Sunday, 19 October 2008

Retrospective - Fable

  • Game: Fable
  • Console: Xbox, PC
  • Developer: Lionhead Studios
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Released: September 2004
What with Fable II's release just around that proverbial and clich├ęd 'corner', it seems to make sense that along with it comes an inevitable look back at its predecessor, a game that everyone, thanks mainly to the game's creator, had extremely high hopes for. However, it fell short of those hopes (way short, some might say) and nobody but the aforementioned creator, Peter Molyneux, can take the blame for it. He was the master of his own downfall and he knows it. He has apologised time and time again, but, you know what? He needn't have, really. You see, Fable is still an incredibly good game, and no amount of promises of trees that grow in real-time could have made us expect the finished game that we got to play. It's by no means perfect, but it's still a rather exceptional game.

What really sets this game apart is the fact that you can really tell Fable was made by a British development house. The people of Albion speak in regional English accents; there are cockneys, scousers, brummies, geordies, Welsh, Scottish and Irish, with the beautiful Bristol accent taking precedent over most. It's also filled with very silly humour, something the British are famous for, and it seems the developer's main inspiration is Terry Pratchett. As a quick and easy example of the rather silly humour, your character is able to burp and fart at will; what this does is something of a mystery, but does it really need to have purpose? Farts are funny! That's not to say that the game doesn't get serious, because it does, especially towards the end of the game, when Albion comes under attack. For all the whimsy and charm in this game, there is a lot of gore that counters it, with decapitation being the bloodiest method of disposal in the game. There are even some afters - you can kick your enemies bodiless heads around. It's genius, really.

I played the game through to its end a few times, and my character always ended up looking similar to this wizard dude.

However, the whole point of Fable was that, dependent upon the decisions you chose and the way you played the game, your character, and the world around him, would change accordingly, and that each person who played the game would have a unique game-world, and a unique character. But neither seemed to really work, as Fable simply isn't deep enough. You see, for an RPG, Fable is not that big a game. The world is rather expansive, but because you're confined to narrow pathways throughout the game, it never really feels as big as it should do. Also, interaction with NPCs in Fable is rather one-dimensional; you get the quest-giving NPCs, who'll talk your head off given half a chance, but you can't really talk to anyone else, as they don't have the kind of scripted dialogue most RPGs have. Instead, they merely react to your character being in their presence. You can laugh, burp, fart, dance and whatnot in front of them, but, apart from their reactions, it doesn't really do anything. Sure, you can marry someone, but that doesn't really do much, either. Because of this, the game world doesn't ever seem to change. Your character, however, does change. He'll get scars, he'll get older, and if you're good he'll appear saintly and demonic if you're evil. But, again, because the game isn't deep enough, it really doesn't feel like your character is that unique. Play the game through a couple of times, and chances are that you'll end up with a pretty similar looking character each time.

Despite not really achieving what it aspired to, and not really giving you your very own world and character, Fable is still an incredibly unique game, and a very good one at that. It doesn't do much that isn't in other games, and its innovations are more gimmicks than revolutionary concepts, but what it does right, it does well.

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