Tag Archive: fable

Chasing the chicken, for old time’s sake

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the first Fable. Like many who played it the first time around, Lionhead’s fantasy RPG has always held a special place in my heart. I loved the idea that your interactions with the world around you could affect your character’s quests and their physical appearance (good characters received a “holy glow,” while bad players would sprout demonic horns) gave the sensation that your choices actually carried some weight—a rarity back then.

The combat was deeply satisfying, and finding the balance between Strength (melee), Skill (ranged), and Will (magic) to fit your playstyle delivered an instant gratification you rarely see in RPGs even today. Plus, the game featured a charming story that may not have been all that original (boy’s parents are murdered, boy becomes hero, boy enacts vengeance on those who wronged him…kind of like Batman), but it was still entertaining, especially since it was garnished with some classic British humor.

So, even though it didn’t redefine the genre (no matter what Peter Molyneux may say) and has been surpassed many times over at this point, Fable still remained a personal favorite of mine. It didn’t do anything spectacularly, but everything it did back in 2004, it did well. But I must admit after all this time that my memory may have been looking at things through Briar Rose–colored glasses.

Fable Anniversary builds off the content of the expanded 2005 re-release, Fable: The Lost Chapters on the original Xbox, providing a much-needed facelift by updating every asset with Xbox 360-caliber graphics. Along with this, Achievements have been added, and a brand-new user interface has been integrated into the game, one that not only allows players to save wherever they want, but also makes navigating store and inventory menus far easier. There’s even some interesting loading screens depicting an ever-growing map of Albion as you explore.

Besides the look, however, Fable Anniversary fails to offer anything new to the game. That’s not to say the game doesn’t benefit from the graphical update, but seeing Fable’s roots—especially with Legends on the horizon and Fable II, III, and Journey all in the rear-view mirror—makes Anniversary reek of a cash-in on the admitted nostalgia gamers like myself feel toward older franchises.

I’m here to warn you that time hasn’t been kind to this one. Compared to everything that’s come since then—even within the Fable series itself, let alone other RPGs—these roots seem shockingly bare. The stark realization that things aren’t as good as you may remember could leave a decidedly sour taste in your mouth. It left me quite sad, actually.

In one way, it’s an interesting exercise in seeing how far the industry has come. Now, you can choose to be a female protagonist in many RPGs. You still can’t make that choice in this Fable, nor can you customize your character to any reasonable extent. If the developers were going to take the time to update the entire look of the game, couldn’t they have afforded a few more in-depth customization options?

And would it have killed Lionhead to add a couple of extra missions and lengthen the game a little bit? Couldn’t they offer players an experience a little different from the one we had back in 2005? My Xbox 360 still plays Fable: The Lost Chapters (remember when systems had backward compatibility?), so there’s really very little incentive for me to go out and buy a whole new game—even with a $39.99 budget price—unless I’m an Achievement hunter or an OCD collector.

Anniversary lacks many of the features we’ve come to expect in modern RPGs, and the passage of time has dulled the punch of those few that the game did tout. The only value now lies in showing players who came to the franchise late the beginnings of this ongoing tale. It still works from a technical point of view, but only the combat remains rewarding—the one element not ravaged by time over these past 10 years.

What hurts Anniversary most of all, though, is coming to the realization that when Fable first came out, it was very good, even if it really didn’t break new ground. Now, it’s borderline irrelevant, since so little work has been done on this re-release to make the experience stand with contemporary RPGs. It was depressing to trudge through an Albion that looked so very different to me, not only due to the new graphics, but because of my sweet memories being shattered and replaced by a harsher reality. The tagline for Fable used to be “For every choice, a consequence.” Well, the consequence of Fable Anniversary is one disappointed reviewer—and the newfound understanding that, sometimes, it’s better to just leave your memories in the past.

Developer: Lionhead Studios • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 02.04.14
Fable still has some charming elements that have stood the test of time and survive in Fable Anniversary. But most of the game shows its age, so if you played Fable or Fable: The Lost Chapters the first time around, there’s little here to bring you back for more.
The Good Friendlier user interface and a graphical facelift; combat system holds up.
The Bad Everything else is starting to show its age.
The Ugly How entertaining I thought the fart feature once was.
Fable Anniversary is a Xbox 360 exclusive. 

The longest journey begins with a single step

There are a lot of great Kinect games out there—exercise games, dancing games, even some iOS ports—but the hardcore audience is sorely underrepresented on the peripheral. Long have the hardcore waited for a game for the Kinect that could give them an experience similar to what they would get with a controller in terms of enjoyment. And I think, finally, they may have found one in Fable: The Journey.

