Good and evil is barely the start of it, frankly. Fable is one of those rare, fascinating game series upon which nobody can really seem to agree about anything for very long. It’s a shallow RPG, or maybe it’s a canny and satirical examination of RPGs in general. It’s hilarious – oh, the burping! Or maybe it’s just juvenile. Let’s face it: Fable’s easy to the point of being obsequious, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s choosing to measure itself in ways that go beyond mere difficulty? It’s no surprise, then, that with all this discussion churning around it, the world of Albion is so often defined by a mechanic that it doesn’t even contain.
As a young child, the story once went, you will find an acorn. If you plant the acorn, green shoots will emerge from the earth. Years later, after a long life of consequence and heroism, you will return to the place that you planted that acorn and a huge oak tree will tower overhead. A lovely idea, isn’t it, that a game would be both so reactive and so poetic, that a game would really notice you and afford your presence a degree of lasting importance, that a game would see your involvement with it as a chance for it to grow? But of course there was no acorn in Fable. By extension, there was no oak tree that would have erupted from it. Or was there?
When I heard a few weeks back that a new Fable game was underway with a new developer attached, I experienced a rush of fond memories so vivid, playful, silly and heartfelt that I almost wobbled on my feet for a few seconds. I remembered setting off, barefoot, on a summer’s day to a distant island where a cog-driven door emerged from the side of a hill. I remembered the moon peering down through sickly grey murk above bogland, where a monster covered in bracken and moss stood up to his waist in mud. Most of all, I remembered a house I once bought where the previous owner, thanks to a brilliant glitch, lived on long after I had killed them, partially stuck in one of the upstairs walls. Then, I started to think about the task of bringing a series like this back to life with a new creative team and in a new era. In a game so full of moving parts, so driven by whimsy and – perhaps – by accident, what single piece of Fable is absolutely indispensable? In which part of Fable does Fable truly live?
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