This is the story of my most regrettable purchase ever. I didn't plan revisiting any of this, but I couldn't resist this month's theme. Actually, I shiver at the very thought of Fable 3. I honestly hope it goes well. I know that a lot of people love Fable. But count me out.
I had just bought my Xbox late 2008. It came with Lego Indy and another game that shall remain nameless. I purchased Bioshock, had one hell of a good time with it, and as my vacation drew near I began searching for follow ups.
Then I started to hear about this game. It's supposed to resemble Zelda, looks great, the price was reasonable, had great reviews. It's like a blind date: you ask if the girl is beautiful and the answer is “she's blonde with blue eyes”. Classical trap. Think of how many unattractive girls with blond hair and blue eyes you know. Serves you right for being shallow. Next time be aware that when someone does not answer the question you've asked it's because you wouldn't like the answer.
Note that I have never even heard about this game prior to release. There was no excessive hype or half filled promises for me, as it was for many of you. I also have never played the original Fable (and now I have no intention to do so). I just bought the game for a good time.
And because of the dog.
Yes, the dog sold me the game. I love animals, specially strays. Not to the point of buying Nintendogs, but enough to be a determinant factor for buying Fable 2.
The dog in the game is disappointing, clearly. Aside from barking now and then, tricks that get you laid and a few misplaced rubber balls, there's nothing much. I later came to realize that this characteristic is not particular to the dog. I found that the game itself is quite simplistic: the story, the combat system and the customization options like clothes, weapons and my many wives. The team went out of the way to counter this point. They posted pictures, complained that people didn't use the options well. If I were to agree with this (I don't) I would still blame it on them. See, game design and game features should complement each other. If you think there was great depth on this choices, why weren't they more deeply involved on the gameplay?
I'm not saying that I didn't have fun with Fable 2. I did. I even fell some discomfort saying this things, since I've played it many hours. And I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't somehow rewarding. Turns out I really like exploration, and there's a lot of fiddling about. I had a really good laugh organizing an orgy with port prostitutes, even tough it cost me some coins and I got to see nothing. But the key moment on my disenchantment was when I discovered I could get away with anything simply killing all the guards that came for me. Not using powerful magic or items (were there any?) but simply by pressing repeatedly the attack button. If you haven't tried the co-op, you can now think of why it isn't fun.
Decisions that baffled me don't stop there. The game gives you the option to be in a whole grey area between good and bad: there is however only a single path story. Hence, it's extremely simplistic and unoriginal. They could have compensated with remarkable characters, but they are very forgettable, what's in part due to the shortness of the story. I found the gambling on table games uninteresting and unnecessary. For your information, there is a specific achievement (if you are into that sort of thing) that is only obtainable if you buy the 10 dollar arcade game based on this table games. Classy.
To me, Fable 2 is a reminder of how less is more. If the team had concentrated on fewer aspects like the ones, you know, make a game fun, I would never be writing this. I keep thinking how Batman: AA is a game that succeeded on everything Fable 2 failed. A compelling story, a fun battle system that can become difficult and complex, just the gadgets you'd want to use and challenges to keep making you play it.