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.
In October 2008, Microsoft released Lionhead's Fable 2 to critical and commercial acclaim. At a launch party an emotional Peter Molyneux held aloft glowing reviews and praised the exhausted team of developers who had spent the previous four years pouring everything they had into the game. Fable 2 would go on to win a BAFTA and become the best-selling role-playing game for the Xbox 360. Lionhead was on top of the world.
It's a grey January morning and the rain batters the windows of the taxi taking me from Guildford train station to Surrey Research Park. Typical English weather, then, as I head to the home of a developer which has been making typically English video games for a decade.
Watching Microsoft's E3 conference back in 2009, it felt as if video games were about to take over the world. Some of Los Angeles' biggest names assembled to pay lip service to a medium on a giddy ascent, and it all built to an electric climax with the unveiling of the nascent Project Natal.
Fable: The Journey is, without a doubt, the biggest and most ambitious game yet for Kinect. It's no aerobic festival of mini-games but a full-length action-adventure with epic narrative aspirations, played from the comfort of your couch. It has lavish production values: beautiful graphics, superb animation, fine voice-acting and a musical score that tracks the action from moment to moment, like a movie's.
"How long have you got to talk?" I ask Peter Molyneux at the beginning of our Skype interview.
For the past day and a half, Kerry Turner has been thinking about swans. She's been making a game using Flixel - this is an open-source Actionscript library put together by Canabalt creator Adam 'Atomic' Saltsman - that's loosely based, she tells me, on the fairy tale about the swans and the princes. I have never heard of this fairy tale, but, as she's worked on the game for many hours without taking much of a break, Kerry has the look of a person who isn't to be argued with.
Peter Molyneux's departure from Microsoft and Lionhead sent shockwaves throughout the game industry. Not only had one of the most influential developers of all time ditched the company he founded in 1997, but Fable, a series guided by Molyneux's leadership over eight long years and across two generations of home console, was left without its poster boy.
It all started with an acorn. Project Ego, the game that would eventually grow into Fable and then further flourish into one of the enduring series of the last decade, was built upon a promise of choice, of being able to craft your own journey in the fantasy land of Albion across your hero's entire lifespan. That acorn was an embodiment of that promise: something you'd be able to plant and then return to, after digital decades had passed, to see an oak in bloom.
That acorn was also an embodiment of the whimsy of Peter Molyneux, founder of Lionhead Studios and, throughout the entirety of the Fable series to date, its figurehead. When that acorn failed to materialize in the very first Fable, to a vocal bunch it came to symbolize what they felt about Molyneux - that he was a snake oil salesman, a purveyor of empty promises and hollow rhetoric.
If you're ever lucky enough to witness the Molyneux show in person, it's hard not to come away thinking he's one of the industry's finest showmen, the kind of character you'd expect to find down one of Albion's alleyways, enchanting a small gathered crowd with his sleight of hand and abundance of charisma.