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Friday, 24 October 2014



If someone asks me why I did this series of reviews, I'm going to have the really undramatic answer of 'eh', because I totally just had a day I needed to fill and decided to vent my spleen on Fable III. But it's relevant, right? Fable is always relevant to gamers. 

Coming out in 2004, Fable was an open world fantasy action RPG, in which your character, who you would see grow from a child into a wrinkled elderly man, travels the land performing heroic quests as part of the Heroes' Guild of Albion. Torn away from his loving family by bandits when he was young, the hero sets out to rediscover his elder sister and his mother, bringing him into conflict with famed Hero Jack of Blades, who may be more than he appears. 

Who wouldn't trust this man?

Fable was iconic largely for how accessible and open it was. Dropped into the world, you had your choice of which sidequests to do - from helping farmers defend their farms from bandits to helping those bandits steal from the farm in question - your choice of whether you relied on your sword, your magic, your bow, or all of the above, and your choice of how to interact with the people around you, whether you wanted to up your sex appeal and charm them, or up how scary you looked and intimidate them, or just bribe them, or anything in between. Every action you took affected you, not only by leading you towards a different ending but also by changing your appearance and how people responded to you. For its time, it was very advanced, and it was a breath of fresh air coming in what had otherwise been a very stagnant period for games.

Not that it was perfect. I played it just before Fable II came out, and even in a rather small intervening period of just a few years, its age had started to show. The sidequests are often ill-fleshed out (although there's something pleasant about the ridiculous drama of fending off giant wasps from a picnic site) and basically amount to killing things, the main storyline can feel rushed at times, the open world is - not that small, actually, but there are certainly sections of it that feel bizarrely tiny - and the combat is clunky and awkward. 

If you tell me my health is low one more time.

But the other thing about Fable is that it sticks with you, in a big way. It's here that the Pratchett-style humour is most at the forefront (and occasionally Douglas Adams' style humour, including what I can only presume is a direct reference to THGTTG), here that we see the groundwork laid both for the more complicated sidequests in Fable II and the more complicated 'your character changes according to your actions' game mechanics that would show up both in future Fable games and in a slew of other games by other developers. 

It's well-plotted, well-paced, with interesting and nuanced characters like Thunder and Whisper, and with an engaging villain (I am irrationally intrigued by Jack of Blades, and keep hoping for him to show up again, even though we know barely anything about him), more than a few genuinely emotional moments, and a final battle - or two, if you're including the one in The Lost Chapters - that's definitely memorable, if a little frustrating. I mean, really, an invisible attack, Jack? Really? The plot knew when to put you on edge, too. The prison section, where every failed escape attempt meant staying in there for another in-game year, was particularly difficult to stomach, even if they did one-up themselves for Fable II where you could literally haemorrhage experience. 

Whisper's great. I like Whisper. This is the best picture I could find of her
on short notice, unfortunately.

It also put British game development on the map in a big way - which has turned out to be a fortuitous thing, given that since then British game companies have produced games like the rebooted Devil May Cry, the rebooted Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and loads more that are generally very high quality, very well received, and, most importantly for any game from any country, not Call of Duty. These games may not have ever happened without Fable. 

So, it's not a perfect game, but it is a fun one, and it is an iconic one that has altered the industry as we know it, and the beginning of a franchise that seemed destined for great things. That alone should be recognised and praised, by which I mean that Peter Molyneux should just get that knighthood he's on track for already. There are openings, a few people have lost them recently. 

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