Friday, October 23, 2015

Fable - The Lost Chapters - 6/20 hours

I feel like I'm going to say this every time I make a post about Fable, and I know I should probably just stop beating a dead horse, but I've gotta say it - love the game, hate the controls. I've taken steps to rectify this by downloading a program that will convert my controller inputs to keyboard and mouse inputs. It works better, but it doesn't really work well. I can dodge now, but the analogue stick doesn't translate well to WASD movement, and I'm constantly having to manually adjust the camera. I'm sorely tempted to just hook up the old xbox, play it the right way, and then just leave my PC running to keep track of time. However, that kind of defeats the point of trying to retroactively justify my game purchases by playing them.

On the other hand, if purchasing Fable for the PC inspired me to replay the console version, then maybe it would be worth it in a way. . . No, no, with the controller-to-key program, the controls are adequate. I'll stick with it.

Now that I've done a few missions, I have to say, I don't care much for Fable's "evil" playthrough. Yes, it's evil, but it's a boring sort of evil, only tenuously connected to the character's motivation and circumstances. For example, there's this situation where you're in a bandit camp (which, by the way, had a mandatory stealth section - boo!) and in order to bypass a certain gate, you have to cause a distraction. You can do this by either releasing some slaves, or by hiring some assassins. Presumably, the assassins are the evil option, but they cost 2000 gold to hire, and releasing the slaves was free. So, in this case, the good option was easier, cheaper, and more practical.

Which really gets to the heart of what's wrong with Fable's (and a lot of other games', actually) morality system. It relies on the notion of evil as pure sadism, when in actuality, the worst evils of the world often come from careless expedience or, worse, a fanatical desire to do "good," whatever the cost. And that's not even getting into matters of motive and temperament. Do I save these villagers out of altruism, or because it's easy for me as a mighty warrior, and their gratitude flatters my pride? Do I kill these bandits to stop their depredations, or because they had the temerity to inconvenience me?

This is no mere theoretical issue in the world of Fable, because you do get good karma points merely from slaying the randomly spawned bandits, despite the fact that it is purely pragmatic self-defense (what, is it suddenly evil to run away from conflict without letting it turn into a fight). And that doesn't even start to touch on the ethical implications of the fact that you can grind good karma by eating massive amounts of tofu.

It's simply weird the ways in which, in order to be evil, you must defy your basic character. These people treat me politely, with respect (once I got rid of the ridiculous "chicken chaser" title you start off with), and slaying them brings me no particular benefit - I must rampage against them. These other people are rude, demanding, and dismissive - I must do favors for them in order to peacefully coexist. There's no room for mercenary detachment, ruthless enforcement of status (I'll let you bandits live if and only if you acknowledge I'm the biggest badass around), or maintaining a hypocritical facade due to overweening vanity. It's all style, and no substance.

Which is fine, actually, because Fable is a bright and fun little game more concerned with telling a fairy-tale-like story and making silly jokes than it is in being some serious meditation on the nature of morality. It's just that the "evil" playthrough is a lot less interesting than the "good" one (I can't find a source, but I seem to recall this was an issue they tried to correct in the sequel, thanks to most players reaching the same conclusion).

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