One of my unexpected surprises at Christmas was th game fable for the xbox. I didn't ask for it, but I was pleasantly surprised to get it. It is a role playing game where you play the part of a boy taken to live in a guild after bandits attack your village and kill your family. The game follows your life story, progressing from young boy to hardened hero. Throughout the game you are presented with quests to complete. There are core game quests that further the story, and several tertiary queststo help build experience along the way. The interesting thing is that most quests give the option to play as a good person or an evil person. For instance you can choose to save a hostage and receive an item as a gift, or you can just kill the gift giver. The game steers you towards being good, but you can be evil if you really want to.
This game is relatively short as far as RPGs go. I completed it, including the Lost Chapters expansion, in just over 20 hours. I don't necessarily see this as a drawback, as it keeps the pace of the game brisk where other RPGs get mired in the grind of leveling your character. The battle system is realtime (rather than turn-based), making the battle sections much like an adventure game. Ranged and melee attacks are intuitive, but I found that the controls in general were a bit overloaded. To perform a magic attack, you must hold the right trigger button. This changes the behavior of the buttons to issue magic. Pressing the Y button cycles through your list of spells. In addition, the D-pad is used for context actions or configured behavior (such as social behaviors or potion usage). When the right trigger is released, the actions associated with the d-pad are based on your current situation. If you pull the righttrigger, the d-pad will issue your configured commands. The left trigger locks on to a target. With all of this overloading of buttons, d-pad, and triggers, it is very easy to issue a command you don't intend to (such as flirting with a troll or hittingyour wife with a fireball).
The level of detail in the game is awesome. The graphics are incredible, but it goesbeyond that. The social aspect of the game is very well done. As you gain more reknown from completing quests, people are more apt to be friendly with you. Another aspect is flirting and marriage. The game receives a mature rating for this. Your character can flirt, give gifts, gamble, drink, have sex, and get married. Sex scenes are simply a black screen with humorous suggestive noises. You can even choose to be gay or bisexual if you like. There is a brothel where a hero can "relax". Your interactions in battle and in town all affect how the game reacts around you.
When Fable was first released, it was criticized for being overhyped, incomplete, and bug ridden. Microsoft had touted the game as the greatest RPG ever. That kind of talking is guaranteed to get you in trouble. With the lost chapters expansion included with this now budget priced game ($20), the bugs are fixed. With the right perspective going in, I think any RPG/action adventure gamer could really enjoy this title.