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I kind of remember when Fable was in its heyday but I never got the chance to play it. I knew it was an RPG and focused on the concept of good and evil. I also learned that it was full of broken promises that apparently upset a lot of players. I guess I was lucky enough to not have followed the game’s development since I had no idea what players were expecting and what they actually got. I did do a little reading on the subject after I beat the game just to see what could have been and, yeah, there’s definitely some reasons why people would be upset. Developed by Big Blue Box Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Fable was released for Xbox in September, 2004. The game was expanded and re-released as Fable: The Lost Chapters for PC and Xbox in 2005. The Lost Chapters was remastered for Xbox 360 and released in February, 2014. It was then released for PC in September of that same year. I tried playing The Lost Chapters once before and didn’t get very far but this time I decided to give it a real chance. For this review, I played the PC versions of both The Lost Chapters and Anniversary.
Fable takes place in the world of Albion and you play as a boy who grows up to become a hero. The story opens with the boy living in Oakvale and on his sister’s birthday, the town is raided by bandits who proceed slaughter the boy’s family. The boy is rescued and brought to the Heroes’ Guild where heroes are trained and hired to complete quests. The Guild makes no moral judgement on the actions of its heroes. The boy is raised and trained at the Guild which also doubles as the tutorial to show the player the mechanics. Once his training is complete, he’s free to do whatever he wants. The main quest will lead you to the evil behind the raid of Oakvale. I actually don’t mind the plot itself but it was hard to care about most of the characters due to the poor voice acting all around. Granted, some of the performances are humorous but most, if not all, are below average.
Fable places an emphasis on making decisions. You’ll complete quests and you’ll often have to make a decision which effects your alignment. Will you be good or will you be evil? Vandalizing, stealing, and killing innocent people is all bad. Sparing people, rescuing people, and you know, not being an asshole is good. If you want to be good, don’t unsheathe your weapon in restricted areas. If you want to be evil, go ahead and unsheathe it and then slaughter everybody in town. If you do commit crimes in a town and are reported to the guards, they will come after you. You can bribe guards so they turn their backs while you steal but you’ll have to pay a fine for your serious crimes and the cost goes up the more crimes you commit. To take on quests, you have to visit the Heroes’ Guild and some of them specifically cater to the good or evil alignments. You’ll have to escort people, rescue hostages, retrieve items, and infiltrate a bandit camp, among other things and when accepting a quest, you have the option to boast. Boasting means you basically make things a bit harder by adding a bonus objective to the quest like complete the quest naked, ensure nobody dies, don’t use weapons or aggressive magic, and if you can accomplish these objectives, you’ll earn extra gold. One quest puts you in an arena which can be the most profitable quest in the game. You fight enemies from all over Albion in rounds and each round you win rewards you with gold. Escorting people is easily the worst quest type because you usually have to protect them and you’re always outnumbered and many of these people don’t know how to defend themselves. You can command them to stay or follow you and it’s best to have them stay somewhere in the distance while you deal with the threats in the area. Even then, they can still get attacked by enemies that seem to come out of nowhere. During my time with Anniversary, I noticed enemies actually do spawn behind or near you which can be very annoying during escort quests. You’ll be rewarded with gold, experience, and trophies for completing quests and you’ll also gain renown and the higher your renown the bigger the reaction you’ll get from people in the world. But they’re reaction will differ depending on if you’re good or evil. They’ll love you if you’re good and despise you if you’re evil. Renown is not only earned by completing quests but also by killing enemies, winning competitions, showing off your quest trophies, and other actions that can make you famous. As your renown increases, you’ll gain access to new actions or expressions which are basically ways to interact with NPC’s. These include things like belching, farting, laughing, and others and many of them are associated with the good or evil alignments.
I have to say, I really enjoy the setting, atmosphere, and charm of the game. Albion is like a fantasy world full of magic, monsters, and your typical sword and sorcery type of shit. You’ll navigate through forests, wooded areas, graveyards, towns, and other locations on your many quests. However, my biggest disappointment with the game is the way the world is designed. Fable is open world but it’s a very linear world. It’s not really a sprawling world. The world is split up into multiple areas separated by loading points and each area is kind of small and full of linear paths. Despite the world design, there’s plenty to do. You can buy and sell items at shops and traders, play and bet on games like black jack, coin golf, and guess the addition. A shop will only have a certain number of items in stock and after buying them all, you’ll have to wait for more to come in. You can buy properties like homes, spend gold to decorate them, and rent them out or live in them with your spouse. Yes, you can get married and divorced. In Anniversary, I took the evil path and just slaughtered everyone because fuck them. But what’s cool about this is if you kill everyone living in a building, that building will become available for purchase. Besides forcefully evicting people, you can drink beer, sleep with women, and hire bodyguards. Enemies will be encountered in many areas, and they’ll often respawn if you leave and come back later, or maybe new enemies will await you. Traders and NPC’s will be walking around, some may ask for assistance, and you can fast travel through the Cullis Gates scattered around or use your Guild Seal after it’s charged. The world itself, at least compared to open world games today, is pretty small, but it’s rich with content.
