Fable 2:
Sim RPG

By Shamus
on Jan 29, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews

fable_road.jpg
Peter Molyneux is the Mad Scientist game designer, always mixing ingredients and genres in interesting ways. Sometimes this brings some new form of gameplay to life. Sometimes it gives us Frankenstein’s monster. Usually it’s a confusing mix of both.

Fable 2 is a Sim RPG. I don’t mean it feels like an RPG with Sim elements in it. I mean it feels like a simulation of an RPG, with all the rich details abstracted away into clockwork game mechanics. Character development, morality, love, style, fame, personal attraction: These are all just numbers expressed in sliders. Love and hate are expressed with all the depth and passion of adjusting the gamma on your display. The story rolls forward like a chattering sprocket, ticking off plot points cribbed from “Generic Fantasy for Dummies”. The central characters are plodding one-note ciphers, and the rest are generic interchangeable classics like “town guard”, “peasant”, and “aristocrat”.

As with the previous Fable game, the plot is insultingly simplistic, ham-fisted, and perfunctory. But unlike the previous Fable, the gameplay is a rich source of amusements. This is an inversion of what you might expect from a game that comes in a box with the word “Fable” on it. A Fable is a tale which conveys a lesson or moral, and what we have here is an offensively terrible story which doesn’t have anything meaningful to say at the end. If they had called it “Adventure Time 2” or “Quest Guy 2”, and then I wouldn’t play these games with the expectation that the story will be something better than “self-absorbed sociopath takes his first try at writing a D&D campaign.” Calling this a Fable is like calling Doom a psychological character study.

It’s not quite open world: You unlock and explore areas in a fairly linear fashion – but there’s a lot of places to see. Varied landscapes. Weather. Day / night cycle. There are even changing seasons, although those are plot-based.
It’s not quite open world: You unlock and explore areas in a fairly linear fashion – but there’s a lot of places to see. Varied landscapes. Weather. Day / night cycle. There are even changing seasons, although those are plot-based.
The premise: You’re a Hero. Imagine that. You begin as a street urchin on the streets of Bowerstone, living an idyllic life of poverty, hunger, and bullying. Then the bad guy intrudes and wrongs you so thoroughly that you have nothing left to live for but revenge. The mystic know-it-all character shows up, tells you you’re the chosen one, and then raises you to adulthood. You spend the rest of the game doing quests, rounding up treasure, upgrading your weapons, leveling up, and talking the longest and most impossibly convoluted path to vengence. A dog accompanies you on your adventure, fighting alongside you, as well as sniffing out treasure for you to dig up.

I didn’t put any points into marksmanship-type skills, which means my big beefy hero is about 5’6.
I didn’t put any points into marksmanship-type skills, which means my big beefy hero is about 5’6.
If you’re not a story-obsessed player like me, then the game will be a spring of free-flowing amusements. The combat is much improved over the previous game. You dispatch foes with melee weapons, ranged weapons, or magic. Each is fun and has its rightful place in a fight. The controls are simple, but there is a little depth and strategy to each aspect of fighting. You’ll likely focus on one at the expense of the others, which will affect your appearance. Using melee weapons makes you bulkier and stronger. Using magic covers your body in glowing glyphs. And using archery makes you… taller?

You just have to get used to strangeness like this, because the game is full of little simulations that are interesting in isolation, but don’t make any kind of sense as a whole. There is a weight gain / loss system where you can eat food to gain weight, and eat tons of celery to lose weight. Starving yourself and engaging in Herculean amounts of exercise (i.e. combat) will have no effect on your figure. You can have (off-screen) sex (with or without a condom) with any NPC that’s interested in you. (Some of them are gays and lesbians.) You can get married and do this sort of thing with your spouse, you can have a fling with a stranger, or even pay for a prostitute. Or you can forego the sex entirely, since it doesn’t really relate to the rest of the game in a meaningful way. You can get STDs if you’re unwise. The whole thing is fairly complicated, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s the equivalent of the GM saying, “Yeah, okay. You have sex with that NPC. All done.”

The game has the most robust farting and belching simulation ever offered in a big-budget game. This is either a compelling feature or an act of madness, depending on how much you’ve wanted to do that sort of thing in an RPG.

The game carries the recent tradition of removing manual looting from a game. As the hero of the land, you won’t be stopping to loot each and every skeleton or highwayman you put down. This keeps the action and the fun flowing. When I go back to games like KOTOR I quickly find myself wondering how the idea of the scavenger hero endured for so long.

