Have You Played… Fable?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I really, really liked it. Could never understood why there was so much moaning about the trees not growing.

Fable is all about character. Where most RPGs are primarily preoccupied with the fate of the world and how you can affect that, Fable’s foremost priority is the tone of the world. And that tone is cheerful and comedic, even when the events are dark and brutal. Fable has absolute fealty to always feeling a certain way, chunky and pastoral and amiable and pleasant.

In lesser hands it could have been extremely irritating, and truth be told I’ve played a few too many Euro-made RPGs that cite British comedy influences but either try too hard or get lost in translation. Fable’s careful to steer clear of dangerous attempts at big laughs in favour of a general attitude of cheer and silliness. I always felt good, welcome and at home when I played Fable. May it rest in peace.


  1. TheBloke says:

    Just to let you know your Facebook link to this post is inaccessible as it’s going to some test/staging server (link to shotgun-staging.horace-staging.positive-dedicated.net).

  2. Mrice says:

    I loved Fable but i was quite disappointed with the way the series went. Fable 1 i adored, Fable 2 i liked a lot, Fable 3 i never finished.

    Is that normal? It seems to me a surprising amount of people liked Fable 3 but i bounced right off it.

    • Masked Dave says:

      I wouldn’t say I liked 2 less than 1, but 3 was definitely the runt of the litter.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      There’s very few people I’ve come across that enjoyed Fable 3. I pre ordered it because I liked the other two Fables…and its the reason I never pre order games anymore.

      Instead of refining Fable 1, Lionheart seemed intent on making a completely different game that had nothing in common with it.

  3. Jekhar says:

    Yes, i did. It was okay-ish? I never understood where the hype came from. It was an below average action-rpg. Boring combat, extremely limited and linear world, not much in terms of quests or story. Interactions with NPCs were just a bunch of silly and repetive nonsense. What was the big deal? And that was just by judging the game on it’s own, disregarding anything Molyneux said before release.

    • Yglorba says:

      The hype was all about the stuff Molyneux said before release (which made it out to be this world-shattering Elder Scrolls killer with the biggest, deepest, most interactive simulated world ever, etc etc etc.)

      In practice it’s a decent inoffensive RPG with simplified mechanics and a vaguely sort-of open world of the sort that is extremely common nowadays. The closest comparison I can think of in recent memory – in terms of hype vs. reality – would be No Man’s Sky. Huge amounts of hype that had fans completely worked up for the biggest thing ever, followed by a game that decently accomplished everything it attempted but which didn’t really reflect what people expected of it at all.

  4. Yachmenev says:

    Fable 1 was fun, with lots of original ideas. It’s a shame that Lionhead and Molyneux didn’t have enough confidence to build on the foundation that game set.

    Love the choice and consequences in the quests, that were more about noble vs selfish/coward rather then straight good vs evil. Example: Being able to leave an NPC in a dungeon just to get an easier way out, and hear him curse you on your way out.

  5. GrumpyCatFace says:

    One of my all-time favorites. Agree with the rest that 2 was ‘ok’ and 3 was ‘meh’. Definitely a down-hill trajectory in that series.

    I think the magic came from the simplicity of the gameplay, covering some complex mechanics – similar to Diablo without the number-drip.

    Side Note: I think we could use a little more effort in these Retrospective columns, no? There’s got to be more to say about a game like this…

    • Premium User Badge

      Mahaku says:

      It’s mostly a question asked to the folken around here though, so limited editorial commentary is probably in order.

  6. Solidstate89 says:

    I loved Fable. It was such a fun game to play. The Hero system I thought was actually a pretty cool way to handle “morality” in the game. It didn’t really matter if you were good or evil – you were still a Hero and still welcome at the Hero’s Guild.

    The ending of Fable 2 soured me on the series though, and I never even bothered with Fable 3. However I still have tons of fond memories of Fable.

  7. Masked Dave says:

    I was a huge fan of Fable. The way your character would change based on your actions leading to different reactions from NPCs as you walked through town was very fun. Also there was a lot of depth there not in the systems but in how much you could potentially invest in it. I remember walking about town in the day being hero worshipped in my shinning armour, then at night swapping into a ninja outfit to go and rob everyone all stealthy like. The change in costume didn’t actually but it made me feel like I was really in that world.

    It also had a moment that was, in terms of game mechanics, not that powerful, but I got a lot of emotion out of it. It lead me to write this game diary at the time:

    I just killed a girl. Her name was Winter, she had been my training partner since I first joined the Guild of Heroes as an orphan. We were fighting side by side in the Arena, laying waste to all the challenges they could throw at us and raking in the reward money.

