Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Review: Fable (XBox)
Posted by Ariel :: 9:20 PM

Legend or Myth
Now talk about hype! 3 or 5 years in the making! THE BEST RPG EVER MADE as the claim for the project that created this game! For every choice, a consequence. Well, let's get down into the nitty gritty, shall we.

Fable the game is not Fable the hype. I don't think any game ever matches up to the hype. Except for possibly Halo, but I digress. If you judge the game from the lofty expectations set forth by the marketing and hype machine then this game is almost a complete failure. Judge this game by the standards you would judge any other game by and it is.....slightly above average, overall.

So, I will not put the hype here and decry how this game does not live up to these expectations. That would be a painful and fruitless excercise. Instead I will judge the game on its own merits and my own standards for a good video game.

The first thing I'm going to tell you about this game is that it is FUN. capital F U N, FUN. The controls are easy to learn and even easier to use. The combat system is also a blast to use and all your skills are easily at your disposal. The RPG system boils down to three main elements: Melee, Skill, and Magic. Melee dictates your strength, toughness and health. As its name implies you can get a lot of melee experience by engaging in close quarter combat with your melee weapon of choice. Skill contols your speed, your archery skill, and your ability to haggle and be stealthy. Skill experience can be earned by shooting enemies, getting good prices on items you sell, and being sneaky. Magic is pretty self explanatory. You also get general experience for genera combat engagement.

I figured if you hadn't played Fable yet that aspect of gameplay you should know before you read reviews and try to make heads or tails of it. The marketing tag line is : "For every choice, a consequence." It's true, for every choice you make in the game there is a consequence. The problem is that there are no permanent consequences for your actions. I've gone on a ramapage in 2 separate towns, killing almost every living soul. Once the towns where repopulated most people ran in fear of me, but the guards didn't try to stop me from coming in, and the fines you are assesed for wrong-doing eventually go away. But the programmers did an excellent job of encoding responses from the game for almost everything you can possibly do.

The best example in the game of "For every choice, a consequence" is actually the main character himself. You don't have a choice over your characters look at the beginning of the game, but afterwards, you can make changes to your hearts content. I've had long hair and short, bald and spiked in a mohawk, a regular beard, long beard, goatee and the whiskers of an ancient Chinese monk. I've also sported a large variety of tattos, over all parts of my body, and you can mixmatch outfits to create your own style (my favorite outift was a combination of three different suits). You age as you increase in level (a bit too quickly for my taste) to keep the gaining of experience a bit more realistic.

One thing that truly struck me was how much your playstyle determined your appearance. The three aspects of leveling altered the way you looked thusly: More melee meant more muscle mass, more skill meant a more lean appearance, and more magic meant a receding hairline and glowing palms. These three will regulate each other so a character that has high melee stats and high skill stats will be ripped but still be pretty lean. and if you specialize in melee you'll just become massive. Your proficiency at combat also came to be shown through the scars you may accumulate throughout the game. That's right, scars. If you take a massive hit in combat, you can be sure it'll show up in the game. Different attacks will also leave different scars. A sword will leave a pretty clean swipe (and an aesthetically pleasing scar for the most part) while bludgening weapons will leave something a bit more jagged and unappealing. Magic sometimes leaves a bit of scorching behind and a claw swipe will leave parallel cuts. One of my characters has three fines scars running across his face from his first battle, while another has several deep scars on his back from a run-in with a mob of enemies. Eat too much and you'll gain weight, which you can then run off.

The graphics are great and fit the game very well. The music is absolutely outstanding, and the interface is also good. Loading times between different areas aren't excessive and the music will keep you from really noticing how long it takes sometimes. The atmosphere of the game is incredible and you will really get sucked into the world of Albion. Everything that speaks in the game will have dialogue, and you won't have to read a bunch of prompts to hear what they have to say. You can also communicate with others through the use of an expression system that allows you to express your intents and ideas to others. There is actually an economic system in the game that runs under the rule of supply and demand and can be exploited to ure advatage (if you are wise enough, or have the determination for such things). You can get married and engage in relations with your mate (censored completely however) and become well known and revered or feared, depending on your actions and predisposition.

The flaws of this game boil down to: It's short. It's not as open-ended as some other RPGs. It's short. There are a few glitches in the game. And it's short. The game is actually very linear, as far as the main story is concerned, although you can digress from it in between each quest that moves the plot forward, once you're in quest that's all you can do. The quests are similiar to some of the things you had to do in Phantasy Star Online: Save so and so, defeat these guys, help these people out. Heroic, to be sure, but never anything you can sort of stumble onto. While every choice you can make has a consequence, the game, at times, doesn't allow you to make just any choice. And the split between good and evil is not that great as far as the story goes. In my extensive playing I've also noticed a few graphical glitches every now and then as well as some gameplay ones that I'm sure the designers did not intend to be in the game (and for a game that was in development for as long as this one that is somewhat disappointing). Oh, did I also mention that the game was short? You can easily complete the game, if you avoid any extranous activities, and after playing for an hour to absolutely MASTER the controls, in about 8-10 hours. Even if you do a lot of extraneous things you can still complete alot of the game in about 14-16 hours. If they had made some randomly generated quests you could, literally, play this game forever, but alas, once you've completed all the quests, you can look forward to just roaming around pretty aimlessly.

Some people will love this game, some will not like it (Traditional RPG fans, you may want to stay away), and others will not want to buy but rent instead (due to the length). My recommendation is rent first and if you love it, buy it. But I highly recommend giving this game a shot. My final score:

It's a good game with flaws (I considered giving it a 3.0) but it is also unbelievably fun to play. Very much a short but sweet game. And that's Fable for you. Now, comments away!

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