There is an in-game economy where shops in different towns can have shortages or sales, and a shrewd adventurer can make a heap of gold by paying attention to prices and moving goods around. Or you can take a job at one of the shops serving beer or making swords. Or you can go treasure hunting. Or you can buy up property for rental or resale. These activities form a sort of ladder. Generally you’ll use treasure hunting and bartending to get you the cash needed to engage in the speculation of trade goods, which will get you the cash you need to begin your real estate empire. Or you can just ignore all of it. It’s not required to finish the main plot, so you only need to do it if you enjoy it. (I did.) This buffet-style approach to gameplay – where you can do lots of what you like and little of what you don’t – is solid game design. Contrast this with a game like Grand Theft Auto, where you’re grabbed by the scruff of the neck and made to try everything twice, whether you enjoy it or not.

GAH! Okay! You have a really sweet bloom lighting system.  I get it already. Geeze.
GAH! Okay! You have a really sweet bloom lighting system. I get it already. Geeze.
Have we finally gotten to the point where reviewers don’t need to mention that a game looks good? Probably not. So I guess I should let you know that Fable 2 is really pretty. It avoids the gritty realism of games like The Witcher and falls closer to the World of Warcraft end of the spectrum. Everything is colorful and slightly whimsical. In fact, everything in this game – from the characters to the scenery to the hilarious sidequests – is dripping with whimsy. Everything except the main plot of the game.

I had a blast with Fable 2, but this does not mean that I am going to let the egregious failures of the plot go unnoticed. My hatred for the plot and the storytelling techniques employed is so complete and so pure that I am saving it for a post of its very own.

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20208Feeling chatty? There are 48 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Kell says:

    “self-absorbed sociopath takes his first try at writing a D&D campaign.”

    Yes, so very true. I haven’t played either fable game, but I have experienced enough RPGs to know that this statement is almost universally applicable. And for FPSs too.

    I keep reading about what should be done for the state of story writing in games. You know what the solution is? STOP DOING IT. Despite what the insufferably pretentious often like to assert, games are NOT a valid storytelling medium. They are a rubbish storytelling medium. “Interactive drama” is a contradiction in terms.
    But if we are to be stuck with ‘epic plot’ for all our RPGs, then for Lieber’s sake: hire a proper goddamn writer!

  2. The Unknown says:

    And so it begins…

  3. antsheaven says:

    I only played the first Fable, and I have to say that I like it. I don’t have an Xbox 360, though, so I don’t really think I will play the second game.

    I’ll be waiting eagerly for the plot-bashing part.

  4. K says:

    Good plots in games work well, there are enough examples. But yes, one really needs to hire a writer. Preferrably Joss Whedon?

    The first Fable was… boring? You don’t care about the story, you don’t care about the plot, you don’t care about the characters, after you figured out which spell breaks any combat you don’t care about that either. So you walk through decently pretty landscapes while being annoyed that there are so many uninteresting encounters and dialog inbetween the uninteresting cutscenes. Eventually, the game ends without any sort of plot twist or meaningful finale.

  5. RCTrucker7 says:

    “I had a blast with Fable 2, but this does not mean that I am going to let the egregious failures of the plot go unnoticed. My hatred for the plot and the storytelling techniques employed is so complete and so pure that I am saving it for a post of its very own.”

    I look forward to this post. While your “positive” posts on games, like this one, are also enjoyed by me, I tend to find your “negative” posts much more informative. Not on just the particular game you happen to be discussing, but on game play\design in general, as well. You’re one of a few people I’ve come across that can tell you the bad side of something, in such a way that it doesn’t come across as mean, or in a tone of, “You\It\They suck”.

  6. antsheaven says:

    K:
    I accept the fact that the first Fable won’t win any award for its story or character development. However, it still is a fun game to play (for me, at least).

  7. Robyrt says:

    My brother recommended the Fable series to me “because it’s an RPG with fun combat.” Sounds like you agree there. :-P

  8. Deoxy says:

    The good part about a game like this, where everything about the game is wonderful but the plot, is that provides a good engine for someone to right a good story into. I’m not sure that will happen here (will the engine be made available to anyone else?), but there are examples of this in the past.

    So, if you think of this as “put all your effort into making a great game engine, then slap a dinky, crappy story on there last minute, just as an example”, you might be more satisfied.

  9. Luke Maciak says:

    I haven’t played this game, but I remember enjoying the first Fable. Yes, it was very linear, and the plot was a bit weak but it kept me entertained. Also, I played it long before I discovered games like Morrowind (ie. true sandbox games) so the very limited sandbox functionality that existed in that game really appealed to me at the time.