    But the final challenge, for a secret, bonus prize, to be presented by the legendary Jack of Blades himself, was to duel to the death.

    Before starting though, we made a pact. Neither of us wanted to kill the other, so we would duel, and put on a show, but at the end the victor would show mercy.

    It was a tough fight, but I finally overcame her. One more blow would finish her off, and we both knew it. So I slung my sword over my back and began to walk from the Arena. Halfway towards the giant gate though, I turned back and looked at her, still standing there. And a thought suddenly struck. Was this her plan all along? Was she going to try and spin my walking out as a surrender, that she should be the victor and claim the prize!

    I went back to her and tried to make her walk from the Arena with me, side by side, but she wouldn’t! Plain refused. And in that moment I knew that I was right, she was jealous and this was the only way she could claim her glory, so in anger and, yes, out of greed for the thought of this ‘bonus’ prize and drew my sword and struck her down.

    The crowd went wild.

    But as I stood over her fallen body, I could faintly hear the announcer call that my bonus prize, was an extra 10000 gold.

    Ten thousand. Was that all my childhood friendship was worth to me? It seemed suddenly such small figure.

    Worse still, as I left the arena, they all still hailed me as a mighty hero, in their eyes I had done nothing wrong! I was being invited to the houses of the rich and powerful! They treated me as if I’d just saved the world, not commited murder. I was told about my mother, how she was a mighty hero, that nearly died defending those who couldn’t, and how she was had a good, soft heart and now lived as a hermit, isolated, distraught at her failure to protect her family.

    Only one man saw me for what I really was. Winter’s brother, Thunder. He told me that I was the walking dead, he would have revenge for his sister. That my death would be slow and painful. I wanted to tell him that he was right to do so, that I deserved nothing better. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t speak.

    That night, as I left the grounds of the Arena as it’s new ‘champion’, I gave up my name. Sabre was the name of the mighty hero who would strike down at evil in all it’s forms. Now I am Gladiator, the man who acts for glory and riches, with no thought to the consequences.

    I have had a message from my sister to meet her in an abandoned house, I am to head there next on my journey. But how I can face her, my poor sister, who lost her eyes for protecting me all those years ago, how can I face her knowing what I’ve done.

    • fabrulana says:

      Nice story thanks, good creative writing round game events.

  8. Turkey says:

    Fable is a pretty good marker of when the weird experimental phase of Microsoft published games stopped and when they really got into AAA franchises. Lionhead pretty much became the Fable factory after that.

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, Peter was still calling the shots, and he managed to self-sabotage the third one at the last minute before peacing out and starting his indie studio.

  9. Eight Rooks says:

    I have. I hated it. Really, really hated it. Never mind the “broken promises”, it just wasn’t very good. A mediocre ARPG with mediocre world-building and storytelling – I’ve never understood how people can praise Fable’s fiction, seriously. I really don’t mean this as hyperbole – it’s the kind of thing that makes me genuinely ashamed to be British? Not in a “Oh, God, we’re sorry about UKIP” way, admittedly, but – all the rich mythology we’ve got, all the stories of heroism and hubris and tragedy and all the rest of it and this twee, saccharine, weightless nudge-nudge wink-wink nonsense is the best we can do? I found the whole thing about as funny as some godawful forgotten 80s sitcom trapped in mid-afternoon purgatory and about as memorable or emotive as a Thomas Kinkade. Just… rubbish.

  10. Freud says:

    I played it for 3 hours or so but I found the gameplay too shallow. Nothing about the world, the characters or the combat grabbed me.

  11. Kefren says:

    I think I completed it. I was bored shitless nearly all the time. After that I decided I’d quit a game if I wasn’t into it.

  12. TheConfidenceMan says:

    It was a fun little adventure but after years of hype, promises, and misinformation the game just ended up shockingly small. Most of the media released ended up not being representative of the final product; even the screenshot heading this article was from an area not present in the game.

  13. Gothnak says:

    It was created as an RPG game for non-RPG gamers, so often those RPG gamers pretty much hated it for not being as deep and complex as Skyrim etc. It was loved by those who were turned off by serious high fantasy games, that wanted something a bit stupid and more experimental, and those people existed a lot more on console than the PC at the time.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      It predates Skyrim by around a decade and was only released two years after Morrowind.

      Also Skyrim is neither deep nor complex.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Weirdly, your rely is both factually right and completely proved Gothnak’s point.

