Fable purportedly lets the player guide his character from childhood to retirement as a great hero (or villain). In actuality, the game is split into two main stages – youth and adulthood. The young avatar runs around his home village and the Heroes’ Guild as a sort of tutorial, with the game eventually time warping to young adulthood and graduation from the guild. Growing up is quite simplified, as you can see.
After reaching adulthood, the player has complete freedom of action. The Heroes’ Guild offers story quests, side quests and missions of the standard flavors – kill, find, protect, rescue, etc. Fittingly enough for a game which permits the player to choose good or evil paths, many of the missions are mirrored, meaning that instead of trying to escort a merchant through a hostile land, the player will be ambushing him. The pay and reward are usually the same, as is the challenge. A player simply has the choice of being good or evil. Once a mission is taken, the player has the option of making boasts – wagering money on not just completing the task but doing it in style. Think you can clear a cave of monsters without armor? Or without taking a hit? Make a boast and wager on it.
There are other ways to rack up the good and bad points as well. Various kinds of clothing and armor your character is equipped with will have effects on his reputation. Choose dark items to be menacing or light items for improved popularity with the masses; one can even mix and match to customize the appearance. Seeing as the character ages, his appearance will change rather quickly and will reflect his stats to a limited degree. More obvious effects are tattoos and hair styles, which have social bonuses and penalties not unlike armor pieces. Through the years… err… hours, the avatar will also collect battle scars and various stances and social actions. Initially he can laugh, burp and fart to affect the dispositions of those around him, but he can also learn to flirt, dance and other social tricks.
Among other collectibles are titles, ranging from “Chicken Chaser” or “Assassin” to “Liberator” and “Avatar”. Buy a title and listen as the peasants or city folk call it out as you pass by. Fable is full of small touches like this, for the purposes of atmosphere.
Not all quests are taken up at the Heroes’ Guild. Many can be found in the villages, wilds and roads of the world. Each zone is fairly small but they tend to be densely packed with monsters or NPCs. Sometimes you can run into a special challenge, like a demon door (which will open if you can solve a puzzle or fit its criteria – like being fat or married), or find the sword in the stone. To facilitate quick travel, there are teleporting stations all around the world. They need to be unlocked first, of course.
Combat is as simple as 1-2-3. Almost everything is done with the standard WASD setup and the mouse; the character’s style of attack depends on the direction he’s going and the mouse click. Even spellcasters have an easy time of it, but despite this it is generally challenging enough to be satisfying. Fable has just enough movement and attack options in combat to make things interesting, without making a hassle of it. It is definitely better, though easier, than what Jade Empire had to offer. Fable’s action flows well and suits the action-RPG genre perfectly, being more involved than Diablo or Jade Empire, yet not being confusing in the least.
Further adding spice to the combat is the experience multiplier. The more damage the player delivers, the higher the multiplier goes up. When he goes around to collect the green experience stars that enemies drop, he gets their experience times whatever the multiplier was – so he might get twice as much or twenty times as much. For every hit the player takes though, the game drops the experience multiplier, making for a real incentive to play smart.