    I laughed at your review, and kept nodding in agreement when you were pointing out it’s flaws but nevertheless I remember that game very fondly.

    All that I read about Fable 2 tells me that this is exactly the same type of game – only with slightly polished gameplay, more fart and belch emotes and more houses to buy (not to mention more better graphics, but that’s a given).

    Oh, btw – does this game has hyper-fast aging as well? In the original fable, halfway through the plot my character turned into this gray, wrinkled old man and there was nothing that I could do about that other (other than donating massive amounts of cash to some temple – which is something I read online long after I finished and forgot about the game).

  10. Zaghadka says:

    Nice review. I would pick a bone with the conclusion though. An “egregious failure” implies that there is some sort of standard which has not been met.

    It sounds like this is a second attempt at doing something brand new, a pastiche if you will, and it would be better to see it in that context than compare it unfavorably to the past genre of story based CRPGs, which had much simpler ideas “under the hood.”

  11. Danel says:

    I was initially surprised when I saw this, since I remembered quite liking Fable 2’s plot. Then I remembered that most of it actually took place inside my own head.

    I found it less actively offensively than Fable 1’s plot, since at least the backstory implies that the Heroes’ Guild from the first game was razed by an enraged populace protesting against Guild policy of not giving a damn whether its trainees used their powers to help or to harm.

    But the things I found strangest in Fable 2 were the moments in which it actually reaches towards real feeling for a second or two… and then drops it totally, as it never was. The first moment is the way that your character has apparently lived in the Gypsy Camp for the last decade or so, yet doesn’t appear to have any particular friends there, or even be really well-known.

    @9: Aging is considerably slower in this – apart from the few time-skip moments and a few other events.

  12. Kevin says:

    Lena and I enjoy bad plots. We go out of our way (sometimes) to find a really stupid TV show or movie to watch, MST3K-style. The old Wonder Woman TV series is exceptional for this.

    Good gameplay and stupid plot? Sounds right up my alley.

  13. LintMan says:

    If Fable 2 ever makes its way to the PC, I’d probably buy it. The first one was generally fun, and while the story wasn’t that great, the console-ishness, minigames and linearity were bigger problems for me.

    @Kell – I disagree. I think it is possible to have a good story in a game (though many studios don’t do a very good job). If there were no stories, I’d have stopped playing games a long time ago.

  14. I wasn’t a fan of the first Fable. It was a kiddified, patronising and cliched RPG and nothing I’ve seen about the sequel has made me think it is any better.

  15. Kel'Thuzad says:

    *SPOILER* *SPOILER* *SPOILER*

    I brought my dog back to life. I loved him so much.

  16. chuko says:

    Great review as always. Um, since your writing is very good in an informal way, I can’t help noticing the use of the phrase “there’s a lot of places” when it should be “there are a lot of places” or, less formally, “there’re a lot of places”.

  17. John says:

    I didn’t like the first Fable; I have little interest in picking up this one. Once past about the first third of the (original) game, the challenge evaporated. With the uber-sword, the uber-bow (with apologies to my sacrificed party members), and a pack full of mana potions, you didn’t need anything eles. No need for combat strategy, no need to look for gear. Just grind away until you’re done. Yawn.

    I acknowledge that part of this is taste. I don’t need RPGs that require perfect optimization of equipment before each fight, but the draw of finding ‘better stuff’ is part of what makes RPGs interesting for me (which incidentally is why I was a little apathetic about Fallout-3).

  18. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Kell:
    Games are a storytelling medium. They may not be a storytelling medium NOW, but a game can absolutely have an interesting and varied story. The example that immediately comes to mind for me is Planescape: Torment, which admittedly is more story than game. The world is richly detailed, almost every sidequest makes you understand exactly why you’re doing it, and the main storyline is pretty damn awesome. It avoids the standard good guys (main character is hideous and scarred, there’s a mostly friendly group of undead, and your party members can include a skull, a guy on fire, an animated suit of armor, and more).

    It’s a very odd world and they really make it work. And of course you’re immortal, so no need to save unless you piss off someone really powerful – and because your return to life is something that happens in game, it’s even used in a puzzle.

    So… yeah, games don’t have to tell a story. But with work, they can tell it better than a book can. With the amount of dialogue in PS:T, you could probably make several books, or one book that actually made sense. It was awesome.

