Reader Retrospective: Fable

Reader Retrospective: Fable

Kotaku reader Justin would like you to know that while Lionhead may not always deliver on every dot point, there are some things not accounted for on the back of the box. In the case of Fable, they make the game. If only Molyneux came with a mute button.

That’s right, we’re publishing reader reviews, reader retrospectives and features as well now. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community, and talk about games that get left out of the 24-hour news cycle.

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This review was submitted by Justin. If you’ve played Fable, or just want to ask Justin more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Fable for the most part was well received, but it copped a lot of flack for not delivering on all those promises that Peter Molyneux was retarded enough to make. With this review I’m going to try to separate the myths from the facts, and try to put into words why the original Fable is one of the best games I’ve ever played.


It’s about everything not listed on the box – No one will deny that there was a lot left out of Fable. Having children, influence over the environment, infinite customisation and branching story paths… But it was never about any of this. In fact, if those things were all in the game, all perfectly implemented, it wouldn’t change what made it great. Fable was in a lot of ways a standard RPG, but it was otherwise so well executed that it was in a league if its own.

Perfectly realised world – Fable got the balance of art and technical realism (for the time) more perfectly than any game since. Everything about it is memorable and inspired. From the guards that could have been right out of Monty Python, to the fact that the towns and environments felt like real places. Things like shifty traders and the sheer absurdness of the townsfolk made it a place that you want to hang out in, not just pass by. Fable had an atmosphere like nothing I’d experienced before, and that above everything else is what drew me to it.

Mystery – Fable to me symbolises a game that knows how to keep you intrigued. Demon Doors let you uncover treasures and made you feel like you were the first person in a thousand years to enter, same with searching for the silver keys and chests. This was complimented by the talk of the “Old Kingdom”, which is often referred to during the game, but never fully revealed. Everything in the game has it’s own story and background, with everything – no matter how insignificant – being hugely detailed. It all had this incredible sense of being part of something much bigger.

This mystery went beyond the game itself even. Whether it was intentional or not, there were some things that were hard to pass by without hours of fascinated playing. The infamous faceless Demon Door comes to mind, and the fact that there were 25 silver keys, but no 25 key chests. It also spawned one of the best video game myths of all time: The Sandgoose… Fable might have been only eight hours long if you stuck to the main quest, but everything else made up for it. You could not play Fable just once.


Combat – The magic and combat systems weren’t perfect, and archery was just a futile exercise from the get go. But in a game as detailed as Fable, it didn’t matter for a second. This barely registers as a bad point for me, it holds up well, but it might turn off some newcomers.

Xbox Exclusive – I will use that cliché yet again… I can’t think of a game that would have made a better multi platform release. Luckily Halo had already drawn me into the Xbox’s grasp a few years earlier, or I might have missed this masterpiece.

There’s nothing bad I can say about Fable. Yeah, maybe it’s nostalgia… but regardless; no other game has had such an effect on me. I remember being so fascinated by Fable in the weeks leading up to its release, and the obsession in the weeks and months afterwards – it was so different – and it never disappointed me for a second. I can’t stress enough that if you paid any attention to what Molyneux said, you’ve missed out on what makes Fable such a remarkable game. Yes, we got cheated out of a few features, but if you judged it based on what wasn’t there, as opposed to what was, you missed the point completely. It’s old, but way ahead of it’s time, a game that needs to be experienced if you consider yourself any kind of gamer.

Written by Justin Robson.


  • @Brant That’s why it’s called retrospective instead of review.

    Also, to one of the hates mentioned, while Fable was initially a xbox exclusive, it was later released on PC, too, which is the version I have and still enjoy. Otherwise, spot on.
    Mr Molyneux (and DN:F) is the reason I try to steer clear of previews of games, so I can judge them on the merits of the game itself.

    • Yeah, good point. Maybe they worked out some of the kinks in the combat system later on the PC? Regardless, it’s probably the version to go with for someone who hasn’t played it before. I was referring to the PS2/GC when I mentioned not multi plat though, but I never played the PC version.

  • Great retrospective, such a shame that the sequel was such an unpolished turd.

    No Fable game will ever be as fun, charming or, well any good like this one.

  • Interesting perspective. I also enjoy replaying Fable, but for entirely different reasons. Fable is an overhyped, underdelivering, glitch-filled mess. The story is dull and predictable and the level design features the most absurd railroading since crash bandicoot.
    What makes it fun for me is blowing through it in four hours, with the help of its piss-poor game balance, and affectionally mocking its many flaws with anyone willing to sit through it with me.
    Some people watch bad movies, I play Fable.

  • Man this game was epic, when they were making the second one did they sit down and say “What made the first one fun and how can we remove it”? Things that made this one enjoyable for me was the whole arcadey feel of it, like the old dude constantly yelling shit at you, reminded me of gauntlet, and other stuff like collecting the exp orbs and generally running around and being a dick. Also, the armours were a nice touch and one of the things I missed so much in Fable 2. Where’s my fable install disc!?!?

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