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Score: 8.5 / 10
Though Fable doesn't live up to all of the hype
heaped upon it from the time it was first announced as Project Ego, it is a
fine, if a bit short, action-RPG. Much like the Zelda games, Fable gives players
a story with a solid emotional core and gives them compelling reasons to explore
the world at hand. Unlike Zelda, Fable is overly short with a campaign that some
players will complete in one sitting. Playing through the game two times,
pursuing both a good and an evil path, while completing all the side quests and
playing tons of mini-games will still get the average player less than twenty
hours of game play. That said, all of the above
activities are fun enough to reward the replays, so
those twenty hours will be time well spent.
Fable's main plot is fairly typical of the genre. Along the way, however,
players are faced with decisions that will affect how they relate to later
events, which is a fascinating gaming experiment. Many RPG's have featured
branching story lines and alternate endings based on the
behavior of the protagonist, but in Fable the story plays out identically
regardless of your moral standing, but the player, having assumed a particular
identity, will see the events through the eyes of a “good” guy or a “bad” guy. I
think this is better and more interesting than simply having the story branch
separately for the good player or the bad player. Unfortunately, the final
decision that faces the character at the end of the game is a more typical good
ending/bad ending affair and kind of weakens the whole interactive text feel of
the rest of the game.
The gameplay of Fable is altogether solid. Though the controls are rather
complex, they are easy to learn and become second nature quickly enough. Combat
is smooth and engaging, though, as in most action/adventure/RPGs, it can get a
bit repetitive. The leveling up is fairly standard stuff and involves returning
to the Guild. I, personally, have grown fond of the “field promotion” style of
leveling up seen in most modern games, but it is a snap to teleport around the
world and all quests are given out at the guild hall, so it really isn't too
much of an inconvenience.
The graphics of Fable are rather nice. Everything is imbued with color lighting
and soft filtering which gives the game a fairytale-come-alive type of vibe. I
like the creature design, but wish for more creature types to face. The
character design and animation are above average, with the protagonist's look
changing magically to match both his equipment and his moral standing.
I'm usually pretty harsh on voice-acting, but I found Fable's to be excellent.
The environmental sounds and overall sound design are top of the line.
Additionally, the score is phenomenal, one of the best I've heard in a while.
Alas, Fable isn't without problems. The load times are the biggest concern. When
attempting to become immersed in a fantasy world, nothing takes me out of a game
more than load times, and Fable has some doozies. Each map area is relatively
small and moving from any one area to another results in a load screen and a
significant wait. These aren't quite go-make-yourself-a-sandwich type load
times, but they are disconcerting nonetheless and really harass the suspension
of disbelief. I wonder, really, what the problem was as so many recent games
manage to nearly eliminate load times with worlds far bigger than Fable's.
In addition to the load time issue, the plot of Fable is simply too linear. A
handful of side quests aside, the main plot is completely linear and the
approaches to the missions themselves give the player few options. As such, my
experience with Fable is going to be a lot like everyone else's. Again, in
comparison to other games in the genre, the lack of choices really stands out.
In the end, Fable is a really good game. It doesn't live up to the promise of
Project Ego, but, really, who cares? We spend to much time as reviewers talking
about unfulfilled promises and too little time judging games on their own
merits. As it stands, Fable's flaws mean it just misses greatness. Luckily,
early sales indicate that we will likely get a sequel which should be able to
address the few nagging concerns.