Sammy's lost chapters usually had something to do with beer
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Wed, 14 September 2005
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So I'm wearing a dress and a chicken hat, shooting lightning out of my fingers (Palpatine style) and zapping a dude until his head pops right off. I then kick the detached head around like a soccer ball for a while. After that I head off to do a spot of fishing, get a few new tattoos and cap it all off with a few rounds of cards and several beers at the nearest bar. That's a typical day in Fable: The Lost Chapters and it is also the kind of thing that makes me glad to be a gamer.
Fable comes from the legendary game designer Peter Molyneux and originally appeared on the Xbox. It was hyped to the moon and back as a title that would revolutionize the role playing genre and change games forever. Of course, it didn't really do that, so some people felt a bit let down. Not me though, because this is still a damn fine game. To me Fable feels like a mixture of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Grand Theft Auto and Zelda. That's a pretty sweet combination; as those are three of my all time favourites.
The story elements are nicely told, often with cutscenes rendered with attractive paintings (which again reminded me of Zelda, in this instance Wind Waker). What helps it all work so well is the great sense of tongue in cheek humour punctuated throughout and the genuinely amusing characters you meet on your adventure. They are very well voiced too and the charming British accents make for a nice change from all the hip-hop gangsta dudes I've encountered in so many games in recent times.
If you are one of the many old timers who bemoan the demise of the Monkey Island style adventure game, Fable is probably the closest thing you can get to that vibe right now. It isn't as funny as those old titles, but Fable does have a few moments of great absurd humour. The people who populate this game are fun and they react differently towards you depending on your actions, at times to a very comical effect. That is most refreshing in this age of so many dull, non-descript and interchangeable game characters.
|That's pretty much what I wear at home too. |
You start off as a young boy and follow the story as he grows up and gains experience. It is all pretty familiar to anyone who has played role playing games previously (and if you haven't, it is explained in-game using very clear and simple terms and training tutorials, making it all pretty user friendly). You can improve your skills with different weapons, magic, stealth etc. This certainly allows for a good deal of variety in combat, though essentially it makes little difference to the game. You kill things in different ways, but you will still be killing the same things no matter what methods you use.
However, you have a great deal of freedom here in terms of how you go through the adventure, what style of character you become and how much of the game's world you explore. You can change your characters look in a huge number of ways and your actions will also affect that, as well as how others view you. That's not as unique as Fable's designers probably want people to believe it is, but nonetheless it is the type of thing I really love. Games like this totally consume me. I become almost obsessed with trying out as many different things as the game allows. It was pretty funny that I'd have to remember to feed my game character as well as myself whilst playing and I also had to remind myself that both of us needed to get some sleep now and then.
In real life I am a nice, good hearted kind of bloke (at least, I'd like to think so). As such, when a game gives me the option, I like to mix things up a bit and I always choose to play as a totally cruel and evil bastard. So, that's exactly what I wound up doing in Fable and boy was it fun! You could tell just how evil my dude was because he sprouted horns from his forehead and even had flies buzzing around him! Actually, that reminded me of those devil kids with the hockey sticks in Kevin Smith's Dogma. The impact of being good or evil is not as pronounced or effective in Fable as it is in the Knights of the Old Republic games, but it is still a welcome element that gives players something more to mess around and experiment with. It also provides a better reason than most games to go through the adventure more than once, just to see what changes take place when you approach things in different ways.
I consider the presentation of Fable: The Lost Chapters to be absolutely wonderful in every sense of the word. The Xbox version is very nice looking, but if you have decent hardware, The Lost Chapters on PC has way more detail and the graphics are taken to a whole new level. The world feels extremely life like to me, which made it much easier to become fully engrossed in it all. I would at times just stop and watch the sun setting in the sky, or listen to a waterfall nearby. We've come a long way from the days when I'd have to use my imagination to allow myself to believe all those green squares were actually a forest in the original Legend of Zelda! Sometimes I think it is important to take the time to appreciate how amazing some modern games really are, in an aesthetic sense at the very least. The way the beams of light realistically shoot through tree branches, the reflective glimmers on the river waters, the fantastic atmosphere of a thunderstorm; all of this and more is represented majestically in Fable and I enjoyed savouring every second of it. The sound effects are just as expertly implemented and the music is varied and contextually fitting.
|All sorts of magical beings. Make sure you kill each and every one of them. |
Some of the creatures in Fable are very cool too. There are all sorts of fantasy monsters, beauties and beasts, to meet and slay along the way. I can't really fault the level of detail that's gone into the artistic design of the game.
As for the actual gameplay, well, that's pretty straightforward, which is both a good and bad thing. It is good because, despite the truly huge variety of actions you can learn and perform it never feels confusing. The mouse/keyboard combo works extremely well and you can customize the controls to suit yourself. I found the default setting comfortable from the get go and never had any issues with that. Before too long I was able to sword fight with the best of 'em, fire off all sorts of magical abilities, take people out from a distance with a well aimed arrow and much more, without any trouble at all. Fable's combat lock on targeting is another element I'd suggest was "inspired" by a Zelda game and it works well.
On the downside, the majority of the actual missions follow pretty similar patterns, the fighting itself begins to feel rather repetitive after a while and you rarely feel particularly challenged. Because life replenishing food and health potions are so easily attained you are able to hack your way through most missions without a great deal of difficulty. Since you get to pick and choose many of the missions and the different ways you can undertake them, the lack of challenge never feels like an overwhelming problem, there's always so much to do that it hardly matters in the long run. Even so, a bit more balance with these mostly basic tasks would have made Fable an even more impressive game. There's rarely any kind of epic feel to the key points of the game, as you'd hope for when facing the more important opponents. I wouldn't call the battles dull either though, a touch underwhelming perhaps, but amusing enough all the same.
Fable: The Lost Chapters is not a revolution, as it was originally billed. The whole experimental, open-ended (sandbox) gameplay deal has been done before and, in some cases, better. There's a great sense of personality about this one though and Fable does do a whole lot of things very well. There's enough to keep you entertained for a great deal of time, if you allow yourself to get fully into all the game has to offer. Now that they have gotten all the elements lined up, I believe that a follow up to Fable has the potential to be one of the best games ever made. As it stands right now, it doesn't quite belong on that kind of pedestal, but it would take an extremely fussy gamer not to find something to enjoy about Fable: The Lost Chapters. This updated version has a bunch of new missions and other bonus items, which is probably not enough to warrant a purchase if you already have the original game, but certainly enough to make it an even more value packed game for first timers.
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Fable made a fan out of me, ever since I got a job as a hooker (in the game that is). Great value for money and has something for most gamers. Buy it, Microsoft needs your money.