Fable 3 may be the most realistic game I’ve ever played.
The Fable series, practically from day one, has been mired in the kind of controversy that can occur through overzealous hyperbole enhanced by only more fervid exaggeration. When Fable was announced back in the days of the Xbox (1… no… the first one, not Xbox One. God damn you, Microsoft), Peter Molyneux promised us a beauteous world where your every choice had global consequences. What we got was a land no larger than Hyrule where you had a choice between petting a kitten, or lighting the poor creature on fire and hurling it through the window of an orphanage. I want to say the “petting” choice was the “good route”, but some of those orphans were dicks, so it could go either way. This created a significant backlash from everyone that hadn’t already been tricked by Black and White (I built a whole new computer for that game! And it was just The Sims with a random Godzilla hanging out! And somehow that was boring!), so what was generally an above-average adventure/RPG became a sacrificial log on the bonfire that was every developer’s inevitably inflated promises for upcoming game x. I understand that gamers feel betrayed when their fifty dollar entertainment purchases don’t turn out to redefine storytelling for the millennium, but, come on guys, can we start to see the pattern, or do we need another Watch_Dogs to remind us?
Whatever the case, Fable wound up being pretty successful despite its increasingly horrid reputation, and Fable 2 was the inevitable sequel for the Xbox 360. This was where I met the franchise, and, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I enjoyed the game quite a bit. Heck, it might be my favorite “only on 360” game for the generation. I understand that some people still want Molyneux’s promised gigantic world of hopes and dreams and love, but for my money, I really enjoy the more scaled-back adventure we received. There are places to explore and find, but it’s not nearly as daunting as your average Bethesda adventure. I enjoy the likes of Fallout and Skyrim, but I have to be in the exact right mood to play such games, else I am immediately hit with an intense feeling of agoraphobia, and lock up at the myriad of choices available. If I hit location x, I might miss out on location y, and location z will be locked away forever! Argh! Fable 2 is more gentle, and, look, there’s a happy glowing path telling you exactly where to go. Yes, I know some people can’t stand such handholding, but for someone who has been crippled by too many choices far too many times (What do you mean I only get to pick four? I want to try Thief and Red Mage, too!), it was juuuust right. Sure, the morality was still molotov kitten thin, but it was a fun game with precise goals and challenges, and I happily devoured the entire quest and DLC just to dink around with my digital avatar a little more. Heck, I even played through the game more than once, which is an extreme rarity with me and any modern game (that can’t be completed inside of two hours). Come on, I know I’m just going to buy the inevitable next-gen remake and play it again later anyway!
All that said, I was hungry for more Fable 2 when Fable 3 was ready to launch, and… well, that’s exactly what we got. Fable 3 promised a bold new premise (you are king of the world!), but, from a practical standpoint, Fable 3 was little more than an ambitious expansion of Fable 2. Exact same kingdom, maybe a new town or two, and primarily the same weapons, spells, and items that populated its predecessor. And the “you are a monarch” feature? It’s cool in theory, but in practice, it’s one extra kitten choice a day, and then you’re off to whack around goblins (hobbes) like every other Fable/adventure game. Fable 3, ultimately, was a disappointing game, mainly because it was barely Fable 2.5.
But that disappointment is not what I remember most about Fable 3.
I suppose the most “realistic” thing most people remember about Fable 3 is the time spent fundraising as royalty. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the game, at about the halfway point, your character reclaims the throne from a seemingly malevolent usurper, but learns that “the tyrant” was simply attempting to amass an army and wealth to ward off an even greater threat to the kingdom. Your job becomes, basically, to raise the necessary scratch to save the kingdom, and do so while not pissing off every single one of your subjects. Like in real life politics, it is a careful balancing act as you attempt to rule the kingdom and keep the soldiers’ paychecks coming, but still elevate a populace’s happiness so they don’t start asking to see your birth certificate. In an effort to heap further stress upon the player, there’s a clear timer ticking down until the invaders show up… except the provided timeline is a lie. You’re told you have a “year”, but, in truth, time flies, and you’ll go from more than a hundred days remaining to a big fat zero in the span of a night’s sleep. It’s the game betraying the player and everything gauges stand for, but it does feel realistic, and an appropriate punishment for anyone that has ever thought they could procrastinate writing a report or building an army to repel shadow monsters.
But, to be honest, I never much cared for my digital kingdom, as my subjects seemed like a bunch of fussy whiners. Sure, I turned your community into a toxic waste dump, but do you have to keep giving me the stink eye? I was trying to get my own fun out of the game, and it caused… issues.
This goes back to my time with Fable 2. See, as I said before, I played through Fable 2 multiple times, but I realized early in my first run that Fable 2 was not at all a difficult game. Despite playing video games for years, I don’t claim to be “naturally” good at any kind of game that doesn’t involve mustachioed plumbers, so I usually see my share of game overs until I “master” the controls du jour. For Fable 2, I never came close to “dying”, and discovered (online) that even if you do lose all your HP, all you get is a teeny tiny scar. Lame.
