Reviews: Fable

Since My Original Review Was Deleted

I'm not entirely sure why my last review was deleted (I've heard that there may be a bug in the review system), but meh.

To be honest, I don't share the love many people have for this series. Every new release is always so sickeningly overhyped it's insulting, and the games themselves are 'streamlined' to a ridiculous degree. Of the features that are advertised, the vast majority of them never actually make it into the final product, and the ones that do make it in are always in a severely cut-down form. What's more, it seems as though every time a feature is added two more from the previous game are taken away, because we can't have the players enjoying themselves too much.

The games seem to be getting more and more simplistic and minimalist with each release; at this rate Fable 5 will just be a movie. It comes across as rather condescending, in that annoying kid's-show-host kind of way - Fable 3 takes it to extremes by effectively removing the interface altogether, because apparently buttons and lists are too complex for their customers to understand.

For all its promises of nonlinearity and deep moral choices, the main story in each game is always a fairly static and unmoving thing with little to no replayability, relying heavily on scripted events and But Thou Must situations to railroad the player down either a path of Purest Good or Darkest Evil - although I will admit this is a rather clever allusion to old-style children's fables, which makes the game's title make a lot more sense.

This series sells very well and always gets rave reviews, so it has to have something going for it, right? Well, to be honest, it is sort of fun at times, in a goofball frat-boy sort of way. It is, much like Just Cause 2, a game that's principally about fucking around - more a toy than a game, where the ultimate goal is doing whatever the hell you want to do. Is that entertaining? Well, yes, but it's hardly the grand, epic fantasy tale we were promised. Maybe my expectations are simply too high, maybe I've been spoiled by rare gems like Grim Fandango and Half Life and Fallout. Maybe you're one of those people whose expectations are more realistic, and who can enjoy this game for what it is. If you are, you'll probably find a lot to like in this game, even if I didn't.

Lowest Common Denominator

I'm going to be perfectly honest, I really don't see what people love so much about this series. They're always sickeningly overhyped and never ever ever live up to the promises the devs make about them. Half the features they're supposed to have don't get included and the ones that do make it in are usually in a severely cut-down form. But all that is a fairly minor problem when compared to my main issue with the series.

You see, every game in the series is quite obviously designed to adhere to the 'Keep It Simple, Stupid' principle, and in this case that's short for 'Keep It Insultingly Simple Because We Think Our Customers Are Stupid'. Everything is 'streamlined' and 'simplified' to a massive degree that only gets worse as the series progresses, which is a very good way to hide the fact that just about every system in the game is about as deep as a sidewalk rain puddle. The whole ensemble comes off as rather condescending, like the developers think I wouldn't be able to handle something as mind-numbingly complex as a video game without substantial assistance.

In summary, the game feels less like an epic fantasy tale and more like a children's picture book - which, given the title, is oddly fitting, I suppose. Even that would be acceptable if it were fun, and parts of it are in short bursts, but much of the game isn't just heavily simplified, it's boring, which is the worst possible thing a game can be. If you want to have enough money to do much of anything, you have to wade through tons of painfully dull side missions, including literal work in the second and third ones, which is exactly as entertaining as 'work' is in real life. Once you've worked enough to earn money to actually play the game and get into the meat of it, you're thrust into the main story, which is painfully lame in the first two games. The third game, at least, improves on this aspect substantially, adding some nice moral complexity that actually made me think about a decision for the first time in the series.

This series can be fun, and I'm sure some people enjoy them, but overall they just feel like they're marketed to the lowest common denominator. I like my games to be just a bit deeper than these. Personally, I'd skip the first two outright, although the third is at least worth renting.