* Awarded 2004 GOTY: Most Mojo, Best RPG, Most Innovative

Fable has arrived and most of you are thinking, "It's about Time." After four years of development Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios finally release the epic adventure game entitled 'Fable,' and I'm putting down my controller for a few minutes to share my thoughts on this adventurous RPG.

The Game
The story behind Fable is a familiar one. The tale of a young hero trying set out to avenge his parent's death. Although Lionhead lays out the main story for the gamer, you can make Fable about whatever you wish. Fable incorporates many different gameplay aspects and gives the player freedom to play the way you want. Either good, bad or neutral, it's up to you. If you want to play Fable as a magic user, stealthy assassin, noble trader or cross dressing avenger, you can! Fable fits its marketing slogan to a tee, "Who will you be."

Starting off you be in the shoes of a young boy, who even though you can't be punished for your crimes, you quickly discover the difference between good and evil early. One of the first situations you come across is a man cheating on his wife, and even at this fragile age you will have to choose if you're going to tell on the man, or accept his bribe to keep quiet. If you tell him you're not going to say a word, you can go behind his back and tell his wife anyway's. When you do a good dead, or an evil dead you will be given positive or negative alignment points, which are easily noticeable. Although I noticed a strange fact, getting a divorce is just as evil, or more so then killing a person. Huh?!

The story jumps from your time as a boy, to your teen years, then to a young man. Being raised by the Guild of Heroes, you have been trained in combat and 'Will' (Fables word for Magic). The game really begins here as a young hero ready to go out in the world and serve the guild. Just like your time as a little boy, the first quest will test your alignment where you have to decide if you will save a farm from Bandits, or attack the farm with the Bandits. You will probably have made up your mind before you play the game if you're going to be good or evil, but the bar can be swung either way at any time.

Fable progressively pushes you towards the main quest, but you also have the chance to perform extra missions, which are all set by the Heroes Guild. It's all up to you, and there are no time limits, so you can take your time doing missions and just wander around enjoying the world of Albion . The main story's quality is good, so even though you might want to spend another half hour in slaughtering Hobbes, you could find yourself engrossed in the main story and conquering the game.

Since I mentioned "getting a divorce" earlier. Most of you probably know you can get married in the game of Fable, and again like the slogan "Who will you be" you can wed a man or a woman and it will be reflected in your character stats under sexuality. Sex and sexuality is a difficult subject when it comes to games and most just steer away from the subject. However, that's not the case in Fable, which lets you indulge the world of romance, if you wish. If not you can just be the lone hero known to many other games. Besides the trappings of marriage and constantly killing Bandits, there are other things you can do. You can always make some extra money trading goods between towns, or by parking yourself beside a stream and fishing. There are also some quests that you will find as you travel the world which aren't set by the Heroes Guild. The most common extra quest will be pleasing magical 'demon' doors which if successfully accomplished can give you worthy rewards.

Fable isn't all drama, and role playing there is the essential combat elements. My friend was watching me play and they said "omg, its Gauntlet." Well, Gauntlet is a major understatement, but at times with the hordes of enemies attacking you might just get that good old Gauntlet feeling of having to overcome the odds. There are basically three ways to approach combat in Fable, first off and most popular would be just by hacking away with a Melee weapon, they give you a good selection of heavy and light swords, and axes. The second approach is the elfish approach, dousing your enemies in a barrage Use the distance and speed off the arrow. The third is using Will powers. Will powers are grouped into three different categories.

The experience system in Fable is tabulated in how often you the character, its divided into three categories, Strength (gained when using melee attacks), Skill (gained when using ranged weapons, stealing, and trading) and Will (gained when magic is used) there is also general experience which goes in its own spot. At the Heroes Guild you can upgrade your character by points you earned. The special points can only be used in its own category, but the general points can be used anywhere. The experience system helps out the character and gears it towards your playing style. I think they did a good job balancing it all out and letting you have the say on your characters development. Note to players: Upgrading your character will add years to his age. The game could be completed without out using changing your character stats, but it would be a huge challenge.

Overall Fable has great gameplay with ampleness action and RPG elements. The western RPG's have shown more action then most traditional Japanese games and breathe new life into the genre. If you have been following the development of the game since it was called 'Project Ego' you might be a little disappointed that they had to remove or fine tune the game leaving out some promised material. I'm sure they have their reasons, and there is always a sequel where they can play around with new concepts more.

If I had to complain about Fable, the first thing I would say is the game is a little short and that's mainly because you don't want it to end. I didn't rush, and I finished the game noted around 18hrs. If you can't get enough Fable at 18-20hrs, you don't have to quit because Fable continues after the main story is done. There isn't much to do, but enjoy the virtual world after you're done, but it's a nice feature to leave in. Secondly I would have to say I had some problems with the targeting system when battles got really crazy, although it's the same problem with a lot of games. Next time I would try to balance the combat controls a little better, then again I am just nitpicking.

