how superior an Xbox is hardware wise, it certainly doesn't show it's potential with this game. The cut scenes actually look worse than when you are playing the game. Everything is just too generic in this game, it's one stereotype or cliché mixed with another.
There are some bright spots though. Some of the little touches, like the scarring and hair look really good. And the monster design is fantastic, it is always a treat to find a new monster.
Sound: The music was pretty good. It has a "irritably soothing" quality about it. However, I can't remember any song standing out to me 3 days after I played it. that pretty much sums up Fable in a nutshell.
And then the voice acting. DEAR GOD. I hope I don't hear anyone with a cockney accent in the next 6 months or they are going to get a SWIFT AND DECISIVE kick to the groin. Seriously. It's the same few voice actors jibber jabbering with the same few lines of speech constantly. And considering they chose some bad actors with even worse accents, it just encouraged me to kill them all. Seriously. I ran around killing every character that spoke with a cockney accent. And why not? They deserved it!
The exception to the voice work is the narrator, who was pretty good. But even HE was a generic narrator voice? Why should he be any different than the rest of the game?
Gameplay: The controls are pretty good. It's pretty easy to memorize what buttons do what. I will not penalize them for the controls due to my being a yutz. Although I don't understand why a bow controls like an airplane. Up is up damnit!
There are however, multiple gameplay issues not related to controls. This ties back to some of the "revolutionary aspects" of Fable that really turn out to be shallow gimmicks. For starters:
-The marriage aspect should be much more than buying gifts and few emotions. Christ, I can do that in Harvest Moon. For all Fable promised, how hard would it be to add a dating sim aspect to it? Thousand Arms did it and no one is saying it is the most groundbreaking game of all time.
- I've heard the description that you can "evolve in real time" in Fable. When your character ages 10 years in 3 games days, how does that remotely make sense? This was supposed to be the key selling point of the game. At 80 years old I'm supposed to have maxed out physical stats? Am I the only one that doesn't get that?
-No one cares you can have sex in the game except for sad little perverts that will never see boobies outside of pornography. The fact the game keeps tracks of this are just bizarre. I saw sex in Leisure Suit Larry over 15 years ago. And it might have been more arousing .
Replayability: This game is one of the SHORTEST RPG'S EVER. You can play through at least 3 times in the same time to finish a normal RPG. Now, there is a lot of extra stuff to do. Between all the villagers and sidequests and skills and marrying, the potential to replay is there. But that's not the problem.
The problem is that you may not want to play through it again. Everything gets redundant. Very few characters have personalities and you find yourself just doing the same thing over and over again. This game failed to deliver in the way it promised to most. And that right there makes it hard to want to play it more than once.
Now, don't get me wrong. I won't knock a game just because it's short. Hell, I'm hooked on Katamari Damacy right now and that game is far from an long epic. But look at a game such as Phantom Brave that game out a few weeks before Fable. You can beat it in 15-20 hours easy. Phantom Brave is an original, fun strategy/RPG full of plot and character development. Fable lacks this. It's generic, the plot is bland and it falls short of everything it promised. That's the difference.
Summary: The legacy of Fable will be for what it wasn't, rather than for what it is. And it's no one's fault but the game developers themselves. People might say it is unfair to judge it like that, but when the game has received the hype Fable has it is impossible not to. It's not Shenmue. It's not Arcanum. It's not Morrowind. It's not able to stand up to any of the other games that offer the same things. Years from now Fable will be scrutinized not hailed as a game of its age. Hey, if Microsoft wanted a quick buck rather than the classic game that would carve a place in history, more power to them. I can't blame them. I can feel bad for those people that paid full price for this though.