Fable: The Lost Chapters
Platform: Xbox
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Lionhead Studios, Big Blue Box
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 10/18/05

Graphics: 94%
Sound: 80%
Gameplay: 72%
Control: 80%
Story: 58%
Overall: 70%
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Kyle Miller
Fable: The Lost Chapters
Kyle Miller

A fable is defined as a short tale told to teach a moral lesson. Fable: the Lost Chapters, which contains the original game plus additional content, fulfills this standard definition. Fable is both surprisingly short, and it teaches an important lesson: a video game without personality can't succeed on the whole. The game presents an incredibly shallow and uninspired, if occasionally entertaining, experience.


Fable begins with the playable character's childhood, cut short by raiding bandits. A mysterious sorcerer named Maze finds and teleports the boy away to the Hero's Guild, where the Guildmaster teaches him the ways of a Hero. Upon completing his training, the Hero departs into the world of Albion on numerous quests for the good, or harm, of its people. Soon, the Hero discovers that his sister also survived his village's burning, and a villain appears to threaten the peace of the world.

Fable's save-the-world plot will offend even the most inexperienced gamers. Saving a mother/princess/lover from a mindless villain hasn't been engaging since Super Mario Bros. in 1985. The story fails to accumulate any drama until the second half of the game, and the player will most likely predict what little there is to predict. Theme and emotion are nonexistent throughout. Albion's characters are equally unimpressive. The main character lacks a personality (and a name), but since his actions are dependent upon the player, this can be overlooked. Recurring NPCs with forgettable, bland personalities, however, cannot be. The player feels no attachment to the Hero's family members, and feels no remorse for dispatching any given character. Fable's short length prevents any strong plot or character development. Add to this a juvenile sense of humor, and an overall lack of personality, and the player is left with an unbelievably shallow fable.


Fable's open-ended gameplay and moral choices earned it fame, but even these aspects of the game are as underwhelming as its story. While the game world is open for the Hero to explore, the player's options for entertainment are lacking after a few hours. Getting married, a unique convention, is reduced to increasing the Hero's level of attractiveness, handing out a present to a nearby NPC, and then giving out a wedding ring. After ten minutes, the Hero is married to a generic man or woman, and the player is never forced to see him or her again. Committing crimes, another of the game's draws, always involves fines and guard attacks as consequences. These gimmicks are fun at first, but the player quickly realizes that killing law enforcement officers and falling in love are much more entertaining in real life.

Character morality is generic and thorough only on the surface. The choice between good and evil is obvious throughout the game. From the start, the two paths are clear: the Hero can do nice things, look pretty, and become good, or he can do mean things, look scary, and become evil. The ease at which the Hero gains good and evil points is also to blame for such a shallow experience. By donating gold or killing guards, the Hero becomes infinitely good or evil, respectively. And, once the Hero is good or evil, the player doesn't feel that the world is truly effected by past decisions. Although NPCs may run from you in fear, if you kill those same NPCs, they'll reappear in just a few days. The Hero's changing appearance as he grows good or evil presents the only interesting side to the game's morality.

Fable's combat is entertaining, if flawed. The Hero has a melee weapon, a bow, and magic at his disposal. "Leveling up" consists of spending points in abilities pertaining to one of these three areas of specialty, and the player is free to decide which is most effective. Melee combat is at once powerful and frustrating. Swinging a sword is fun and effective, but enemies frequently attack with unrelenting speed, and blocking becomes difficult. Ranged combat is fairly accessible, but has few applications. Magic is easy to use and absolutely overpowered. Once the Hero learns the Enflame spell, hordes of foes fall without effort. Other spells are interesting, and their effects varied, but they never see the light of day in the shadow cast by the fires of Enflame.

Perhaps the least thrilling aspect of Fable is its severely underdeveloped world. Exploration is plenty fun, but the Hero is almost entirely limited to narrow forest paths and tunnels. Towns are the exception, and they offer more freedom, but linearity is the rule, and free-roaming the exception. Considering the meager amount of content in the game, Albion's scope will disappoint players, as will the unoriginality of the quests. Nearly all the game's quests consist of either escorting helpless villagers, or killing any number of monsters.


Moving about in the limited world of Albion is straightforward, and the camera functions properly almost all of the time. Commands are responsive, as is important for the active combat, but control issues arise with the targeting system. The Hero can target one enemy at a time, and this locks the Hero onto that enemy. Once locked on, attacks and blocking are supposed to come more easily. Unfortunately, changing targets is clunky and slow, and the player may end up neglecting the system for the majority of the game. Targeting only becomes necessary when using projectile weapons. At its worst, the system locks onto an innocent bystander, the Hero kills him in one swipe, and a quest is failed.


Fable's graphical power stands out as its only positive aspect. Despite infrequent glitches (slow-loading textures), the game looks great. Environments in particular are detailed and atmospheric; grass blows in the wind, trees are plentiful and well-rendered, and water effects are above average. Magic spells are attractive and often spectacularly flamboyant. Character models are passable and detailed, though it seems the designers purposely deformed the inhabitants in Albion to have oversized hands. This approach to style is fitting for the game's rather light-hearted tone, even if it may irk some players. Unfortunately, Fable isn't perfect even graphically; the game's menus are irritatingly inconvenient and sloppily designed.


Music in Fable is somewhat elusive. Many times, no music plays at all, although this is not unheard of in RPGs, and must not be considered a flaw. When music does play, the player will hear what he or she expected for a Western RPG (town themes possess a certain upbeat quality, and combat is marked by ominous rhythm). Fable's voice acting raises ambivalence. Many voices are highly accented to the point of parody, and some players will be put off by this. Most lines are delivered well, however, and voices fit their respective characters. One complaint lies with repetitive sound effects. After competing in the game's fist fights, the player will never want to be cheered on again.

The Lost Chapters

Fable's expansion adds about three hours of gameplay to the original twelve to twenty. Upon vanquishing the final boss, the Hero is given another task as a second threat closes in on Albion. The plot details here are as generic as those preceding the Lost Chapters, but the conclusion presents an interesting choice. Outside of the added end-game quest, the expansion throws new content into the original game. Numerous quests are added, one of which concerns what is possibly the most unique quest, that concerning the Bordello. Additional items and equipment are also included. Due to such a short parent game, the Lost Chapters comes as a helpful addition, although it does little to improve the overall experience, as it possesses no more character than the original.


RPGs as indistinct and shallow as Fable are rare, and for good reason. Even with the aid of an expansion, the game features a terrible story, boring characters, shallow gameplay, and a complete lack of personality. Despite attractive graphics and decent combat, most players will want to shelve this game before its measly twelve to twenty hours are exhausted. It wouldn't be immoral for Fable to join its expansion in becoming lost.


© 2005 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

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