The Never Ending Realm
Fable Review by Samuel Rivera
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The XBOX is famous for its lack of Japanese RPGs, however the console has been blessed with a few western RPGs, one of them is the subject of this review Fable.

In the making for more than 3 years, gamers waited patiently through the endless delays, and got more than tired of Peter Molyneux’s (The designer and master mind behind the game) constant ramblings about the game being the greatest RPG of all time and what not. Listening and reading Molyneux’s comments about Fable made me genuinely believe that indeed the man believed his own hype.

Eventually however the game’s own fabricated hype created no less by its developing team is what downed it. To start Fable isn’t perfect; in fact it has many, many, many flaws. Not as many as say Morrowind, but the game for all of the talk of being tremendously open ended doesn’t accomplish a of what Morrowind does in that regard.

To start the world of Fable is a colorful, lush and lively one. The Graphics here are only surpassed by the excellent and newer XBOX RPG Jade Empire and not by much. However Fable’s graphics while fantastic never completely submerged me into it’s world. Perhaps because the game that was supposed to let you do anything you wanted to do in the game world doesn’t let you do that.

To start Unlike Zelda and Morrowind, in Fable if you can see it on the screen, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can go there. The game world feels segmented because you are always following an enclosed trail, you can never jump over the three foot tall fence that keeps you from getting off the trail which is ridiculous. I am supposed to be this great hero, but I can’t jump over a 3-foot tall fence? Also the water looks spectacular and yet I am not allowed to swim and explore the under water scenery. The world of Fable is not interactive is merely there to be observed, which completely boggles the mind since the 7 year old Ocarina of Time allowed you to Swim and interact with most of the things that you saw on the screen.

These major shortcomings in exploration are definite chinks on Fable’s armor, but the worst is yet to come.

The Main Hero doesn’t control too well, as I pointed out before, he is unable to jump or swim. However he is able to fight (at least he can do something) and fart, yeah what a useful skill that is…anyhow, Lion Head (the developer) attempted to shamefully "re-invent" Ocarina of Time’s Targeting system (just like every other action game has tried since then) and it’s mind boggling that seven years after Nintendo’s masterpiece pulled this targeting system flawlessly no one else has been able to mirror it in quality.

Fable’s targeting system is very flawed; one can easy hit a partner or an innocent bystander in the middle of a melee. Because it’s easy to miss target an enemy and even easier to lose the target since enemies that aren’t targeted can kick your behind while fighting a targeted enemy. Also the main hero feels some what like a limited warrior when compared to Nintendo’s pretty boy elf, the main hero’s arsenal of moves is unimpressive.

Not only does Fable manages to feel like an average hack and slash game in terms of swordplay but it also features a mediocre archery system. Truth be told I prefer to use the bow and Arrow more than any other type of weapon in the game (include magic since it makes you age quicker).

Again while one could aim and shoot with incredible precision in the 7 year old Ocarina of Time, going into first person view. In Fable going into first person to use the bow and arrows in the middle of a battle is as suicidal as jumping out of a plane without a parachute. The manual aiming feels a bit loose which results in inaccuracy so stick to the auto targeting.

The Magic Spells themselves while cool looking, are not as intuitive and as sharp as they should be. Plus some one at Lion Head had the stupid idea that using magic makes you age quicker, and since the game is super easy, there won’t be a need for magic spells in the whole game.

To this point in the review we know Fable is a gorgeous looking game, but the levels are linear which kills the exploration and that the combat system is a bit funky. Now onto the part that can save or finish burying an RPG deeper in the hole…Story.

The story in Fable to put it in easy to understand words; sucks. This is not a problem in a game as free form and as Historically rich as Morrowind. However Fable plays more like your usual Traditional Action RPG, and the world does not have a deep historical background to speak off. So the Story telling aspect of the game sadly falls flat on its face.

To start the Hero doesn’t speak, does not have a real name, as he is simply known as "Hero". Not only is the main character lacking personality, but also the story is cliched, and simplistic. The main goal here is for the Hero to avenge his murdered family and try to save his sister. Of course the game then offers some twists here and there, but anyone who has played RPGs before will immediately be unimpressed by Fables lack of a strong narrative.

