Monday, November 9, 2015

Thoughts About the Fable Series

Okay, so it's been ten days since my last post. That's too long, and honestly, I thought I'd be done with the Fable sequels by now, but I'm still less than halfway through Fable 3. I don't think I'm going to finish, though. Partly because I miss blogging about games, but mostly because Fallout 4 is going to be out in less than 24 hours, and there's no way I'm missing playing that on release day.

What can I say, then, about two and a half Fable games? Well, Fable 2 is the perfect sequel. Everything that was good about the original was either preserved or improved upon, and most of the original's faults were, if not eliminated entirely, at least smoothed over. It was more or less "peak Fable." I said the original was not quite a classic, and I stand by that, but Fable 2 might well be worthy of the designation.

Which makes Fable 3 a real shame, and something of a mystery. It's not a bad game, and I'd even say I prefer it to the original, but it takes Fable 2's finely tuned formula and then makes a series of weird and inexplicable innovations that make it an all-around less pleasant experience. Like, why get rid of menus so thoroughly? It's a decision that works all right for changing clothes, but trudging along the "road to rule" in order to spend my experience points is a pain, and I apparently have no inventory where I can review exactly how many gems, toys, and various other doodads I've managed to accumulate, which makes giving and receiving gifts needlessly problematic.

It's just one of a host of complaints I could make (the social system is streamlined to the point of uselessness, black dye is a fucking DLC), but what makes Fable 3 especially frustrating is that it is, in other ways, a very well made game with some good ideas (I especially like the upgrading weapons). I don't know. I'm not likely to finish it, due to scheduling, but I think even with its rough parts, I'm going to have to give it a tentative thumbs up. I may have my issues with it, but I admire the fact that it's willing to take risks with an established series. The people at Lionhead were not content to rest on their laurels and simply remake the second game (though it seems obvious to me in retrospect that that's what a lot of people, including myself, secretly wanted) and so they took their enormously successful franchise and used it to experiment with the limits of game design. Which is a bold thing to do, even if all of their risks didn't quite pay off.

I think the Fable series will always have a fond place in my heart, though it kind of makes me sad to think that I'll probably never again have the sort of time necessary to give it its due.

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