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LONG BLOG

Shoot the Breeze: Pillow Talk

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Thanks to Corduroy Turtle for this week's title.

I'm playing around with my Windows task bar. Right now it's on the right side and hidden. This feels unintuitive, but so utterly made of future. If I can adjust, I feel that this will pay dividends, but right now, I'm a house cat learning to drive an automobile. The biggest complaint? The clock is at the bottom.

Madness. Boring, mundane madness.

Oh, and while it occurs to me, #xzyliacwroteathing

Okay. So. Videogames. And in particular, Fable. I got that guy for the Jesus's birthday and it's time to rap. I'm a terribly ardent fan of the series as a whole. There's a lot of potential there, a lot fun, and, of no little import, a lot of personal nostalgia wrapped like the outside of a Tootsie Pop around the first game. It was that exoskeleton of enthusiasm which carried me as I scurried towards the latest endeavorer, but, and I'd like to be upfront about this, underneath that chitinous conviction lay a network of nerves. I went into Fable III expecting, at the worst, a broken Fable II. My experience failed to meet even that baseline.

Fable III


Some men find relevant images. Real men are badgers.

Jesus. Okay. Deep breaths.

So, let's assume you have some idea what Fable III is about. Pretty safe, right? It's been out for what, like, a quarter of a year. Well, like just about everything else in life, I'm behind the times. I am, in effect, a dinosaur. Roar. Uh, you can also check out a review, but let's face it, you know what the game is about. Okay? Second, go read Caiterses' blog because it is happier and full of cupcakes and proves I am not alone in being culturally irrelevant. Good? Great. Let's be miserable together.

And to get that properly underway, how about we tackle the premise? All the grandeur of plotting a rebellion and ruling an entire kingdom, in this game, can be expressed as "make friends; make decisions" with no loss of scope or depth. The story itself is a bleak vacuum into which stock characters with attractive voices quip blithely. I've played this game a time and a half now and the only name I can remember is Reaver. Because he was in the second game.

The sidequests and most characters aren't without their charm, certainly, but there isn't enough to tie everything together. It's a fatally weak setting with so little cohesion or weight that during cutscenes I found myself closing my eyes and humming Muppet Treasure Island's Sailing For Adventure until I wagered enough time had passed that I could start hitting things again. There was, I will happily give the game, one shining moment where I left an ally behind and the sultry tendrils of desperation wrapped and tangled, but beyond that, the game was left to stand on its one-two punch of accessible action and consequential choices. Hrm.


Hrm.

The idea of Fable's combat is one with no little draw. A mix of disparate arts made easily reachable. It's a simple button masher, but fun enough, and with neat little flourishes, it looks hella cool. Ignore the thoughtlessness of it; that's not the quarter from which I draw my beef. No, like so much of the game, a dozen tiny decisions dash the dance apart like a centipede with a hundred left legs. Flow-breaking slowtimes; attack power disparities; a great slew of hurp-a-derp-a-derp. Among all of it, there's one thing that epitomizes the problem.

Now, I might be incorrect with this statement. I've scoured the internet and poured over the manual and I'm still hoping it's a personal hiccup, but I dread the worst. Fable III, an action game with a dynamic camera and a focus on combat, does not have a lock-on feature. No way to focus on an enemy or keep the camera centered on them unless, and real, serious props to Lionhead for this, you're performing a powerful ranged attack. This is- uh. A baffling step backwards. A throwback to things barbarous and best left forgotten. This is employing a Neanderthal to monitor a nuclear power plant. It defies belief, frankly. It's too ruinous to understand and yet, that's what Fable III is.

As far as choices go, more balls are dropped. Picture, if you will, a narcoleptic juggler on an off day. Choice is, ostentatiously, the game's fulcrum, and this is the area of possibly the greatest disappointment. It's not just that the moral choices are shallow or held back by their binary trappings, the same defamations which have plagued these systems for years, though these apply regardless of the scope. My ire is placed on the choices surrounding the hero. Gone is the aesthetic supernova formerly afforded by muscles and greed and devil horns and magic tattoos. In their place is, well, there are pajamas now. Everything about being a hero comes off as watered down and weak.

