Peter Molyneux's next - and hugely anticipated - expansive role-player-cum-God game has in the past been mooted as the game that promises players the ability to go anywhere, do anything, at any time. What we saw at X03 was a game surprisingly light in concept and content, with none of the promised functionality in place. Though the title is clearly not complete, we really did expect more at this stage. All that was seen of Fable was a man in a forest, hitting things with a sword. And amazingly, with every hit, little red numbers floated from the characters' heads, a feature that Big Blue Box, the game's developer, has stated will not be in the finished game.
Most discouraging by far was Molyneux's admission that nothing of the earth-shattering uniqueness of Fable has actually been completed. Soon after the appearance of Molyneux's Black and White in 2001, we were told that you, as the character in Project Ego/Fable, would make your own destiny, choose your own path, perhaps even get married.
Well, all the same hype was offered up again at X03. Alarmingly, it was stated that none of these gameplay elements had been implemented, and Molyneux wanted to hold a session to discuss how that side of the game should be done.
Although this may seem like an overreaction, it's something that has to be said. Black and White made similar claims. Years ago, Molyneux showed crowds a world seen from above. He zoomed in to a continent. From there, right in again to a country, from there to a town, to a house, with a barrel next to it. On the barrel was an apple. And in the apple was a worm. "And this is the level of detail to be implemented in Black and White!" we were assured. To this day you can still see the worm in the apple, on the barrel next to the house, repeated numerous times throughout the Black and White world. Nowhere else in the Black and White world can one find a level of detail comparable to this.
Fable has been touted as the one title that will change gaming forever, the first free-roaming 'do anything, go anywhere' game to trigger a massive evolution in the expectations of both the industry and consumer.
Yet after all this time, all we saw was a sword-wielding bloke in a forest. If there was more of Fable on show at X03, it must have been behind closed doors, as there was nothing on show that we missed. The situation is hugely disconcerting. Molyneux's desire to discuss and finalise fundamental play mechanics indicate a game still in its infancy. Now 18 months down the line, and who knows how much money spent, will the game that sees the light of day resemble the one that's been promised?