Fable’s story is told in bits in between "Guild Quests", and the story really seems to take a back to seat to the Mission oriented gameplay of the game.

However while the tone of this review has been a bit Harsh towards Lion Head studios and the game itself, there are definite good things that the game has going for it.

The first one being the music, which while not as Epic as let’s say the FF games soundtrack, it fits perfectly the mood of the areas you are adventuring through. Also the leveling up system I found very useful.

It works like this; for every enemy that you kill you get green orbs which later you can use on the Hero’s Guild to upgrade your characters stats, such as Strength, Skill or Will (Magic). Depending on how you use this system your Hero will transform into either a massive muscle bound Swordsman or a frail looking yet powerful Magician or something in between.

The mission-based system is a good implementation for those who like to travel adventuring and killing monsters. However the missions, could have been a little better if there were more to chose from, more rewarding and a bit more challenging.

The Good/Evil system works well, villagers will cheer you on or run frightened at your sight. However, I find the horns, and red eyes thing when you are evil a bit cheesy, why can’t I be a good looking evil man? The marriage system is a nice side diversion but really there are no apparent advantages in being married, so really I saw the marriage thing as an unnecessary part of the game. Also it doesn’t help that the game’s villagers are composed of pretty much four or five player models. It doesn’t help much for me to care about my wife when there are 100 others who look exactly like her.

Even though Fable lacks a lot in the character department the item department has a lot going for it, there is a large, in fact huge selection of items, which includes anything from swords, bows, to clothing and beer. Too bad the game world is not compelling enough to promote the use of those items, and therein lies the Fables biggest flaw; it’s simply not fun to play. While Ocarina of Time’s Selection of items seems completely trashed when compared to Fable’s in terms of numbers, in terms of use, each item in Ocarina has different fun to play around and sometimes rewarding uses, while the items in Fable really serve no purpose and are just there for the sake of being there.

This is probably a side effect of the non interactive world, Fable is best described as a Hack and slash with some RPG elements to it, and the ability to be good and/or evil. The promises of a huge "real" world, of intelligent NPC’s, and a number of other things that Petter Molyneux ambitioned were never fullfilled.

While Graphically impressive, Fable is hardly groundbreaking and much less the greatest RPG of all time, as it stands right now the game is really a ‘glorified’ hack and slash, that tried hard to mix Zelda and Morrwind best qualities but ended up being fairly inferior to both games. To Lion Head Studios: is one thing having great ideas and ambitions but it’s another to executed them well.

 

Gameplay: 6.0- If it weren’t for the leveling up system the game would be on the 4’s in this category, this is supposed to be an action RPG for godsakes! It need to have interaction with the enviroment, Ocarina clearly demonstrated this 7 years ago, and newer games like Morrowind follow this, the combat system is also shallow, and simplistic.

Graphics: 9.5-GORGEOUS! It’s a shame I can’t jump over the god damned 3 foot tall fence or swim, this would have added a whole new dimension to the game. Also the load times in between areas are inexcusable, Naughty Dog has no Load times on the technically inferior PS2. The Character Models will get repetitive soon after you start playing.

Music: 8.3-The Acting is decent and the tunes fit perfectly into the context of the game.

Story: 4.0-The Story couldn’t have been simpler had blind monkeys been forced to write it. A complete shame for a game that had been in the development since the days when Sega was still on the console bussiness.

Addictiveness: 5.0- You might be compelled to played twice if you want to play the good and evil thing, but be warned there are far better RPGs avaliable on the XBOX, Jade Empire, Morrowind, KOTOR, KOTOR II.

Overall: 6.0-Not a complete utter failure, but close to being one, specially since the hype for this game was so high. The lack of an interesting plot, interactive environment, and fun challenging gameplay ultimately puts Fable on the average category, this might break Lion Head Studios game designers hearts, but their 3+ years in the making "SUPER" RPG cannot hold a candle to the 7 year old Ocarina of Time.

2003-2005 RicanSaiyan. All works here are copyrighted by their Authors