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Reviewed: Fable
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: September 29th, 2004
Page: 2
As I mentioned, the game's not perfect. No game REALLY ever is; there's always something that could be gone back and improved, or changed, that might make it better. Fable is a game struck by ambitious ideas and the realities of the product cycle, and it's a positive thing for Lionhead that it's come out in a pretty damn fine condition for the rushes and changes. Since there were said rushes and changes, I'm going to include them in the review, and give a bit of explanation on each one.

The Positives

In terms of positives, Fable's got many. There's an easy to understand combat system - two weapon modes and quick access to magic (they call it Will). No, this doesn't mean you absolutely HAVE to use magic either, though even the most hardened of melee warriors will still probably pick up a few battle-oriented spells, like Berserk. Melee weapon combat is based on timing the "block" mode (omniblock; you block all melee attacks coming in, unless staggered by a spell or missile attack) and counterattacking for combination blows; the speed of your weapon can adversely affect this of course. Follow-up attacks in a chain are determined by the timing of button presses, so a series of short, rapid taps gives a series of short, rapid jabbing attacks and a few well-timed presses wields powerful, spinning swings of a heavy weapon. Press too soon or late, and you might not have the attack you want. Missile combat is similar; draw your weapon, sight up (either with lock-on or first person mode), and hold the button down to charge up the shot. Short charges give a less powerful, less accurate pull that may very well bounce right off armor or be blocked, while long charges yield significant damage and rarely are avoided. While readying a ranged weapon shot, your dodging ability and movement speed are also somewhat reduced. Spells are held similarly, but the rules for these vary by spell. Some function like missiles, some perform area-clearing attacks, and some enhance your missile or melee attacks.

Fable's got a rudimentary emotional system, including love and marriage. It's there, and you can even marry multiple wives (one in each town), and have sex with said wives. Later in the game, if you're playing a dashing figure, it may not even take any work to get married; I had half the women in each town bringing themselves up to marriageable states with no prompting on my part thanks to a few well-work articles of clothing and good charisma statistics. On the downside, extramarital sex isn't an option; killing your wife is.

Likewise, Fable's got a property system, though really exploiting it takes some doing and tends to raise the evil rating. You can, provided enough time and cash, buy whole towns and be a rent baron. It means ignoring the storyline, but if you're going to do something like that, you probably aren't too concerned with story.

What there is of the storyline is still pretty interesting, including hunting down lost members of the family, defeating fallen heroes, and generally saving the world. Or damning it. Your call.

The Negatives (and the Changes)

The aging system is not well done. Rather than aging with respect to the storyline or quests completed, aging is solely a function of experience points spent to build up statistics and magic; the more spent, the older the character gets. Old age changes nothing about how the game perceives the character, either. In order to revert age, characters have to either perform human sacrifices at the evil temple, or spend gold at the good temple. Nice idea, bad execution.

There were originally to have been many "Hero" characters inside Fable, all interacting in the storyline. In the final cut, we're left with a bare few - Thunder, Maze, Jack of Blades, Whisper, the fallen hero Twinblade and a one-shot appearance by a "Briar Rose" hero. This is a result of Lionhead's not having time to finish everything up.

There are load points everywhere. To counter this somewhat, the designers let characters teleport to within 1-2 steps of each zone. The tradeoff is that there's no penalty for entering all but one or two building areas, and when in an area, EVERY character - onscreen or not - is going about their daily business. Additionally, the "go anywhere" mentality is somewhat out the window, as only defined areas on each squarish map are actually accessible. Everything else is conveniently blocked off.

"Demon Doors", doors that require something very specific to open, are secreted through the game... though not very. Each requires a different deed to open, and some are actually part of the storyline, required to be opened to reach the next mission.

All in all, a decent game, but one hopes Fable 2 will be more polished and the side-quests and modes extended further.

Added:  Friday, October 01, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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