I was worried that when Fable came out I’d get sucked in and I wouldn’t have time to play Burnout 3 and Phantom Brave. So I’m actually kind of glad that Fable was a huge disappointment.
So in Fable you have a very small world divided up into dozens of tiny zones. Each of these zones sufferers from the “you can go anywhere you want…as long as you stay on the fucking path” school of game design. A winding path will take you through each one of these zones and you don’t need to worry about accidentally wandering off the path and getting lost. You’ll quickly notice that someone has placed sturdy impenetrable bushes, broken fences, rocks, and impassable pools of shallow water all along the road. The entire game may as well be played on rails as your options for exploration are essentially zilch. The really awesome thing about these tiny, linear zones is that they require an insane load time. Traveling from one side of the map to the other will require you to spend nearly as much time loading as playing. Thankfully at some point the designers realized that traversing their bullshit world was a real pain in the ass and so they decided to let you teleport wherever you want. I imagine this conversation went something like this:
Girl: “Wow, running around in our game fucking sucks.”
Guy: “What if you could just teleport wherever you wanted to go?”
Girl: “That doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Shouldn’t we instead address the fact that navigating our game world is a bitch?”
Guy: “We should have sex.”
Whoa, that certainly got hot! In my imagination all work place encounters between men and woman result in clandestine sex.
Not only do these tiny zones require loading but you also have to load every time you want to use a shovel or a fishing pole. The idea is that there is treasure buried all over the world just waiting to be dug up. However each time you want to dig you need to select the spade from your menu and then wait as the game loads the digging animation, at this point you will either get some treasure or you’ll see your character sigh. Then you get to wait again as it takes you back to the regular game. I dug twice before I was totally fucking sick of it.
So what’s going on in-between all this loading? Well you’re playing an extremely linear and limited hack and slash adventure game combined with a shitty version of the Sims mixed with animal crossing only minus all of animal crossings charm and inspiration. If you want to just play through Fable as fast as you can, it’s a boring but passable action RPG. The combat is awkward at first and the camera is frustrating but you can have some fun with it for a couple of hours. Thankfully that’s all the time you’ll need to invest if that’s how you decide to play the game. If you decide you want to buy a house or flirt with a girl you certainly can. You can also spend an insane amount of time dressing and building up your character. In fact a huge part of the game revolves around making your character look awesome. I can see how this might be cool in an MMO where you could show him off to other players but in Fable no one else will ever see your character. You can’t even take screen shots and upload them via live into some kind of online Fable hero’s picture album to share with your friends. You spend so much time in this game working on a character that you can never share with anyone else. I actually saw forum threads in which people were trying to describe how cool their characters looked to each other. They would try and explain how their particular hair cut really accentuated a certain tattoo. These people are so desperate to share their characters that they were trying to take photos of their TV screens.
In my opinion, none of Fable’s “open ended” game play works in the context of a single player game. Things like owning shops, becoming renowned and impressing people with your sharp dressing just aren’t cool when the world is populated by pre-programmed puppets rather than living people.
Also if you can’t understand why it looks like ass on your HD television here’s a little trick. Fable will sometimes refuse to run in 480p, but you can force it to by going into your dashboard. Open the tray with Fable in the drive and then go into your video settings in your dashboard. Turn off 480p and then turn in back on. Now hold both triggers and click both thumb sticks. This will force your Xbox into 480p mode and you can just close the drive and start Fable. Now if there was a series of buttons you could press in order to make it worth 50 bucks.