No, that's not totally fair. I mean, yes, there is so much less to making a hero your own, but the game's evolving weapons are neat. Its a cool reward for investing time with weapons and meeting goals and it grants something to work towards, a tidy little metagoal. So yes, that is nice and I am happy for it.


Heroes wear bowties, right Bill?

Underscoring the wildly neutered character evolution is the dangerously wrong Road to Rule. This insipid tedium aggressively wrests the idea of choice away from the player and totally, utterly, devastatingly betrays the soul of the experience. It robs discretion. Doling out magic powers? Capping power levels? Holding back on dyes, for god's sake? There is no point to any of it beyond forcibly chaining the player to the narrative, gating the experience with the designer's intentions. Forgive me some melodrama here, but it is a fundamental misinterpretation of what the experience should be.

More like Road to Ruin, am I right?

Y'know what's really getting to me? How much of the game is, unapologetically, an absolutely numbing waste of time. At every turn, the game prevents you from actually playing it. The pointless, stymieing calls to win fame by being forced, with no pretense of consent, to entirely put aside the main quest to tackle some of the disjointed side missions. The blusteringly uninteresting jobs which, in a twisted alchemy, transform you from hero to menial labourer. For the love of porridge and parakeets, even simple, unary actions are bogged down by a prompt to first hold, then release the action button.



I know that seems trivial, but live it. That trite little action is designed in such a perfectly horrible, illogical manner that it distills the entirety of my grief. Lionhead has successfully managed to map the entire experience of spending precious minutes of your day in a dentist's waiting room to a controller. You'd rather not do the wait; let's face it, you just want to get moving. And it's not as though you're going to turn and walk out the door when you're time to go under the drill does come up. Why bother pretending otherwise? It's just- it's-

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Woah. Alright. Where are we? Oh, yeah. Fable.

Fable as a series or, moreover, as an idea is one of my most cherished entities. Fable III, however, is a churlish monster. It excises the heart of the franchise to let spread the tumors of arrogant, broken design. It is not a good, or even moderate game marred by the occasional blemish. It is a soulless, cancer-ridden shell of an experience. Do you remember when you first found out Santa was really just your parents playing a trick on you? My time with Fable III was like that, only instead of sneaking out to plant presents in the middle of the night, my drunken father burst into my room, fake beard dangling about his neck like a boa made from a mangy arctic fox, and slapped me until the dawn's light reflected off of my tear-soaked face, all the while bawling about moral choices.

And breathe out.

Oranging



So, uh, heart-to-heart time? Or heart-to-disinterested-back. It's okay. I'm used to neglect.

Between the abject failure of my monthly musing effort and the endless tumult of the breathing world, I've sunk into something of a funk. Not like one of those cool, afro-laden funks. No, one of the one's where I feel useless and frustrated and... anway. No big deal, but I might be taking a break from writing. It's, I don't know, a malaise, they pass, but it might, maybe knock me out for a bit. Don't get your hopes up. We'll find out next week.

Lovely word, malaise.

Take it easy kids.
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About Beyamorone of us since 1:10 PM on 06.24.2009

I知 a gamer. Take a minute and get over that shock. I can say I知 an Xbox man, though I値l support anything that advances gaming (I love you Sackboy). I致e also got a DS Chunky, so I can take this whole nerd thing on the road.

As far as genres, shooters and western RPGs top my list. Halo, Fable, and Morrowind, for instance, rock my socks hard. Of course other things, stuff like Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts, do their share of stocking rocking.

In the world outside of buttons and pixels, I知 an engineering student (that nerd thing I mentioned? I do it hardcore) on the west coast of the Great White North. I知 a fan of a harder rock, bands like Breaking Benjamin and Hurt, though I値l kick it (very much figuratively) to stuff ranging from The Fray through Franz Ferdinand to Five Finger Death Punch. Optimus Prime is my hero, but I do love Starscream. Finally, thumbs up to you for reading this. You池e never getting that time back.


Kirbey by the talented and generously endowed (probably) Enkido