I was unsure at first as to how to go about writing my post for this week of Fable-themed madness. I first thought that a simple, three-word post of “Fable is bad” would suffice. After being rebuffed, I attempted to write a post that consisted of the word “Fable” repeated one thousand times, but that idea too was rejected. Therefore, I submit my opinion on the battle system of the game Fable. As I am playing the game for the PC, I will be speaking specifically of that version.
Fable’s battle system does have a very solid base. It features an over-the-shoulder third person targeting system that borrows heavily from the system seen in the 3D Legend of Zelda games. The player can roll left and right and jump backward in order to dodge blows from a targeted opponent. Unfortunately, in order to switch targets, the player must either hold down the targeting button and turn their character to face a new target or deselect the current target and target a new opponent, both of which are rather time-consuming in a fast-paced battle. It is necessary to target most NPCs in order to harm them. This is a good mechanic, as it prevents the player from accidentally killing a town citizen that he does not desire to kill.
Sword combat is decent. For most opponents, the player needs only to mash the attack button toward a targeted opponent until that opponent is dead. The attack button provides the player with an unending loop of sword attacks that the hero awkwardly strings together and might be loosely referred to as a combo. I prefer my characters’ movements to be fluid in games, with combos that flow together and feel like part of a fighting style rather than wild swings in the dark with an unwieldy weapon.
Bow combat is awful. The bow takes a great deal of time to draw back, and if the bow is not properly drawn, its projectiles are useless. The easiest way to hit an opponent with an arrow in Fable is to target an opponent that has become completely immobilized. If the opponent is moving, then targeting the opponent is actually detrimental to firing arrows at them, unless the player’s goal is to destroy the air next to them. The only way to hit a moving opponent is to break out of targeting that opponent, making it difficult to follow them. The bow is generally an inferior weapon to the sword.
Magic combat is the worst of all. Though the player is able to learn a plethora of spells, the player may only have two spells equipped at any one time. The basic lightning spell is learned early and the player is told that it is a good idea to continue firing lightning while switching targets. This advice almost always ends up hurting the player’s instructor, gaining the player a stern talking-to. The lightning is indiscriminate, so a player that wishes to fight around innocents and play the paladin is out of luck if he enjoys magic. A small offense nets the player a huge fine in the town that he is playing in, so if he manages to accidentally harm any innocents, he can expect to be promptly thrown out.
The player should not expect his character to improve rapidly. Skills must be purchased one at a time, and they are not cheap. Even simple skills cost hundreds of experience points, whereas the game gives experience points in singular and double-digit values. The player chooses from three skill trees: physical, skill, and magic. The physical tree contains upgrades for the player’s physical combat ability, the skill tree improves the character’s attributes that allow the character to become a better archer or thief, and the magic tree obviously improves the character’s magical ability by teaching him new spells. The player is forced to spend experience points only at specific places in the game, and though he can undo level-ups in skills while he is still choosing to distribute experience points, once a skill is chosen and the player has exited the level-up menu, he can no longer change out that skill. It is therefore important to choose skills carefully.
All in all, Fable’s battle system is subpar. It is not as terrible as others, but considering its similarities with the system in the 3D Legend of Zelda games, it could be far, far better than it is. Please, poor readers, leave the playing of Fable to us. Save yourselves.