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Page 1 of 2Fable may be one of the most appropriately named games ever made. For years, it appeared that Peter Molyneux's pet project was little more than the stuff of fairy tales. You'd hear a whisper here, a rumor there, see some conceptual art or maybe a screen shot, but it seemed like it was never actually going to arrive. When the game finally hit shelves, it felt more than a little surreal to have the reality of it in my hands. Wow, I thought, this is Fable. I've been looking forward to this day for years, and now I can finally, finally, play the game I've been longing for. How much is it gonna suck?
Don't think I'm a cynical gamer, because I'm not. It's not like I go into every new gaming experience wondering how awful it's going to be. But Molyneux was taking on such a huge project with Fable, the potential for suckitude was large. Starting with the basics of RPG gaming, the questing, the leveling up, the equipment, and so forth, Molyneux expanded his vision both outward and inward by resting the weight of the Fable's gameplay on the development of a single character. The shtick, as we've been reading for eons, is that you start off as a young boy, then age and change as the game progresses. More to the point, you change depending on how you play the game. If you get up close and personal during the fighting, you'll get scars. If you sneak around at night a lot, you'll have pasty white skin. For every choice, a consequence, that was the tag line. Think about that for a second. We were told that every single thing we did in Fable would be considered by the game's engine and affect the ultimate outcome. In the middle of all of that, we were supposed to believe that there would be engaging combat, an intriguing storyline, and the stunning graphics and music that you'd expect from a high-profile title.
You see what I mean when I say the potential for disaster was enormous?
Fortunately for everyone, Fable delivers on all counts. The story is simple, but sucks you in right away. As a young boy, bandits raid your village, burning it to the ground and killing just about everyone in sight. They torture your mother and sister, attempting to discover your whereabouts, and when they fail, they take what's left of your family with them. If that doesn't stir your revenge gene, not much will. As you're heaving your guts out (in a vibrant, though somewhat nauseating cut-scene), a mysterious man comes to take you away to the Hero's Guild, where you are to be trained in the Heroic arts: swordplay, archery, and magic. The Guild will eventually serve as home base for your adventures. You can come back to rest, to stock up on supplies, or simply to pick up your next quest. It's also where you'll use your acquired experience points to (buy) new skills and spells.
Your time at the Guild also introduces you to some of the game's more amusing diversions, such as flirting with a barmaid, then farting in front of her. (Hey, give me a break.you ARE only about 12 when you get there.) Ok, ok, seriously, the Guild is where you encounter your first side quests, shopkeepers, and Demon Door. The side quests you'll encounter throughout your time in Fable range from simple fetch quests to difficult dungeon crawls to bizarre trips to the barber. Shopkeepers all tend to carry the same merchandise, but their prices will vary wildly, allowing a savvy Hero to make an extra bit of coin by buying low at one shop and selling high at another. Demon Doors are one of the more charming aspects of the game. Each door has its own particular requirement that must be met before it will open for you, such as being fat, being married, or being sufficiently evil. You don't have to open all of the doors in the game, or even any of them, but they guard such tasty treasures, it's in your best interests to try.
Once you've grown up enough to venture out into the world, you'll take on a few introductory quests that ease you into actual combat situations, instead of the artificial setting of a practice ring. Quests come in two flavors: optional and mandatory. The mandatory ones are those that advance the plot and follow the main story arc, while the optional ones are really just there for fun and profit. Completing all of the mandatory quests won't take you very long, perhaps 12 hours at most, a fact which has turned many message boards into irate bitch-fests. People, give me a break. Step away from your collection of Yuna and Rikku porn for a moment and realize that an RPG does not have to clock in at 40+ hours of gameplay to be good. Especially when the game in question begs and pleads to be played over and over again.