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Fable: The Lost Chapters
Developed by: Lionhead Studios
Published by: Microsoft
ESRB Rating: M for blood, strong language, violence, and sexual themes
System Requirements:
- Windows XP
- 1.4 GHz processor or better
- 256 MB RAM
- 3 GB free hard drive space
- 64 MB video card or better
Review of: PC (also available for the Xbox in both the “original” and “lost chapters” editions)

 

Good: beautifully-realized world with dynamic NPCs, superb music and voice acting, “lost chapters” add some nice additional content

Bad: still too short, not as deep as some action RPGs, lots of morally-questionable content Fable, the grand vision of designer Peter Molyneux, was intended to be a persistent world where a player could take on the role of a young man and grow through life into an old adult, going through major chapters of life on his way to becoming a true hero. The original version of the game debuted first on the Xbox, where it was praised for its high production values but criticized for its failure to live up to its own hype. A year later, Fable re-emerged on the PC and the Xbox as Fable: The Lost Chapters (TLC). This version of the game includes both the original game and a new series of quests set on a separate continent. The Lost Chapters still doesn’t fully realize Fable’s potential, and the nagging ethical issues make this a question mark for Christian gamers.

Game Play:

The original Fable, even completing most sidequests, will take 13-15 hours to complete, and the Lost Chapters addition will add 2 or 3 more hours. (This reviewer completed the game in 16 hours.) It is disappointingly short for an action RPG; while your character is likely to be 65 by the time you finish the game, you never really get the sense that a long, epic life has been lived. Other games in the genre, like Morrowind (which is sometimes faulted for being too long and drawn-out) and Kingdom Hearts, feel more like a true journey. Granted, you can continue to play the game even after completing the main storyline, but by that point there simply isn’t much left to do. But that’s not to say that Fable doesn’t offer any value as a game. Fable still tells a very nice story. You begin as a child and quickly advance to adulthood where you set out on a journey to make a name for yourself. The game offers a nice variety of linear and nonlinear elements, allowing you to journey through the world while getting married and going about various sidequests. The NPCs in the game are dynamic and will give you meaningful feedback based on your reputation and accolades. Many of the main characters have interesting backstories, although the character development feels a little on the light side. The combat system is “Zelda-style” in theory, allowing you to either attack free-form or to lock on to enemies and attack that way. In practice, though, the lock-on system is unwieldy, and more often than not players will find themselves simply going after the closest enemy. The game uses three combat statistics – strength, skill, and will – which correspond broadly to melee/health, archery/dexterity, and magic/mana respectively. The experience points in the game are generous enough that most players will be able to (and will need to, frankly) invest heavily in two of the three areas, and by the end of the game you are likely to be proficient in all three. Experience is relative to what skills you use; if you hack with your sword a lot, you will be able to gain strength experience, for example. Outside of combat, the game also offers a moderately-deep world to involve yourself in. Towns have shops of different kinds as well as housing you can purchase. Women (or men) can be wooed and wedded, and items can be bartered at different levels in different places. Your character can change his skin, hair, beard, and even his weight. Sidequests also include everything from your typical fetch fare to rescues, ambushes, and investigations. Some of them are repetitive, but others can be quite engaging and even flesh out the main storyline. One of the driving principles of the game play is the player’s capacity to choose good or evil. Most quests offer a “good” or “evil” choice, and depending on your decision (i.e. rescuing the caravan or killing them) you will gravitate toward goodness or evil. Indeed, the game’s ending even depends on these moral choices, although the game does “cheat” by letting you purchase good or evil at so-marked temples, taking some of the gravitas out of your earlier choices. The moral implications of this system will be explored in the appropriateness section, below.

Graphics:

The graphics engine for Fable is quite good, even on lower systems, offering colorful characters that look good, if a bit on the cartoonish side. Your main character, in particular, is very well-conceived; he shows battle scars and age over time, and his various armor combinations give him different looks. The change in your character\\'s appearance from beginning to end is dramatic. The game also allows for customizable hairstyles and tattoos to widen the customization of appearance. The combat, meanwhile, runs smoothly. The attack animations look crisp and the magic spells each offer nice flair of some sort. Fable even holds up when multiple NPCs are battling it out on-screen, offering a generally-solid framerate.

Sound:

The sound in Fable is phenomenal. The music, which includes pieces by Hollywood notable Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, Spider-Man 1 and 2, Men in Black), is superb and provides great ambiance in both towns and in combat. The music subtly shifts when enemies are about and inspires a good amount of tension. A bit more diversity in the music score would have been nice, but what is offered is outstanding. Likewise, the voice work is excellent. The mostly-British cast lends a classic flair to the voice work and offers nice variations depending on the social standing of the character in question. The sound effects, too, are well-done and change subtly depending on the location and other conditions.

Control:

The controls translate well enough onto the PC, with the mouse controlling the camera and the keyboard handling movement and such. As was earlier mentioned, the lock-on system is a bit unwieldy, but the game does a good job of finding a target when you are not locked onto someone, so that problem is lessened somewhat. The game also does a pretty good job of keeping you from accidentally hitting friendlies, unless you are being excessively reckless. The spell selection system is a bit hard to use, since it is mapped to the mouse buttons, but this can be ameliorated somewhat by the ability to map skills to the keyboard numbers. What’s more, the game’s controls are completely customizable, so you can experiment to find the setup that’s best for you.

