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Why I'm obsessed with... Fable

Eight years on, and we never caught a single chicken...

This article originally appeared in GamesMaster magazine.

It was in the 26th hour of Skyrim that the hankering first took hold. Not that the sheer majesty of that game wasn't gob-smacking, just that I felt I'd been here before, and though the visuals were endlessly inferior then, and I couldn't jump, the life I was leading was somehow more involving, and the people I met had more to say than moaning about knee injuries.

That's when I vowed to retrace my steps right back to the start of Lionhead's cartoon fantasy saga, to see whether the progress of the sequels, let alone Skyrim, had made it an embarrassment.
Of course, downloading the game afresh from Xbox Live was never going to inspire an uninterrupted torrent of cries of 'Those were the days', and the things that were annoying the first time round were still annoying now - tiresome challenges that can't be avoided (hello, Arena fight!) and the stupidity of the NPCs, who are about as easy to corral as a gaggle of Mogwai.

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But the impenetrable charm of Lionhead's gameworld holds as firm today as it did in 2004. There simply aren't enough RPGs where characters call you a 'bloody git' for accidentally swiping them across the chops with an axe. The humour of Fable would only really develop beyond fart gags in the sequels, with the likes of Stephen Fry and John Cleese joining the cast, but the quality of the voice acting was above and beyond any other game series from the very start, the chattering of the regional burrs around you being one of Fable's defining elements.

There's no denying that completing the story in 15 hours was as jarring as stepping on a missing stair - but at the same time there's something pleasing about a game with so many permutations offering such a tight central challenge, and of course, the original idea was that killing off Jack of Blades was far from the end of it. Once completed, Fable was always intended to be a playground packed with further scraps, eccentric challenges and character growth. However, there's less post-boss action than in the sequels, leaving us running around in our Union Jack knickers appeasing Demon Doors and not much else.

It is definitely arsehat-crazy that Microsoft have only given us the basic Fable on Xbox Live, not The Lost Chapters - it's not enough to keep anyone busy and Kinect debut The Journey is hardly a full stopgap for the inevitable Fable IV.
And so, refreshed, it was time to return to the 27th hour of Skyrim's epic but relatively glum action. But whether it's been several years since you returned to Albion's beginning, or you have never played the first game before, the original, ambitious and very daft chapter of the Fable story is still worth a download eight years on.

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