You can walk, run, sneak, and interact with things in the environment. Fallen enemies drop green experience orbs which make up general experience and you have to absorb these manually for some reason which can be a minor nuisance. In fact, the orbs seem unnecessary altogether. Why can’t I just earn the experience automatically? Why do I have to hold a button to absorb the orbs? As you use your melee, ranged, and magic attacks, you earn experience in those individual categories. You can visit the guild to spend experience points on upgrades for each. You can increase your health, resistance, and how much damage you inflict, the accuracy of your ranged attacks, and if you spend experience on Guile, sneaking and thievery will become much easier. You can also spend experience on new magic abilities. Combat consists of melee and ranged attacks and magic or will abilities. You can equip swords, katanas, axes, cleavers, hammers, bows, crossbows, and if you wield a heavy weapon, you may not be able to swing it properly unless you have enough points pumped into your strength attributes. What I find odd about this game is the lack of shields. Apparently, this is a world with melee weapons, bows, and magic but no shields. You can defend yourself by blocking and with defensive magic but you can’t acquire and use a shield which I really don’t understand. You can cast different types of magic attacks, both offensive and defensive, which drain mana but your mana does replenish over time. You can, of course, use a potion to replenish it quickly. The combat is pretty simple to learn and get a hang of. You slash away with your melee weapon, fire arrows with your bow, and cast magic spells. There is a lock-on mechanic that feels a bit clunky or just outdated and in The Lost Chapters, depending on your armor, your character can become so bulky that he blocks your view of what you’re attacking. There’s a lot of options when it comes to magic. You can cast lightning, hurl fireballs, slow down time, summon monsters to aid you, and more. Now you can block most attacks, you also have the option to roll out of the way, and if you successfully keep landing hits, you’ll increase your combat multiplier which grants you the ability to perform a flourish attack. All this means is you can perform a powerful melee attack that deals a significant amount of damage. The multiplier also determines how much experience your character gains when orbs are collected. I don’t think the character building is very deep, but I did feel like I was getting stronger as I progressed.
I just want to say that the controls in The Lost Chapters are awful. Yes, you can remap them but I never found anything comfortable mainly because flourish, run, and toggle first-person targeting are all tied to the same button. I don’t really care if I use a controller or keyboard and mouse as long as I’m comfortable and The Lost Chapters was just uncomfortable to control. Fable was originally developed for the Xbox so maybe that has something to do with it, I don’t know, but I just found it very difficult to get used to the controls. I tried using Xpadder with an Xbox One controller and it worked but I did run into some flaws and eventually resorted back to the keyboard and mouse. Anniversary supports a controller which I did use and had a much better time. Although, I found navigating the menus to be a bit clunky. Anyway, when you take damage you lose health. There is a magic spell that allows you to heal yourself but you can also drink potions or eat the food you find or buy in the world. But beware, eat too much food and you’ll gain weight. Some potions will immediately grant one of your attributes experience and drinking elixirs will permanently increase your health or mana. Traders and shops will offer various items to buy including clothing which is basically armor, weapons, food, and gifts that you may want to give to people. You can also sell items to vendors if you have no use for them or just need gold. Some items can be found in the world like in chests or barrels. Some barrels are explosive so you need to be aware of your surroundings but you can blow up these barrels to kill or damage enemies. Some chests require keys to be opened and many of them require more than one key. These keys can be found throughout the world.
Weapons have slots for augmentations that can make them more efficient. For example, the silver augmentation will make your weapon more effective against Balverine’s and undead enemies. The sharpening augmentation will make your weapon inflict more damage. The piercing augmentation reduces the effectiveness of enemy armor. There’s all kinds of augmentations you can acquire and unfortunately, they cannot be removed once inserted. Some of the more powerful equipment you can acquire comes with augmentations already applied. You can find or buy different pieces of armor that make up various outfits. Armor will not only help you in combat but it also affects your appearance. Your character’s appearance can be altered in numerous ways. Armor is one way to determine your attractiveness or scariness, food effects your weight, and you can further customize your character with style cards. But you need to find or acquire them first. You can acquire tattoo and hairstyle cards which can be taken to the appropriate vendors to apply whatever style you choose to your character. Like armor, style cards do affect your attractiveness so if you’re trying to attract a mate, you’ll want to pay attention to these stats. When equipping armor or applying style cards you need to be aware of their alignment modifier which relates to good and evil so you should pay attention to what you’re wearing and how you look.
