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Not as grand as originally thought.
By: Brian Hagen
Fable has been in the works for quite some time; however, it might not have been worth the wait. With all the hype that has surrounded it over there years(about its attention to morality, timeline, and literally shaping your own character), you would hope it's one of the best games ever created, but some people realize by now that the hype never completely coincides with the truth. Let's start off with how the game looks.
Visually, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The graphics are technically great, but there's just one problem holding them back. The shadowing of the trees looks great, and there's a good glow effect that really brings out the lighting and style to the entire game. The textures are nice and sharp, the coloring of everything is very mystical, and animation of the characters tend to be very smooth and life-like. The framerate, however, has the tendency to metaphorically stride loudly up to the character and kick them in the groin.. People always seem to hype up the Xbox by saying it's a really powerful system, but apparently it isn't powerful enough. The framerate goes anywhere from a steady 24-30 frames per second to a shoddy 10-15. On console games, that sort of framerate gap hasn't been seen often since the Playstation and N64 era. You might think this doesn't matter, but since combat in the game needs such precise timing and skill, the low framerate and input control time slowdown often aid your foes. So, while Lionhead Studios really worked to create an incredible looking setting, the hardware they were working with just wasn't good enough. Since combat was already mentioned, we'll head to that subject next.
Final Fantasy turn-based combat lovers will run in to some trouble here. Devil May Cry and Chaos Legion fans, you're in luck. The game's action RPG combat functions more like a third person action game instead of an RPG. RPGs do cross over in to practically every genre around nowadays, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing. So, focus on combat is attack as often as possible, evade attacks using an invulnerable rolling dodge move, and attack more, comboing in to a "flourish" attack if possible. Flourish attacks cannot be blocked, plus there are a few different types of flourishes . Of course, this gets a bit more complicated when you factor in the enemy blocking your attacks before you can flourish and counter-attacking before you can assume any sort of defensive tactics.
Fable's music sounds wonderful since its soundtrack contains real symphonic music, not the sampled MIDI instruments that you'd hear in most PSX, PS2, or even Gamecube games. The only problem with the wonderful music is that there's not enough of it. Be prepared to listen to the same tracks all the time. If you really like the music, though, that shouldn't be much of a problem.
Playing through the game is also more challenging thanks to the weirdness of the Xbox controller layout. That doesn't mean it's challenging in a good way. Terribly placed black and white buttons make it entirely too difficult to do the simple tasks of readying or putting away your weapon. Furthermore, there seems to be a slight time lag on almost all of your actions, making instant combat reactions very difficult. Also, if you try to use the lock-on feature to center the game's camera right in front of you, be ready to accidentally slice innocents, or scare them away with brandished fists or weapons. The lock-on feature is so sensitive at actually locking on to people(even those who you're trying to protect) that those used to the 3D Zelda game's camera system might commit many a violent blunder. The game isn't too long in theory(to complete the storyline), but if you factor in failed quests and deaths, your hour counter might be much higher than it seems in reality.
Of course, even if the game isn't all that long, there's definitely a lot to go back and see. Complete the quests with different boasts and different objectives if you'd like. Play through as a good person one time, or a bad person the next. Marry three women, kill two of them and divorce the other. There's plenty to do, you just have to get the will to go back and do it.
The game's big selling point, its morality system, isn't even as comprehensive as it should be. Any Dungeons & Dragons player from any point is history probably knows how open-ended the lawful, neutral, chaotic plus good, neutral, evil system can be. They are nice choices, and there are infinite little variations between each classification. But there is no middle ground in Fable. Either you do something morally acceptable or morally unthinkable. You cannot support the grey area, only fall in to the grey area by being pretty good, and pretty bad. So, even this game's selling point isn't up to par. If this system is the reason you want to play the game, make sure it isn't your only reason, as there are many better alternatives out there.
We won't try explaining the actual storyline to Fable, because if we tried to just tell you be basics, we'd spoil everything. The game's storyline DOES exist, it's just not as big and compelling as it could have been. To make another comparison, even Morrowind had a larger storyline to keep up with, and Morrowind was a non-linear RPG. So don't play this game if you're expecting grander adventures than the ones you've hopefully already experienced.
In conclusion, this is NOT a bad game. It's entertaining at best. You can waste a good bit of time on it. But because of its problems, we can't give it similarly outstanding scores that you may have seen elsewhere. Fable is mainly a collection of systems from other games put in to one game. It works, just not as well as it could have. Seeing how the game was in production for so long, that's actually quite a shame to say, but at least it's an honest statement.
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