Fable: The Journey is set 10 years after the end of Fable III. The hero of Fable III went missing a few years prior; Albion is in shambles because of it, as those who would prey on the weak have gone unchecked and an ancient evil has begun to sow it seeds once again. As chaos reigns in the cities of Albion, though, a group of nomads who skirt along the edges of the countryside avoid most of the insanity by keeping to themselves and taking care of each other. Here, among this group of wanderers, players take control of Gabriel, the slacker of this cabal with his head in the clouds who dreams of the days when there were still heroes. Little does he know that his dreams are about to become a reality…

After becoming separated from the caravan when he oversleeps, Gabriel soon finds himself on the most epic of journeys in order to get back to the only family he’s ever really known. Shortly after he starts his trek, though, he picks up a certain blind hitchhiker along the way who reveals to him that the old age of heroes, where they were born, is dead and that a new age of heroes, where they are made, is about to begin.

The most impressive thing about this game—and this should please Fable fans tremendously—is the story. By adding a new take on the original three Fable games’ story, as Theresa tells things from her point of view along the way, you see now how they all tie together as the story progresses. This brings closure to the last few loose ends of those great tales while also setting the foundation for a brand-new epic down the line. With tremendous voice acting, a script that maintains a dark humor throughout, and a plot that’s more than worthy of the original trilogy, Fable: The Journey’s story will suck in fans of the franchise and won’t let them go.

A great story cannot cover up this game ‘s fatal flaw, though. Unfortunately, like the few other Kinect hardcore games, when you boil Fable: The Journey’s gameplay down to its foundations, it’s really just an on-rails arcade shooter that you control with your hands. You’re forcibly dragged through a large chunk of Albion on your cart, pulled by your lovable horse Seren, and it can understandably get tedious at times, especially when the humorous banter of Theresa and Gabriel dries up. There are some mini-games that break it up occasionally, but even these can become repetitive and after a while. All you really want to do is get as quickly as possible to the next area where you blast franchise mainstay bad guys likes Balverines, Hollow Men, and Hobbes, as well as a few new bad guys produced by the Corruption exclusively for this game.

Aside from the repetitiveness, though, this really is one of the more polished Kinect games out there. The sensor actually picks up your arms when you try to throw fireballs or perform any of the other spells Gabriel learns along his adventure, which, if you play with the Kinect with any sort of regularity, you know is a big accomplishment. There is also some replayability to the game with a full-blown arcade mode alongside the main campaign where you can play through certain segments of each level again and attempt to hit high scores and chain together combos. Combine all this with graphics that just might make this the best looking Fable game yet, and all I can is that if you’re a Fable fan with Kinect, The Journey is a must-have.

SUMMARY: A great story that Fable fans will absolutely eat up, but some long stretches of lonely road keep this from being an absolute must-have for every Kinect owner.

  • THE GOOD: The deepest, most complete story for a hardcore Kinect game yet.
  • THE BAD: Riding in a caravan is about as much fun as you’d think…as in, not fun at all.
  • THE UGLY: Everything the Corruption touches.

SCORE: 9.0

Fable: The Journey is an Xbox 360 exclusive. 

Every adventure begins with the first step and ever since fans of the franchise Fable took those first steps eight years ago, they’ve been clamoring for each subsequent chapter since. And Fable: The Journey is bound to be no exception. But to help possibly satiate fans a little while longer before its October release, a prequel book titled Fable: Edge of the World has been released to help bridge the time gap that takes place between each Fable game.

Written by New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden, who is more than accustomed to writing in the world of geekdom with several Star Wars, Star Trek, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft books already to her credit, Fable: Edge of the World provides unique challenges because as it follows the hero of Fable III ten years into his reign, she is shaping the world around decisions many of us may not have made. This disconnect to the main character immediately left a sour taste in my mouth, but I somehow found a way to push onward.

The book’s basic premise is that the legendary land of Samarkand, best known to Fable fans for where Reaver and Garth ventured to after Fable II, has been overrun by the shadowy forces that threatened Albion in Fable III. The king and his trusted aides must now meet this threat head-on before it spreads unchecked as new and old villains alike rear their heads to cause trouble for the entire kingdom while the king is off in a faraway land.

Now, I understand that the entire premise of the book is to simply provide set-up for the upcoming game, but I couldn’t help but feel cheated after reading this book because the story felt wholly incomplete. That there was almost no feeling of resolution whatsoever and after spending all this time introducing new characters and changing what was actually the story of my personal Fable, I was left twiddling my thumbs, staring at the back of the book as if another 50 pages would magically appear to finish what Golden started here.

This was nothing more than a 250-page tease that instead of holding me over until October, has driven me into a mad Fable-frenzy as I need to play Fable: The Journey now to know how the story ends, or at least continues. In terms of selling games, this is actually a brilliant maneuver. In terms of just being an avid fantasy reader though, this blatant attempt at playing off my consumerism is infuriating.

This does give me a glimmer of hope at least for the story of Fable: The Journey though in terms of providing an interesting and compelling tale that fleshes out the myths and legends of Albion, as well as making sure that we will all have a new and interesting adventure on our hands as the idea of exploring Samarkand in a game has me very excited indeed. Of course, this is just speculation from the book as the only times the character of Gabriel, your protagonist in Fable: The Journey, is even mentioned is in the Prologue and Epilogue, but with half the book taking place there and it having been referenced several times over in previous Fable titles, it only makes sense that we would visit there at some point and that something big is being set up.

