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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Fable falls short of legend
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online staff

When the role-playing game (RPG) Fable was first announced for the Xbox in 2001, it was billed as a game that could change the industry forever.

Fable
Will you take the dark path to glory?
It would offer almost unlimited freedom with a dizzying number of consequences for every action, we were told.

Three years later and the game is finally out, but it bears only a passing resemblance to the title first spoken about in such glowing terms.

In fact, the game's lead developer Peter Molyneux has apologised for the earlier hype surrounding the game.

He said: "If I have mentioned any feature in the past which, for whatever reason, didn't make it as I described into Fable, I apologise."

Fable may not be ground-breaking, but it is one of the most enjoyable RPG romps seen on a games console.

Moral choices

The game's impetus has much in common with the excellent Knights of the Old Republic - you will face many moral tests which determine if you are to develop an evil or good character.

The game begins with your character as a young child and you immediately face moral choices - should you stop a bully picking on another child, or accept a bribe to keep quiet after seeing a man philandering with a woman.

FABLE
Fable
Format: Xbox
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Enduring appeal: 6/10
Overall: 8/10

Graphically rich in detail with a quirky visual style that puts a twist on the usual swords and sorcery clichés, it is clear that Fable has been long in development.

The game really starts after the murder of the young child's father and the kidnapping of his mother and sister - and you are whisked through time to your teenage years.

Here, you begin to learn your combat and magic powers which develop as you progress through the game and are implemented well.

Soon bolts of lightning and quivering arrow bolts will be at your disposal to despatch your enemies.

The moral decisions you take as the game progresses affect how other characters in the Fable universe react to you - become evil and villagers will cower, become good and you will be a local legend.

You can attack villagers without reason, smash windows and generally become a hooligan, if you so desire.

Avenge

This moral development is exemplified in the physical change in your character over time - act evil and you will develop horns or a hunch, act good and an aura will slowly develop around you.

The main thrust of the game is to avenge the death of your father and track down your missing mother and sibling.

The game lets you loose in the world of Albion, which is exquisitely drawn and realised, and here you encounter a variety of characters who lead you into a number of missions.

You can get married (several times), have sex, and buy and sell property, but these are really distractions from the core mission of the game.

Unfortunately the core game itself is pretty linear and although there are different endings, they feel more like tacked on solutions than any genuine resolution.

The pleasure of the game is exploration and engaging with the hundreds of characters who inhabit the world of Albion, perhaps the most finely-realised virtual space since Ico on the PlayStation 2 a few years ago.

It is not the greatest role-playing game on a games console ever made, but in a strange way manages to capture the spirit of playing the original Dungeons and Dragons game.

And that is an achievement in itself.




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