posted 10/15/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
I don’t know about you, the Xbox hasn’t really appealed to me as an RPG platform. All of the big-name franchises appear on the PlayStation 2 while the GameCube has all of the Nintendo-specific properties. However, Microsoft has been trying to change this image as of late by building upon the success of Knights of the Old Republic. With a full head of steam the company committed itself to the RPG market but it would soon drop the ball. Its Xbox Live online RPG, True Fantasy Live Online, met an abrupt death and Sudeki, its other over-hyped property fell flat on its face. So now it’s up to Big Blue Box’s Fable to carry the weight and bring pride back to the face of Xbox gamers. If you ask us, they’ve done an excellent job, providing Xbox owners with an RPG that they can flaunt in the faces of all the PS2 fanboys in the world.

Fable tells the story of a young boy whose world is tragically upended. The tale begins quite pleasantly in a quaint little town on the countryside. A young boy is counseled by his father for neglecting to buy his sister a birthday present. To help the boy, the father offers up one gold piece for every good deed he commits. Upon finishing the deeds the boy is able to purchase a box of chocolates for his sister, but things go sour quickly afterwards. As he meets up with his sister a group of thugs rushes the town and razes it to ashes. The boy hides in the brush as the entire town is slaughtered and set ablaze. When trying to find his parents a mysterious figure appears and transports him to safety. After that he takes him under his wing and offers him guidance as he travels from adolescence to adulthood. Thus begins our tale as the young boy grows up and sets out to find the culprits behind the disaster and the special powers imbued within him.

All right, so the story is as generic as it gets but the designers were wise enough to add in one special feature that you won’t find in other RPGs; the ability to shape and craft your story as you progress. As you complete more missions and accomplish more tasks, your character will undergo some major changes. How you decide to make your name is entirely up to you as is the fate of your adventure. Will you side with good and protect the land from those who wish to harm it? Or will you fall to the dark side and strike fear into the hearts of all those who oppose you? Each decision you make will go a little way towards deciding what kind of person you ultimately end up to be. In Fable’s mind, what separates it from the rest of the gaming world is that it takes consequence into account for each action. Personally I’ve always found it silly when RPGs allow you to wander into someone’s house and rob them blind when they’re standing right in front of you. If you try to recreate this scenario in Fable you’ll be caught and the guards will be alerted. After that you have the choice of running away, fighting off the guards or paying the fine for your actions. In certain missions you’ll be given the option of siding with the good or the bad. Do you choose to defend a barn from attackers and help the defenseless villages? Or do you side with the bandits and loot the poor souls? Fable lures you in with exciting propositions such as these but it quickly fails to exploit them to the fullest extent. That’s because it rarely offers you the chance to choose which side you’re on. Instead you’ll have to earn good and bad points through non-mission oriented actions. The path to evil is paved with little things like stealing from villagers and breaking windows as opposed to larger scale offenses.

One of the biggest features in Fable is the manner in which you shape your character. As you perform deeds and gain renown your character changes to look the part. Commit enough good deeds and you’ll be seen in a divine light; side with evil and you’ll notice your posture weakening to the point where you’re completely hunched over and horns have grown out of your head. It’s all done fairly well with a lot of subtleties that you really have to see to appreciate. Furthermore you can personally change the hairstyle of your character by finding hairstyle cards scattered throughout the land. Take one to a barber and you’ll have yourself a new hairdo to go with that rippling physique of yours. It’s fun to go over to a friend’s house and be able to see just how drastically different your character looks from his.
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