Fable is worth the experience and if you're worried about the shorter finishing time for an RPG, note that you will probably want to replay the game on the other extreme Good/Evil. Fable is an accomplishment and everyone involved with its development (all 15 minutes of credits) should be proud of their hard work.

Graphics & Sound
Graphically, Fable is impressive, and should be viewed during nightfall and daylight to acknowledge its diversity. The lighting effects are top of the line and easily are the coolest effects in the game. They have nailed the glowing effect perfection and using your magic at night can really show off the graphical engine. The raining (environmental) effects are also superb along with the rest of the extra flash.

The characters are also interesting and have good designs. I would have liked to seen more variety, especially in the generic town folk and clothing for your hero. The animations are great in the characters and always give surprising reactions. I love how children where approached in the game, running and playing like real kids. The little things really help Fable, like the townsfolk turning on and off the lanterns when its light and day, or when your evil bad self walks in town the parents will go and get their kids. It's very obvious that the development team tried to make the people in Fable seem like real people. It's a great achievement. Fable is the total package when it comes to graphics, aside from minor grumblings; Fable is one of the best looking Xbox games to date.

The audio in Fable is above average and by looking at the audio credits it shouldn't be a surprise. Danny Elfman film score legend (Tim Burtons Audioman), and the Philharmonic Orchestra! Is this a video game you might ask?! Besides the great background music Fable has done a great job in all other areas. The lightning storm environmental effect has to be the best I heard in a game, amazing thunder crackles. The creatures all sound great and have uniqueness to them. The only part I would reconsider is some of the townsfolk's voice over's, but again that's just being picky. Overall, Lionhead overachieves and deserve a perfect score.

Fable's most innovate quality would be in the two worlds of extremes. It's interesting to see the difference between playing the same game as an evil carnation or the good warrior, the savior to the people. To benefit about of most of the game, I would think a neutral approach is the simplest, but there is more enjoyment in exploring both extremes.

The neatest innovation dealing with the extremes is your characters appearance. Depending on how you play the game, your character will turn out looking different each time you play. This is revolutionary and hasn't been done in another game to date. The major difference between the extremes is on the good side you will let off a light aura and you can develop a halo which fixates overtop of your head. On the evil side you actually can sprout horns out of your head, your skin will become more pale and you'll basically start looking evil. Its great to see the reactions when you stroll into towns in any character, you can have people running for cover as living evil, or have children, men and woman stand in ovation as your gloriously stride with your glowing halo. As I was playing my evil character is was great to see the chances, since the chances are more obvious. Although the devil horns just won't come by doing little evil deeds like stealing or vandalism. You have to kill the innocent, traders and townsfolk by the plenty to get the little buggers coming out of your head.

There is a great little system worked into Fable concerning your alignment and how people react to you, but it's also rated by your clothing. Each piece of clothing, tattoo's and even haircuts have a 'scariness' and 'attractiveness' meter build into them. So even if your character is so evil that people won't look in your direction you can put on some nice clothes and look more pleasing to the eye. The way I played was having one suit of amour for big battles, a nice leather amour suit for basic adventuring and a nice set of villager ware for in town. The system isn't perfect and you'll wonder about some of the haircut choices, but it adds another level of depth into the game. When did mutton chops ever drive the ladies crazy?

The next big innovation in Fable is the way you communicate with other people within the game. Activated by using the D-Pad you can pick jesters which can get pretty hilarious, especially on the dark sides of the coin. This new system is an improvement over the just click 'A' and has a conversation. They are broken up into a few different categories and to keep things short range from belch, apologize, middle finger, follow and sexy hero pose. Each jester will get a different reaction. For example you will use the sexy hero pose, and flirt jesters among others to get people to fall in love with you. Or you can use the follow and wait commands to control town's folk, and lure them out into the woods so you can secretly slaughter them. That would be under the evil alignment of course. I really enjoyed this way of communicating within Fable, the jesters help bring more personality out in the game.

Fable is another great RPG to add to your Xbox library, right along side of other impressive games like Knights of the Old Republic and Morrowind. Comparable, but vastly different, Fable is an experience unlike any other, showcasing some brilliant gaming innovations. Fable was worth the wait and it is defiantly worth a percentage of your paycheck. Everyone who owns an Xbox should give Fable a spin.

Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound: 10, Innovation: 9, Mojo: 10. Final: 9.5

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | Sept.28th 2004

Lionhead Studios
Action RPG
Sept. 2004