In between quests, you can pretty much do whatever you want. You can fish or dig for items, kill people, drink and get drunk, get others drunk, or participate in competitions. You can donate gold at the Temple of Avo or sacrifice people at the Chapel of Skorm, both of which can result in rewards. If you see a heart above an NPC’s head, that means they’re interested in you. If you flirt with the person often enough, they may ask you for a wedding ring. If you buy a house, you and your spouse can live and sleep there. When you sleep in beds, time will advance. Fable does include a day/night cycle. You’ll see NPC’s walking around towns and doing things during the day and at night, they’ll be asleep in their homes. You can interact with all kinds of objects like containers and book cases which may contain items. You can acquire potions to restore your health, mana or will, and resurrection phials will automatically bring you back to life if you die. There are no difficulty modes to choose from in The Lost Chapters but in Anniversary, you can choose from two – Chicken and Heroic. Chicken is like the original game and on Heroic, resurrection phials are no longer in the game, enemies are tougher, and health potions are more scarce. With that said, The Lost Chapters and playing on the Chicken difficulty in Anniversary isn’t very difficult. Demon Doors are scattered throughout the environments and to get through them, you have to complete a specific task like killing enemies, meeting an appearance requirement, committing an act of evil, and other various objectives. Once you satisfy the door, you can pass through and you can usually obtain special equipment.
Throughout the world of Albion are all kinds of enemies. You’ll encounter bandits, nymphs, Balverine’s which are like a were-wolf enemy types, hobbes, wasps, undead creatures, and there are a few boss battles, none of which are extremely difficult. Some enemies are weak to specific augmentations like the White Balverines and Undead. Enemies will attack you and sometimes block your attacks. Some enemies like bandits use crossbows to attack from a distance and some enemy attacks cannot be blocked so you’ll have to know when to evade. Many times, you’ll be surrounded by enemies and you will want to learn their attack patterns so you know when to block, roll, and flourish. The clunky lock-on mechanic sometimes makes the combat more challenging than it needs to be but if you’re playing The Lost Chapters or on the Chicken difficulty mode in Anniversary, you’ll probably never worry about running out of health. Health potions and resurrection phials are pretty much everywhere and food will also heal you when consumed. Whether you suck at the combat or not, chances are you’ll be fine.
I really do enjoy the visual style of Fable. The presentation has it’s ups and downs in both versions. I think Anniversary looks better overall but it does have some issues. I noticed some significantly blurry textures here and there and pop-in is rampant. The Lost Chapters has more of a toon-like quality going for it which I do enjoy but it does look a bit dated. The music in the game is quite good and I know Danny Elfman was brought in to do the game’s theme. The soundtrack contains a lot of memorable songs that fit the fantasy theme the game is going for. There are some what I’ll call “adventurous” sounding tunes and some of the more intense stuff is heard when engaging enemies. The sound effects are loud and clear which helps to emphasize the action. On the technical side, I experienced some issues in both versions. I’ve heard some terrible things about the console version of Anniversary but I can’t say there was anything that really ruined the game for me. In Anniversary, I noticed some weird flashing at one point and in The Lost Chapters, the game crashed on me once and I saw some objects glitching every now and again.
I must say, the evil path is the way to go. I found it much more enjoyable to play the game without having to worry about anyone or anything. Every now and then I would go on a murderous rampage and slaughter every motherfucker I came across because I could and it’s cool watching your character’s appearance change depending on your alignment. You could attempt to be neutral, of course, but if you go straight evil, it feels like you have more freedom. My biggest gripe with this game is the world design. The world is just a giant series of small areas and/or linear paths broken up by loading points. I really want to know what the developer’s intent was when designing the world. Is it supposed to be open world? Am I supposed to feel a sense of freedom? I never really got the sense I could actually go anywhere I want even though I technically can. But only within the limitations of those small areas. And all the loading points can become immersion-breaking after a while. The gameplay itself is fine. The combat, controls, and lock-on mechanic can be clunky at times but once I got the hang of things, I was having fun. From what I had heard about the game before playing, I didn’t expect the amount of content that’s actually here so I was a bit surprised. The freedom of choice is really cool and gives players a reason to keep coming back. Plus, you can kind of live a life and do whatever you want and your actions can affect the world and how people treat you. Ultimately, I had a good time with Fable and have concluded that being evil is the most enjoyable way to play.
I would recommend Fable to fans of action games and RPG’s. It’s a flawed game and some things about it are definitely dated but it is enjoyable to play. I love the atmosphere and the game has a lot of charm. The freedom of choice is the real meat of the experience and is what gives Fable replay value. If making choices wasn’t an option, I get the vibe, this would be a lot worse. I can’t say the world or combat are the greatest things ever but how your actions affect the world certainly make things interesting and I was very interested to play through Anniversary after beating The Lost Chapters just to make different choices and see what happens. If you’ve never played Fable, definitely give it a shot if you think it looks interesting.