`Fable' is well-written and fun, but not revolutionary

Game Room

October 21, 2004|By Victor Godinez | Victor Godinez,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

For a while, Microsoft's Xbox game Fable seemed like a myth itself, given how long it has been in development and how much pre-release hype it received.

But Fable is finally here. Although it's not a revolution in the role-playing genre, it is well-written, beautifully drawn and a lot of fun to play.

The game uses a third-person perspective, so you can watch your character traipse through the woods, interact with others and change his appearance.

Fable is a lot like another Xbox role-playing game, Knights of the Old Republic. Both focus on developing your character through moral choices.

In Fable, you start out as a child with simple ethical dilemmas: Do you squeal on the cheating husband or accept a bribe to keep quiet? Defend the kid from the bully or join in the taunting?

After your village is destroyed, you're recruited into the Heroes' Guild for basic training in sword play, archery and wizardry. Once you have those skills under your belt, you can accept quests to rescue villages, plunder traveling merchants and so forth.

You can choose both good and evil quests, and you aren't rewarded or punished for choosing one over the other.

But if you embark on a career as a scoundrel, your physical appearance will reflect your unholy appetites. You'll grow horns, hunch over and frighten villagers.

If you act like a saint, rescuing damsels and sparing the weak, you'll develop a noble appearance.

It's a great way for your actions to have consequences. But regardless of how many innocent villagers you put to the sword or spare from your wrath, the basic plot stays the same.

You can also alter your physical appearance by getting a haircut, adding tattoos and - as in most role-playing games - acquiring new clothing and armor.

There's a little bit of The Sims in Fable in that you can even get married and divorced. This adds to the personality of the game but doesn't affect how it progresses. You don't get a different plot, for example, if you marry.

And you can play only as a man in the game.

Being able to play as a female hero probably would have greatly expanded the audience for this game, but Peter Molyneux, head of the development firm that created Fable, has said that a lot of planned features didn't make it into the final product. That includes an online component.

The music is excellent and segues smoothly from combat tunes to soothing classical to solemn chanting.

Fable is taking some grief in online forums for not redefining the role-playing genre the way, say, Final Fantasy VII did several years ago.

But not every game has to be a milestone, and Fable excels on its own terms.

Fable

Price: $49

Rating: M for mature audiences ages 17 and up.

Platform: Xbox

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