In an effort to create a sort of “personal challenge” for Fable 2, I decided to turn to pie. See, there’s a weight mechanic in Fable 2, and it makes gaining weight easy, while losing weight is difficult. So, new Fable 2 challenge: I’ll buy all the pies (all the pies!) and only use those to restore health. Only in safe areas (like towns) will I attempt to reduce my character’s weight (through leafy greens! Yum!), and, basically, my “score” will rely on how skinny I can keep my digital avatar. The winner is the thinner, or, basically, Abercrombie and Fitch rules. Since the game “logs” your avatar’s appearance at distinct points in the game, it would be a great way to look back and see the difficulty of a particular segment of the game. If the game didn’t present a risk of death, at least there would be the risk of a fat ass.
Incidentally, just to be clear, no, I don’t see being heavy in real life as a failing. Metabolisms gonna metabolize. This was just a (ridiculous) way to track progress in this particular game. If it was harder to stay fat in the game (which would probably be more epoch accurate), that would have been the challenge. It’s just how the game was designed. And, apparently, that can change…
So, with this prior experience in mind, I played through the opening area of Fable 3. I found, for better or worse, practically nothing had changed, so I decided to partake in the same pie challenge. At the first town, I loaded my inventory with desserts, and went about exploring a dungeon. A large contingent of the undead got the drop on my poor princess, and she devoured her share of pastry on her way to the goal. After getting back to town, I decided to check out the stats screen, and see what this had wrought on her girlish figure.
I found that her “weight” gauge was all the way in the red. I assumed, naturally, that this was a Western RPG, the bias is that fat is unequivocally bad, and red equals bad, so my character must be as fat as possible after all those pies. Huh. She didn’t look bulky, but I figured the more obvious “your character has gained weight” graphics had been dropped for whatever reason from the previous version (if memory serves, that exact thing happened between Monster Rancher and Monster Rancher 2: just make “weight” a gauge and call it a day, why modify graphics?). So, okay, this is what maximum fat looks like. I’ll keep that in mind.
Except Fable 3 had changed the weight mechanics between games. In Fable 2, it was nearly impossible to lose weight, and actually impossible to lose weight through anything but “trying” (i.e. noshing on items deliberately built to help shed pounds). In Fable 3, however, you lose weight naturally through any activity, like, say, running through a dungeon and remurdering undead hordes. And, yes, because I was used to the old system, I was completely misinterpreting the gauge. Red is skinny, green is fat. Fable 3 had the same “your model will look fatter” mechanic as Fable 2, I just never got into a situation where the pie outpaced the natural weight loss. My character was thin, but I thought she was fat. I thought that was what fat looked like. I decided to lay off the pies, because we were already at the maximum red point on the slider. I didn’t want to let that plump princess bust any more belts.
But I was wrong.
I… I gave my player avatar an eating disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia, specifically.
Fable 3 is the most realistic game I’ve ever played.
Just… probably not for the reasons intended.
FGC #107 Fable 3
- System: Only on Xbox 360. Is that the first time that’s happened on the FGC? Oh, no, wait, we had that Banjo game. But, wait, that’s on Xbox One, too…
- Number of players: Most likely one, but you can bop over into someone else’s world through Xbox Live, so yay for online co-op. Or wreck up the place. Whatever is considered cooperative.
- Secret of Evermore: I no longer remember why my dog is now a robot.
- I like words: One other big change in Fable 3 was dropping practically all of the menus of Fable 2 in favor of an animated hub area that is narrated by John Cleese. It was a terribly implemented, if noble, idea. But it wasn’t a complete failure, particularly for a game with so many hair/clothing/etc. options. On the other hand, it made all the “lore” books of the game an absolute bear to actually “read”. Stop attacking me, bandits, I’m listening to funny narration!
- Bookends: For all the issues I have with this game, I do appreciate the symmetry of having the first fight in the storyline so perfectly mirror the final fight. Tutorial to final boss… not bad!
- Downloadable Content: In addition to DLC that would be eventually released, there were a number of DLC items that could be purchased prior to Fable 3’s release through Collector’s Editions, controllers, and probably a breakfast cereal or something. There was even a Fable 3 tie-in novel that contained DLC for a rare sword, and I scoffed at that height of marketing gone wild. Then I found out the book was written by Peter David… so there it is on my bookshelf.
- Did you know? You can import your save data from Fable 2 and… it will remember your gender from the previous game. Since the hero of Fable 3 is the child of Fable 2’s hero, this will determine the pronoun most used during the six times the “previous ruler” is referenced during the game. And that’s about it. Man, importing save data is useless outside of Mass Effect.
- Would I play again? I’m betting we’ll see some Fable 2 & 3 rerelease at some point in the future, so I’m sure I’ll replay it again then. In the meanwhile, it’s unlikely I’ll be hitting it again on its original hardware, but it’s at least a possibility!
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy 2 for the Super Nintendo. Dammit. I’m not even going to pretend to be excited about that. Please look forward to it, I guess.