Fable (Preview)

fable/ `ferbl/ noun 1. a short moral story about mythical or supernatural beings or events. 2. a statement, or an account of something, that is not true.

fabled/ `ferbld/ adj. (literary or humorous) famous and often talked about, but rarely seen.

Researching for hard facts on Fable is the video game industry equivalent of trying to substantiate claims there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All the relevant intelligence points to its existence but no one has any physical evidence more tangible than fevered conjecture and media speculation. We know it’s out there. We know it’ll be uncovered sooner or later. But there’s still a little whispering voice of cruel skepticism that nibbles away at our solemn belief.

Through the wonderfully cooperative PR people at Lionhead Studios, my unquenchable desire for knowledge was directed to an official Q&A session recently posted on their Lionhead Times website. The revelations uncovered there, coupled with the myriad of interviews, both old and new, from Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux and Big Blue Box’s Dene and Simon Carter make for some disturbingly fabulous reading. However, the bandwagon of sensational promotion has been hurtling alongside Fable’s evolution for quite some time. Subsequently, can the final product ever live up to Molyneux’s grandiose billing and our spittle heavy cravings?

Never before has a video game attempted to immerse the player so completely into its environmental dynamics, and no other video game even comes close to the plethora of evolutionary character traits on offer in Fable. If Lionhead and Big Blue Box can deliver on their promises then Fable stands to become a moment of clear redefinition for not just the role-playing genre, but for the entire gaming world.

Live a life cycle from a young impressionable boy, to a legendary hero, to a wizened old man. Interact fully within a world where every character has a true life of their own and your actions (both past and present) distinctly affect their attitudes towards you. Approach the game with honorable thoughts of heroism in the face of evil and reap the rewards as villages and towns greet you with well-deserved warmth and courtesy. Flex your mischief muscles or swing your axe of annihilation and watch with malevolent glee as the game’s inhabitants cower from your very presence. Get married. Have kids. Buy property, sell it, rent it out. Move to another town. Get a second wife. Or a third if you feel so inclined. Battles malodorous creatures, which leave you scarred. Battle overeating, for this makes you fat. Pick your neighbor’s lock during the night and rob him blind. Get caught and thrown in jail.

That’s a great deal of gaming attributes for a title not yet on the market. Moreover, for an incomplete and unreleased product, Fable has received a number of critical awards. In April of last year, it scooped the “Most Promising Xbox Title of 2003” at the Xbox Gamers People’s Choice Awards; and, in June 2003 Fable was honored with the Best RPG award at the E3 exhibition in Los Angeles. Plus, on March 4th, Peter Molyneux became 2004’s inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. Quite some collective pedigree for a game most of us had barely heard of back in the dawn of 2003.

What’s the story though? What’s it all about? How does the combat system work? What’s the game’s longevity? Appealing to our ignorance isn’t going to grant access to our cash. We need convincing through enlightenment before we part with the green stuff. Here’s what I’ve been able to dig up with my shovel of journalistic fortitude.

“It starts with your family getting killed

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