Ah Fable.  The franchise that has devoured so much of my time and soul on my 360.  Well, at least with 2 & 3.

When Fable first came out in 2004, for me it was a breakthrough RPG.

The story revolves around your character, a little boy who grows up in a small village  called Oakvale in a land called Albion.  Life is peacful for the boy at first, but then your village is attacked by bandits one balmy summer night, your father killed, your mother kidnapped, and your sweet big sister with the weird, prophetic dreams blinded and lost to the wilderness.

You’re found among the burning ruins of your town by a wizard named Maize, and he takes you to the Guild of Heroes where you grow up and learn that you have something special in your blood that makes you a Hero too.  So you spend about five to ten years learning, growing, and honing your skills before you discover that a darkness is descending upon Albion, a darkness that you must help defeat, and in the end is caused by the one that ripped your world apart all those years ago.

But everything you do, from start to finish, affects you and your world in some way.

Before Fable, all of my RPG experience had been with Neverwinter Nights, and in Neverwinter, your actions do affect your game play to a slight degree, mostly limiting what classes and abilities you take.  For example if you start out as a Lawful Good Paladin, then go on a pillaging spree, taking whatever your black little heart desires, then you shift your alignment and are no longer able to level up as a Lawful Good Paladin and are exempt from all the abilities thereof.

Also, the world around you wasn’t overly affected either.  If you’re getting along well with someone and kill their spouse/family  in front of them, they don’t really care.  Or if they do, they make a comment, you leave the area, come back, and your best friends again.

No so with the Fable franchise.  Fable was the first game I came across where your actions affected everything from your physical appearance, to the lasting impressions of the characters that partake of the world with you.  You steal from a merchant and get caught, they bloody well remember you.  Want to kill someone?  Make sure no one is looking else the guards are called.  And I liked that.  It made the game more challenging for me.  I had to be more aware of my actions down to what I ate so I could have the game play I wanted.

And what I thought was really nifty, the more good I was the more angelic my appearance, and the more evil, the more demonic.  Something which they have kept on throughout the franchise.

So basically everything you do has moral consequences.  These consequences affect your morality, your appearance, and the way the world perceives you.  But the other big difference in Fable compared to most other RPGs in my experience is the world layout.

Most RPGs are like a really long corridor with rooms on either side that you can nip in and out of to gather treasure and XP, but once you leave that room, the door closes behind you forever and you can’t go backwards along the corridor.  The story is linear and there’s not much need or motivation to stray of the storyline path.  Fable is a bit different.

The Fable world is more like a walled in canyon, with one entrance, on exit, a path clearly linking the two, and a lot of caves and valleys to explore.  You have your linear storyline, a plan as day progression from point A to Z an every letter in between, but you are not limited to the areas you can search, and you can go back to them as many times as you like, whenever you like.  You can even dig up buried treasure!

Every time you enter a new area in Fable, you have a clear and defined goal in sight, but you can run around that area, looting it for treasure and bad guys, and you can go back to it again and again and again.  The treasure may not re spawn, but the bad guys-and therefore the xp- do.

The XP system was also pretty new to me too.  You can gain three different types of experience in Fable, depending on the type of weapon you favor: Strength (for melee weapons like hammers and swords), Skill (for long ranged weapons such as crossbows and the like), and Will (for magic and spells).  If you’re a type cast player, this works out pretty well.  I’m always a melee fighter, I like to get right in the middle of the fight, get down and dirty.  As a result, I was only using melee weapons and leveled up pretty quick so soon I was almost unstoppable.  But if you prefer to be a more versatile or all around fighter, you’ll need to grind away a bit more for get a good balance of damage dealing abilities.

What was really cool though, is the economy.  No longer are you stuck grinding away at jobs and quests to make money to buy that shiny new armor you’ve always wanted.  Now you can buy homes and rent them out!  Unfortunately there are only like one or two properties in the bigger and better areas that you can buy, but it’s better than nothing.  Buy a few houses, rent them out, and sit back and let the money roll in.

My biggest complaint is with traveling around the world.  Travel is like save points in Fable.  You could pass through ten areas of the game, but only have points that you can actually travel to at areas 1, 5, and 10.  If you want to get to area 3, you need to select area 1 and walk the rest of the way.  Bit of a pain in the butt if you’re on a fetch and carry quest because all the beasties re spawn when you leave an area.

But that’s really about it.  Fable was fantastic for me when it first came out because there were all these new features I never thought an RPG could have.  The only downfall was that travel was a bitch if there wasn’t a ‘save point’ for lack of a better term.

I know this is late in the game for review, especially since Fable came out for Xbox and trying to find a copy is like trying to find a virgin in the Playboy Mansion, but I’ve just gotten back into Fable 2 & 3, and discovered you can still get Fable 1 as a download from Xbox Live, so there we are.  The only thing is the download does not include the expansion The Lost Chapters, so I has a sad for that.

Otherwise folks, enjoy.