Outside of Morrowind and Knights of the Old Republic, the Xbox RPG lineup is pretty barren. Big Blue Box and Lionhead Studios intend to beef up it up with their highly ambitious Action/RPG, Fable. Fable is one of the most hyped Xbox games to date, due to the large variety of new features the game boasts, so ambitious may be a bit of an understatement. With the game due within the next 9 months, PALGN thought it was time that we took a closer look at what could well be the biggest RPG ever.
The Circle of Life
The story of Fable is quite light for an RPG. This lightweight narrative is to help in the development your own story and experience of Fable, rather than the pre-empted, highly scripted one dimensional RPG story we're all used to. After being sent off on an errand, your character returns home to find his parents missing, and his dog nailed to the door. Your hero decides that he wants to take vengeance, and this is where the game starts. You can essentially go about achieving this goal any way you wish. While the story of the main character may be light, the land of Albion (where Fable is set) has a rich history, filled with all sorts of characters, each with their own little agenda and way of life. Your interaction with Albion will decide its fate.
Your character is a 12 year old boy when Fable starts. You control the boy's life from this point until he is about 55. In that time, your goal is to become a hero. That doesn't mean you have to be a hero, though - you can settle down, get married and have children, buy up land, or just be a general pain in the ass. You don't have to be a good hero either - a major part of the experience will be the fight between good and evil within your character. The way you live during this time will affect things such as your hero's appearance, and people's opinion of your hero (referred to as renown in the game). For example, if you're a guy who likes to spend lots of time in the sun, and use big weapons such as broadswords and warhammers, you'll be a muscle-man with tanned skin, but if you're a thief or assassin that works mostly at night, you'll be thin and pale. Magic users will find that their hero will age faster, due to the fact that magic takes its toll on the body of the caster.
Weapons and magic form a big part of the game. All of the traditional swords, axes, bows, etc. will be available, but an interesting note is the fact that you can make a legendary weapon out of just about any object, even things such as frying pans. Magic is referred to as Will, and rather than coming from books and scrolls, Will comes from the player's interaction with the environment. There will be about 20 spells in all.
Big Blue Box is expecting Fable to be quite an engaging experience, pinning the anticipated length of the main part of the game to be about 20 hours in length, though they stated that some people should get up to 100 hours of solid enjoyment out of the title, as there is a hell of a lot to discover in the game (more Easter Eggs than the Easter Bunny, apparently). A co-operative multiplayer mode was originally planned and developed for Fable but was axed later in the development due to quality concerns.
Visions of Beauty
Fable's visual presentation is just as ambitious as its gameplay design. The game looks absolutely phenomenal at this stage, and should look even better by the time the game is released. The sheer level of detail in the game is astonishing - the world is massive, but Big Blue Box have left no stone unturned. The amazing visuals extend onto your hero, whose appearance is both very detailed, and changes with time. There is some debate as to whether this happens in real time or between chapters, but either way, the game will still look great. While we've not heard much of the sound, we expect it to be top notch. Every single line of dialog is spoken, so Fable will sound quite impressive, provided a reasonable cast of actors is involved.
But Mummy, I Want it Now!
Fable is probably the most ambitious title we've seen to date, and a lot of weight rests on the shoulders of the development team to make the game the absolute best it can be (given the amount of hype they've created). We've only managed to scratch the surface of what the game has to offer in this preview, and we're really excited. Fable is due for release in the middle of 2004, most likely July, so stay tuned to PALGN to keep up to date.