Despite being an avid RPG gamer I had never had the opportunity of playing Fable, a game that, at least in reviews and articles, had been highly praised. So when I saw it at discount price on Steam I had no other option than to buy it and give it a go.
Welcome to Albion, where everyone speaks cockney
You start the game and are put directly into action, as in real life you are not given the opportunity of customizing your character. You are a little kid in the small town of Oakvale. This first prologue serves as a sort of basic walkthough and the decisions you take serve to outline your future alignment: Chaotic or Good.
I found the prologue both as a kid and as a teenager in the Heroes' Guild quite enjoyable and a good way to help out the player with the initial learning curve. The story unfolds seamlessly and there is the needed epicness feeling.
You can feel the touch of Peter Molyneux not only in the character design (huge hands and feet, quasi-cartoony) but also in the thick british accent all characters have. In the videogame world where 'murican is almost ubiquitous I found quite funny to have heroes and villagers alike speaking as if they came straight out of London's East End.
It's not easy being a hero
Rest assured, I played Fable using a keyboard and a mouse; The original game was designed to be played on the Xbox, controlling a game using a console controller or PC controls is different and I could tell. Despite that, Fable's hitboxes and melee controls felt a little clumsy, just another of Molyneux's traditions I suppose: Blocking attacks soon becomes completely unnecessary, it's easier to hack and slash and just roll away when you are surrounded. The same can be said of ranged weapons and of most ranged spells, they're just fancy ways to weaken your enemies; the real deal is always melee attacks.
Even worse off in the game mechanics is the stealth ability. It's basically completely useless in a game that enforces experience gain exclusively by falling enemies; Even in the only enforced use of stealth in quest it's easier to bypass the enemies by shooting them from afar than to actually sneak around them.
Don't get me wrong, it's fun to hack Balverines and Undead, but soon enough you will find yourself limiting your attacks to swinging a sword and using a couple of useful spells. Some of those spells by the way are so OP that they basically turn the game into a stroll in the park: Time Stop will slow enemies down for something around 15 seconds; given the fact that you will be regenerating mana during those seconds it's quite easy to just keep casting that spell while you chop down minions by the dozens.
Immersive and fun backstory
It is probably in the storytelling where Fable outshines most of other RPGs: It is a delicious retelling of almost all heroic tropes there are: Damned hometown, legendary hero, childhood friend, long lost sister (and mother), from zero to hero, etc etc... But Molyneux's magnificent humour and self-deprecation gives all the elements a flare of parody while still retaining enough seriousness for the players to root for the character.
Another neat feature (although not as groundbreaking or original as some reviews would want you to believe) is how the game manages alignment. The player can make Good or Evil actions, each of which will make him gain points in one direction or another. Some quests are even divided in the "heroic" or "evil" parts so that the player can outright decide which of the two they want to take. There are also key points in the main quest where we can decide what actiosn to perform: The evil ones generally grant greater loot at the expense of adding up those evil points, so it seems as crime does pay off after all.
Plenty of stuff to eat, but hardly any armour
We will find apples, meat, pie... even tofu around Albion, and we can most assuredly eat all those goodies for an immediate recuperation of health points as well as a considerable gain in weight if we scoff down enough. However it seems that the smiths and armourers have the blueprints to just make 4 or 5 different sets of armor. Same story with weapons, just 4 materials. You can also get tatoos or new haircuts for your character, but honestly, it hardly makes a difference.
That much time invested in useless (or night useless) stuff makes it look like the game developers somehow ran out of time or money when it came to actually implement them. There aren't honestly that many customizations possible anyway, and to realize how that plate armor you bought is the best thing you are going to find in any shop is quite disheartening.
The same can be said about the actual main quest: While you're playing it seems grand and heroic, but soon enough you'll find that the game is over and you have hardly played at all... is that it? Sure, there are plenty of side quests, but there is no sense of urgency in them and hardly any of them cancel each other out or depend on which stage of the main quest you're in, so they feel shoehorned in there.
Now, don't get me wrong, the game is good: it's immersive, it's fun, it delivers a lot of fun ideas... but it is by far NOT great. Having heard so many times about how Fable was like no other RPG I had great expectations, but the final result fell short of comparison with many of it's contemporaries: The alignment gameplay seems trivial compared to games like KOTOR II, the extensiveness of the world and the backstory are Kindergarten level compared to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and the controls feel clunky if we compare it to other 3D melees like Ocarina of Time, all games that were released at the same time or even before Fable.
All in all, play Fable if you can, enjoy it's unique flavour of heroics and humour, sing along it's soundtrack (a very good one), but don't be fooled into thinking it's anything groundbreaking at any level.