Despite the potential opportunities for adventure this book may hint at though in the October game, as a read in and of itself, I found Fable: Edge of the World very unenjoyable. Considering Fable is an adventure game that revolves around choice and this book takes very little of what you have done before into consideration, I can’t recommend this at all. Maybe next time they should do a ‘choose your own adventure’ book? Do yourselves a favor, steer clear, and make the choice that when this book hits your local bookstores today to not pick it up.

SCORE: 3.0

Originally Published: November 10, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the original Fable for the Xbox from Lionhead Studios.

Originally Published: October 26, 2010, on NationalLampoon.com and ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I was able to review Fable III for the Xbox 360 from Lionhead Studios.

Originally Published: October 6, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

CGR Undertow and I present a review of Fable 2 for the Xbox 360 as we prepare for the release of Fable 3 later this month!

Originally Published: May 18, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

One of the major selling points for any video game nowadays is its potential beyond the confines of the disc itself. Sequels are usually the first things that come to mind, but what has become increasingly popular have been the map and expansion packs that can keep you immersed in some of your favorite worlds. Whether it is ruined industrial wonders that you find in Gears of War 2, or once immaculate cities left in scarred shambles by nuclear war in Fallout 3, expansions packs have been key in keeping these great titles warm in our systems months after their release.

Continuing along these lines was another of 2008’s highly anticipated sequels and one of the best RPG’s out there, Fable II. With the success of one expansion pack already (Knothole Island), the developers knew that the world of Fable II was still ripe for new wonders to be discovered and explored. Thus, for the meager amount of 560 Microsoft points (roughly $7 American dollars) four new quests along with promises of great things to come for our heroes have been released in the new See the Future expansion pack.

Murgo, the traveling salesman of wonders both exotic and mysterious, and who unknowingly sets you on your fate in the beginning of the game when he sells you a mysterious music box that grants its bearer a wish that usually has unforeseen consequences a la the Monkey’s Paw, has returned to Albion with new magical wares. When the great hero approaches, Murgo realizes that he has found just the customer to help him push a few of his more difficult items. He reveals that he has several items that have been cursed and he needs someone to lift the curses to help his shop prosper.

Along with the cursed items, he also has several new goods to add to the game that you might find interesting including potions to turn your mutt into a pure-breed of a canine of your choosing (I chose the husky) and many new face paints and hairstyles to strike that extra bit of fear into your enemies (or friends).

The first item he sells to you, for the same paltry five gold pieces that he sold the cursed music box to you for, is a snow globe that contains a shrunken village that has been cursed (sounds like something from a Superman comic). Supposedly you can hear tiny screams emanating from the snow globe when you place it against your ear like a sea shell.

With a quick flick of your wrist, the curse is activated and you are instantly teleported to a world similar to your own, but lacking any color. Upon exploration of the black and white Albion look alike, you see blue demons sapping the color and strength of one of the snow globes’ denizens. It is then you realize that your weapons are glowing with the colors of your special abilities, blue is your melee weapon, yellow your skill weapon, and red for your will abilities.

After dispatching the blue demons with only your melee weapon, you realize that you must mix and match your styles as you begin to hunt down these color vampires in order to restore order and vibrancy to the miniature Albion.

Once this mission is complete, for another five gold pieces, Murgo gives you a skull, which when activated, teleports you to a graveyard separate from the rest of Albion. A fallen warrior pleads to you from beyond the grave that his soul has been wrongfully entrapped from an odd tomb that you encounter at the beginning of this mystical mound of death. You then acquire special costumes of some of your more bestial foes in order to mimic statues set about the graveyard opening up new doors and releasing the spirits that keep the fallen warrior entrapped.

Though, after freeing all the spirits, you realize you have been tricked: the fallen warrior is actually a ruthless necromancer who was imprisoned amongst those he conjured as an ironic punishment by benevolent spirits.

After defeating the necromancer and lifting the curse of the skull, Murgo sells you a dark item from your hero’s past; a model of Lucien’s tower. Upon activating the tower, you are teleported to where you had to defeat your greatest foe and are met by Theresa once more. She still keeps guard over the tower and reveals that she had sold the items to Murgo in order to test if you were ready for the visions of the future she was ready to impart to you.

After seeing your future, a final item is given to you. A model of what looks like a great Roman Coliseum where you can test your mettle (and earn fantastic prizes!) against wave after wave of foes. This can be repeated again and again for varying prizes and gold and is a sure fire way to build up you bank account (if you can keep surviving).

This expansion pack was a lot of fun because it encompassed everything that Fable has come to stand for, but if you’re a decent player who has leveled up their hero enough, you can blow through these extra quests in about two hours. So, the question then becomes, is two extra hours of gameplay worth seven dollars?

Considering the small price, I think it is well worth the buy and if you are a Fable-freak then you will definitely love the excuse to go exploring Albion again. The See the Future expansion pack is downloadable now via XBOX Live.

-Ray Carsillo