Back Catalogue: Fable

What is it about?

Fable is a third person action RPG created in an era before third person action games or western RPGs became as mainstream as they are today. Yes, it made its debut in the PS2 era as one of the few role-playing experiences available on the original Xbox. More famous for being a victim of Peter Molyneux’s overhype, it’s a rather straightforward tale of a boy seeking revenge and his coming of age to herodom with some novel gameplay elements that make it worth hacking and slashing through.

Why should I play it now?

Fable was one of the first games to incorporate elements that are commonplace in most AAA role-playing fare. For its time, it did a great job of incorporating morality. Do enough good deeds and you’ll find your visage decked with a halo and surrounded by butterflies. Go the evil route and you’ll gain facial scars, horns and have an entourage of flies. The NPCs would react accordingly as well. If this wasn’t enough, overeating makes your hero fat and much like the real world, people judge you by your appearance. Furthermore, the combat system is robust. You earn XP based on taking the story forward, skill (rogue like abilities), will (magic and spells) and strength (how often you end a goblin with an axe). Needless to say, Fable was a medieval prototype to grand current gen favourites such as the Mass Effect franchise, Kingdoms of Amalur and Fable 2 and 3 of course.

How does it hold up today?

Surprisingly decent to say the least. The art style makes the graphics a lot more tolerable than they would otherwise be. Throw in astoundingly good widescreen monitor support and it’s a joy to play. Well, at least on PC. As for consoles, disc version for Xbox 1 when played on the Xbox 360 exhibited more than a few hiccups and crashed a few times while the digital Xbox originals release (for the Xbox 360) was just as bad what with garbled textures and horrendous frame rate that makes a Powerpoint presentation seem fast. Yes I have three copies of the game, stop judging me. Needless to say, you have two options to get the best out of Fable. Either on the PC or on the Xbox 1 on a CRT TV since it doesn’t do widescreen well on a regular LCD.

Is it similar to anything else out there?

Kingdoms of Amalur and The Mass Effect series come to mind in the way which they handle morality while Amalur’s distribution of skill points is similar to Fable. While both mimic gameplay mechanics up to a degree, Fable’s distinctively British humour, reminiscent of Monty Python and Terry Pratchett is its own. Fable 2 carries the formula forward brilliantly and the third game, bugs notwithstanding is equally solid just in case you want your fix decked up in slightly modern graphical trappings.

What do I need to play this?

A semi-decent PC circa 2004 was good enough and that uber low entry barrier still stands on the PC. Else an Xbox 360 or an Xbox 1 would get the job done though it wouldn’t be the optimal or cheapest way to experience it.

When I played through…

I was hooked by the sheer whimsiness of the game’s presentation. It still strikes a chord today. In spite of the circumstances you’re put in, it never feels overtly morbid or horrific. The world in itself exhibits a fantastic streak of grey married with a great sense of humour that’s distinctively dry, witty and elicits wry smiles over the usual laugh out loud slapstick comedy that most titles try so hard to achieve. Playing it the second time around for this feature, I had already played through both sequels. It basically serves as a template for the later releases in terms of story, gameplay systems and design. Most of which has been good enough to last two generations of video games and hopefully beyond without getting stale. I was left with a lot more respect for what Molyneaux and friends achieved back in the day.

Is there anything else I should be aware of? (i.e. mods, crazy glitches, contribution to pop culture, Internet meme, etc)

If you’re buying it off the Xbox Live Marketplace, keep in mind that you won’t get The Lost Chapters content which essentially gives the main quest line a fair bit of closure and beefs up the roles of certain characters as well, making it a sort of director’s cut add-on. On PC however, you’ll get this content by default making it the definitive version to pick up.

Where do I get it?

You’re spoiled for choice. Digitally it’s available for $10 on Steam and Games For Windows Live (sans achievements mind you) while the Xbox Live Marketplace has it for 800 MS Points (without The Lost Chapters content). Amazon UK has the original Xbox 1 version going for around Rs. 1600 if you’re feeling retro while local grey market outlets seem to have it as well for a slightly lower price of Rs. 500-600. But for sheer convenience, your best bet is digital.

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