Fable - Xbox

Also known as: Project Ego

Got packs, screens, info?
Viewed: 3D Third-person, floating camera Genre:
Adventure: Role Playing
Media: CD Arcade origin:No
Developer: Big Blue Box Soft. Co.: Lionhead
Publishers: Microsoft (GB/US)
Released: 14 Sept 2004 (US)
8 Oct 2004 (GB)
Ratings: PEGI 16+
Accessories: Xbox Memory Unit


Great things have been expected from Blue Box Studio’s Fable since Peter Molyneux started talking it up in its earliest stage of development. It was promised as a unique RPG that saw the main character growing from an innocent infant to a wizened old warrior. Every action the player chooses in the process was planned to have a direct effect on the character’s appearance and personality, subsequently affecting how all the other NPCs react to your presence.

Yet only moments before its PAL release, after some fairly cynical murmurings from NTSC Fable owners, Peter Molyneux actually apologised (via the Lionhead community message-board) for delivering what many people think is a massive anti-climax. While it’s good to know that his future hype-mongering will be sensibly subdued, it was a strange thing for the game’s creator to say. Strange because, in reality, Fable is really rather good.

Casting aside the towering expectations that Molyneux had built up, what we have with Fable is an original, highly-polished and entertaining RPG. Fable is fairly combat-centric, using real-time action in each battle, in much the same style as Zelda Wind Waker. The game universe (Albion) isn’t huge, but it’s certainly big enough, and contains a pleasing variety of environments, from woodland paths to bustling settlements with plenty to explore along the way.

Fable also has the usual RPG staples, including an emphasis on improving statistics, learning skills and magic, and the essential wide array of clothing and weaponry. The player will also have the option to deviate from the game’s central quest, heading off on odd-jobs and doing voluntary missions. Sometimes you may choose to help people out, other times you might just want to irk these NPCs with some unpleasantly malignant behaviour. In turn, your character will take on an evil, middling, or angelic aura.

The main storyline is fairly unremarkable as RPGs go, although it is partly of your own making. By strictly following the central missions, the player will, however, enjoy only a relatively shallow slice of the Fable experience. When Peter Molyneux suggested there would be 100+ hours of gameplay - the statement that has caused the most controversy amongst people who have played the game - he was exaggerating. Indeed the main chunk of the game could easily be completed within 12 hours.

However, Fable is treated best as a toy-box of gaming gimmicks. If you willingly forget about the proper levels, there is a sizeable variety of distractions to last quite some time. Much of this comes from the inclusion of social gameplay. Instead of smashing trolls with big hammers and slashing werewolves, the player can choose to head down to the tavern and have a chat, flirt with the local barmaid, or set about intimidating people who look at you a bit funny. There are gambling mini-games, there are village fight clubs, you can go fishing, you can go digging for treasure…okay, so the list doesn’t go on for as long as Molyneux would have had us believe, but it’s certainly substantial. And the gay weddings and chicken-kicking competitions made it through.

So, despite being a blatant anti-climax, Fable is a good game. Forget the early claims and the hype, and approach this as any other console RPG, and it should prove enjoyable. It sits somewhere in between Morrowind and KOTOR (the two other leading Xbox RPGs) in terms of style, quality and substance.

Fable is, in fact, the very definition of a fable. It’s an ‘improbable account’ of the original vision, it is ‘a story about supernatural, mythological characters’ and it is also ‘a short story with a moral’. The moral being, of course, Peter – stop lying.