      • Gothnak says:

        Sorry, not Skyrim specifically, but Elder Scrolls, or Baldur’s Gate or other ‘RPG’s in general.

        The size of those world are, the complexity of combat in many other RPG’s are.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          You can’t exactly put Elder Scrolls and Baldur’s Gate in the same sentence when talking about “RPGs in general”.

          Those two series are so distinctly different from each other they show there is no such thing as a “general RPG”. Even then, neither of those two series really exemplify the qualities of their respective sub-genres. On the other hand they are the go to names for those who don’t really play RPGs to try and give the impression they do.

          It’s fine to say you don’t like a game but please don’t go around bashing, insulting and acting superior to its audience just because they do.

          • Sarfrin says:

            They both have quests and bashing people with swords and magic. To a non-aficionado, they have a lot in common aside from the different perspective.

          • Gothnak says:

            Right ok… I’ll go back to my initial point.. Fable ‘was’ created as an RPG for ‘non RPG fans’. That target audience was identified as those people that generally steered away from other more common RPG games such as Baldur’s Gate and the Elder Scrolls games, which are good games, but are aimed at a certain type of audience (of which i am one).

            AT the time Fable was designed, there weren’t any real games in that genre that didn’t have the player spend a lot of time in staty menus, and that weren’t overly serious or ‘beardy’. (Sorry if that is anti bearded men, but being one, i’m taking the moniker back, so there).

            I don’t know quite what you are getting at, but the types of fans who tend to like the beardy games, don’t like Fable (I liked both), and more of those people tend to be on PC rather than console.

            I don’t quite know which of the audiences i fit in i have been insulting to, but there we go. And obviously i don’t play RPG’s either, even though it’s my most played genre. Ah, the internet…

          • mattevansc3 says:

            You do realise that’s not what Beardy means and its not something that can be reclaimed?

            You are acting lake you are an authority on RPGs when you don’t understand the basic terminology and show a lack of knowledge about the RPG genre and its player base. You don’t really get to decide what target audience a game is made for or played by.

            Fable IS an RPG designed for people that play RPGs and consoles are rich with RPGs.

  14. tigerfort says:

    I tried Fable for a couple of hours, but… the game was OK, and the controls for a lot of things were absurdly fiddly. So I went off to play games that were better than OK and didn’t drive me nuts every time I needed to interact with an NPC. And never looked back.

  15. NickAragua says:

    I played through #1 and #2, but just could not get into #3 (even though I got it “for free” via “games with xbox live”). I had a decent enough time, but it wasn’t good enough that I remember too many specifics. Mostly something about fishing, really annoying mini-games and getting XP based on the skills you were using, which I thought was a pretty neat idea. Barely remember the story at all. Something about getting married to random villagers (where the courtship consisted of repeatedly farting without pooping your pants) and having kids and then either sacrificing them to save a bunch of slaves or sacrificing them to get yourself a crap ton of gold.

  16. syllopsium says:

    Fable was fun, it looks great in stereoscopic 3D too, must finish it some day..

  17. Simbosan says:

    I always despair of the criticism of Fable games. They are utterly charming. That’s the fundamental point of them. People banging on about iffy control schemes (I never found them hard) while all around you are surrounded by a beautiful world with beautifully subtle humour and quirky (I hate the word but it applies) characters.

    Masterpieces, I loved 3 as well. I would wander round the city just to hear the people talk. Brilliant games, brilliant.

    Min maxers gotta hate I guess

  18. chromedbustop says:

    Peter Molyneux did more harm than good with so many of the games he was involved with. Fable was an okay game the first play through, but not only did it not live up to the hype, it wasn’t even the best game of it’s type at the time.

    It wasn’t horrible, mind you. But a letdown, yes.

  19. Dave Tosser says:

    What Molyneux wanted from Fable vs what everyone else wanted from Fable seem like two very different things. The development of Fable cut the game down into a mediocre (if that) action RPG with an absolutely gorgeous pastoral “world” that genuinely gave you sod all to do. I really liked its whimsy and the way your character grew scars from combat, even if he ended up older than his mother by the end.

    But where a Fable 2 could have built on that to deliver on some of Fable’s ideas but make the game enjoying to play through all the trash mobs, Molyneux had all sorts of ridiculous ideas about appealing to X crowd with Y feature, which also crippled Fable 2.

    It’s as if Fable was only an action RPG because Lionhead were so shit at realising any of their vision that they bolted a few ideas on to the most rudimentary video game format. You can see Molyneux hated the format by how much he tried to escape menu wank.