Stability:

I had no problems running Fable. Since there is at present no patch, I assume that there are no major bug issues with this version of the game, and I did not experience any. Some boards do mention minor scripting problems if certain events are done halfway and then stopped, but most of them require some obscure pathing. APPROPRIATENESS ISSUES: IMPORTANT NOTE: because of the core game design of Fable, evaluating the appropriateness of the game is a very complex task. Your character can choose to perform great acts of goodness or terrible acts of evil. In many cases the game does not require you to be evil, per say, and “good” characters can become just as powerful as “evil” ones. Thus, some of these categories are variable depending on your character’s choices. A good character can avoid some of the appropriateness problems listed below, while evil characters might embrace them all. That being said, the game’s definition of “good” and “evil” sometimes differs somewhat from a traditional Christian worldview. I will try to note some of these discrepancies in the review.

Violence:

People killing people in cold blooded murder (Ex. Grand Theft Auto 3) (-5 pts) Blood sprays on the wall and everywhere else (-2.5 pts) Gruesome details (Ex. acid burning off skin, heart being cut out of body, human sacrifices) (-2.5 pts) In addition to being a game of fantasy violence, there is also a decent amount of blood in the game. The amount of blood varies with the situation, but there are some places (including a couple of dungeons) where blood is everywhere. Likewise, blood flies from your character’s body when you are struck by a major attack. While your attacks do not dismember your opponents, some cutscenes do show characters being killed in some gruesome fashion, including a couple of unsettling execution-style murders. A “good” character in the game will generally be forced to kill a lot of human and non-human enemies in self-defense via swords, arrows and magic, although the game does not offer any options for dismembering or other excessive acts.

Language:

Swear Words found in a PG-13-rated movie are used in the game (-4 pts) Sexual references are made throughout the game. (-3.5 pts) There is some strong language in the game, although it is not widespread. This reviewer found it to be generally equal to that found in a PG-13 movie. Sexual references in the game are heavily dependent on your character’s choices; there are bordellos and other places of “ill-repute” which obviously are more likely to feature such dialogue. It is possible to avoid most, but not all, of the sexual dialogue.

Occult Themes:

Game takes place in an environment that is filled with major occult references. (-5 pts) Borderline magic (hard to tell if occult) is used by player. (-3.5 pts) The game’s magic system is heavily customizable, some of it “darker” than others. The game’s plot relies heavily on dark magical forces, and they include the undead and other “cursed” machinations. Items of inherently evil value are widely scattered in the game, and graveyards replete with undead are also present. As the game progresses, the player character gains increasing access to “dark” items and weapons that are viewed as inherently evil, and magical incantations are an unavoidable part of the game’s storyline.

Sexuality:

Characters wear very revealing clothing such as bikinis or lingerie (-3.5 pts) Homosexuality is shown as positive in the game. (- 4 pts) There are characters in a few isolated places that are scantily clad, although the norm involves men who are fully-clothed and women who range from modest to somewhat revealing. (Your character can conceivably run around in just his briefs, but the game does not encourage it – besides the obvious lack of armor, it tends to scare NPCs away.) The game allows for a myriad of “personal” options that range from paid amorous encounters to marriage. Homosexual marriages and multiple marriages are permitted in the game. Fable does not make a moral distinction in areas of sexuality, though, so any combination of prostitution, homosexuality and polygamy is allowed without any penalty to your “good” rating. On a related note, the game does portray “sex” scenes by way of a dark screen and a woman (or man) making “sex” noises. It sounds more hokey and silly than real, and it can be skipped, but it remains part of the game.

Moral/Ethical Issues:

Game portrays rebellion against established cultural norms. (-1.5 pts) No prejudicial bias in the game. (-0 pts) A few instances of gross humor are in the game. (-1.5 pts) Poor value decisions are promoted through the game, but not required to progress. (-1.5 pts) The nature of the game allows for, but does not require, rebellion against authority and established norms. Your character can submit to authority, or he can kill off his authority figures. Penalties for “evil” acts vary; acts committed in town can lead to fines or worse, while acts outside of towns may not be punished at all. Characters who are “evil” can become as powerful, roughly, as “good” characters. Alcohol consumption is also permitted in the game.

Closing Comments:

As is probably apparent, Fable is a complex game, both from a secular and a Christian standpoint. From a secular standpoint, Fable represents a game that is good while it lasts, but one that simply doesn’t offer the epic scope or the range of customization that other RPGs do. Far from being a grand chronicle, Fable feels like short story. Even the addition of the “lost chapters” adds but a few quests to the overall load, and those fly by quickly for being on an entirely new continent. In spite of all this, Fable should be credited for telling a good short story in a polished way, a story that offers different endings based on different choices. And the Lost Chapters addition continues the main storyline and brings it to a satisfying conclusion. From a Christian standpoint, the game is equally mixed. It offers plenty of options to do “good” deeds but also offers equal opportunity to commit “evil” acts, often absent any real consequences. Worse still, the game does not identify certain acts as inherently evil (i.e. promiscuity) even though it is certainly viewed as such within a Christian worldview. Finally, the idea that a person can “pay” at temples to be good or evil erodes the credibility of the entire game system and takes the gravity out of some of the moral choices in the game. So can Fable be recommended? Obviously it has problems. At best, it is a game best-suited for an adult audience, and even adults should approach the game with some moral caution. Fable: The Lost Chapters is a decent enough game – and there is no doubt a vocal minority of Xbox gamers who will speak strongly of its virtues – but those looking for an epic RPG, especially one with values more congruent with a Christian lifestyle, will probably find other games in the genre to be more satisfying.

Final Ratings:

Game Play: 15/20 Graphics: 9.5/10 Sound: 10/10 Control: 4.5/5 Stability: 5/5 GAMING TOTAL: 44/50 – 88%% Violence: 0/10 Language: 2.5/10 Occult Themes: 1.5/10 Sexuality: 2.5/10 Moral/Ethical Issues: 5.5/10 APPROPRIATENESS TOTAL: 12/50 – 24%

Overall Score: 56%

About the Author

Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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