This (well last) weeks chosen game purchase was Fable II (apologies to Dead Space and Far Cry 2, I’ll probably skip on the former for the time being and get to the latter over Christmas). I’ve been quietly hopeful about how good Fable was going to be since the first pieces of concept art of the castle in Barrowstone made their way on to the internet (how shallow of me), and unlike the unfaltering critics of the world, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the game.
I didn’t really take to the first Fable. It felt far too empty, framed in the context of having recently played through Planescape: Torment (late at the time) Fable managed to get far too much arcade in my RPG. I didn’t take to it and I gave up pretty early on. The world wasn’t big enough, it felt too linear, it felt very simple and really it wasn’t much of a roll playing game. You didn’t play a role, you played an archetype and there really wasn’t too much of you in the character.
I then played World of Warcraft for almost three years.
Funny how that taints the way you look at games before and after, because this time when I came to play Fable II, I adored the lengths they went to to put the arcade back in to my tedious RPGs. Mass Effect did it last year by putting a story that I was interested in back in there and Fable II apparently did it with mini-games. I think that this time I’m enjoying Fable for what its meant to be. It’s brought out the Warcraft inspired power gamer in me, but alarmingly, the grinds in the game somehow remain fun (I’m looking at you, tedious manual labour jobs), the world, while lighthearted enough, feels like it has some depth and the whole package looks beautiful.
My only problem with Fable II is that the morality system feels broken. See, when I do action/adventure/RPG-with–choice type games, I always like to play the equivalent of a paladin first time around. Not the literal paladin class, but the “for the greater good” brooding hero type. You know the one, most games force you to play the roll, and it always feels like the ones that don’t hope you’re going to anyway. I guess I feel like it’s my way of pandering to the game designers. I have no desire to be a software tester, and if the game is geared towards that character type, I tend to feel quite fulfilled playing it. The story (where applicable) tends to feel like it works well, and you get to travel through the hero’s journey and a good time is had by all.
So I started playing Fable II with the motivation of “being as good as naturally possible”. I was nice to everyone, spent about 3 hours emoting around town pleasing the comedicly fickle folk and spent about an hour working for the blacksmith. I started my (currently expanding) property empire and was having a great time. Everybody loved me. And I really mean everybody, the villagers started following me like zombies who seemingly had nothing better to do than follow me around begging for marriage / sex / my babies / a roll in the hey and my suspension of believe was totally broken.
It appears I’d been too good. I couldn’t really do any wrong at all. I took a (lesbian) wife, I bought us a modest house, yet the villagers still came. I had extramarital sex with a village in my marital house with my wife in the room. Still adores me? Yep. I went into the middle of town and was very nasty to lots and lots of people. Everyone still wanted to make out? Sure.
I backtracked to the starting village, married a man and had a kid. Everyone was still very happy. Bought the entire town up and they loved me even more. I’ve stopped short of driving the town into financial ruin for the amusement value but I feel like I’ve almost ruined the game for myself by being too good. It seems that while the game design actively encourages you to go one way or another (despite offering a sliding scale of corruption you’re allowed whilst still being good or evil) it really doesn’t know what to do with you when you get there, and really it made me realise that Fable II failed with me in exactly the same way Fable did. I felt disconnected from the game and the character I was supposed to inhabit and no stupid (if well programmed) virtual dog (I’m a cat person) was going to keep me there.
I love Mass Effect for the sense of morality actually having impact, and I hope Biowares recent mumbling’s about trying to maintain that sense of moral responsibility in the upcoming Old Republic game comes to fruition. I think Lionhead need to realise that good and evil isn’t just a smile/dance or fart/angry emote before they’ll get the solid emotional connection they seem to have been aiming for since Black and White.
That said, I’m really enjoying Fable II, I’ve hardly touched on the plot and spent four full evenings engrossed in its world, being a good and righteous happy capitalist. My property empire will be the envy of all the land and I really think they’ve got the action / RPG balance spot on this time.
Now Playing: Ulver – Lyckantropen Themes – NOFVJ0224090