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All the same, only a few games – the aforementioned Bioware games plus Jade Empire, the GTA trilogy, Ultima Underworld, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind – have succeeded in created a world this stunning and vibrant, then really making you feel part of it. It’s not a huge world, but it is a truly beautiful one; more reminiscent of European folk-tale than the standard sub-Tolkien mush. There’s plenty of green woodlands, dark forests and pungent marshes in the early portions, with a scattering of mountain, ice and snow – including an all-new Northern region – to come later on.
Like World of Warcraft, it’s all bound together by a coherent, imaginative art design, with gorgeous scenery, detailed houses and dilapidated ruins everywhere you look, plus generous lashings of golden sunlight and mist-drenched atmosphere. Characters and monsters look superb – even if a few more types of villager and trader would be welcome – and this has to be one of the most attractive RPGs we’ve seen yet. And while the irreverant quips and regional British accents might put off the more po-faced fantasy gamer, they help make it one of the most downright entertaining ones to boot.
Plus, of all the games mentioned above, Fable is easily the most accessible to a mainstream audience. Not enough has been said about how cleverly the team at Lionhead were in taking the RPG from its hardcore, stat-driven roots and changing it to something that everyone would like to play.
You don’t need to learn complex combat or magic systems, spend hours managing your inventory or work through screens assigning experience points. You can see your character get stronger, blast a fireball or use a health potion at a touch of a button, and aim your bow for a head shot in the easiest and most logical way possible. You don’t even need to spend hours wandering huge distances once you get used to the game’s effective teleport network. Yes, it’s dumbing down, but it’s dumbing down in a clever way. And with a mouse for precision aiming and the keyboard shortcuts of the PC, Fable actually works even better than it did in the original Xbox version.