  19. Nick says:

    Am I the only one that hated this game? The first fable was an excellent action RPG, but lacked polish and depth. Fable 2 took away what little fun there was, and patted itself on the back for it. I hated the loss of armor gearing, and the weapon varieties themselves seemed throw in almost as an afterthought. Like in the first, I tried to play using only archery and spells that enhance it, but the game seems DETERMINED to demand use of melee weapons, which do more damage, attack more often, and can hit multiple things at once (as well as doesn’t have any problems with the close-quarters happy opponents).

    I always seemed to be inside a broken world with it’s own rules and logic. Everything centered around a town that tries to the be same one as a child, but everything is focused in a different part of town, so it feels like a totally separate place.

    The items purchasable are only for “The Sims” nuts who have to compulsively craft the world to their liking, with options to do some freaking interior decorating.

    Eventually, after getting to the arena and consuming every possible food/potion/clump of dirt I had been accumulating in order to survive to the end, I emerged victorious, and possibly weighing about 300 pounds heavier than when I went in. It was at that point I shut off the game, and eventually turned it back into the store.

    To see people heap praise over this game confuses me immensely.

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    “I keep reading about what should be done for the state of story writing in games. You know what the solution is? STOP DOING IT. Despite what the insufferably pretentious often like to assert, games are NOT a valid storytelling medium. They are a rubbish storytelling medium. “Interactive drama” is a contradiction in terms.”

    Some people manage to do it right, though. Compare Prey and Half Life 2( Episodes), for example. The former has decent shooting action, really fantastic set pieces, and tremendously well-thought-out environmental puzzles which fall just a little short of Portal but are still darn good, but a horrifically cliched plot and characters who are as deep and sympathetic as an oil slick on top of a puddle. Half Life Two ( Episodes) has great shooting action, really fantastic set pieces, and simple puzzles, but a decently interesting plot and characters you come to actually care about.

    It’s possible to do it right, but you have to write the story to serve the game and not the other way around. It all goes back to John Romero and the Daikatana Fallacy: Design Is Not Law. Prey, Hellgate, Daikatana, and many others are all a product of the same kind of thinking: “We’ve made awesome games, so we must be awesome, and our first effort must be everything we weren’t allowed to do before and it will be even more awesome. Also, therefore, the characters and plot must be proportionally more awesome than the characters and plots of our previous games.”

    Peter Molyneux and the Lionhead guys aren’t as bad as the teams that made the above-mentioned games, which is why Lionhead is still in business. However, I really think Peter hasn’t quite learned the lesson completely.

    See also Portal, World of Goo, and probably many others that follow the opposite paradigm of the Daikatana Fallacy: “Fun Is Law”. Stories that bow to Fun in games result in fun games.

  21. Nova says:

    While the plot wasn’t too deep, I’d still say it was mildly enjoyable – and bits of it were brilliant.

    *plot spoiler*

    I really, really liked the tower. I took the (fairly) good side, and refused to obey the head guard, and I hated him by the end. I’ve never actually felt hate for a video game character for non-broken issues before, so it felt good :) Killing him was extremely cathartic. I think making the player choose between experience/goodies and doing the right thing was a brilliant stroke, and I loved the way that over the conversations you had with the other character who arrived with you, he changed, forgetting his family etc, which made me even more angry with the head guard. While the story was v. v. cliched, and the game nowhere near long enough to shell out the release prices for, that moment alone was worth it.

  22. Nine of Swords says:

    Yahtzee’s review halfway convinced me to buy this game, and this post is pushing that decision along further. Crummy plot doesn’t bother me, though I do appreciate a good plot.

    But then I remembered that in Australia games cost an arm and a leg and I’m pretty sure Fable 2 hasn’t even been released here yet. And not even on the PC. So… by the time it does come out, and the price drops to reasonable levels, I will have forgotten all about it.

  23. acronix says:

    The whole problem with games with stupid plots begun when developers started to think like Pete Hines, who said in an interview (or something pretty close):

    “It´s harder to make the gameplay than to write the story. You can sit a monkey in front of a typewriter to achieve that.”

    So, we can assume that companies are spending more resources on gameplay and graphics (probably more is spent on the later), and they are hiring monkeys (or worse, who knows) to write the plots. No wonder we get this kind of result: fun game with outstanding visuals and a plot that causes brain damage.

  24. nilus says:

    I can’t agree more with your opinion. Fable 2 is really fun to play despite it being such a crappy RPG in a lot of ways. Your appeance changing is pretty cool except for the fact that my once skinny pretty Pirate lady now looks like she was born a man because I maxed out my melee skills.

    I think part of it comes from the fact that I have become addicted to Achievements. And Fable 2 has a lot of strange and fun ones to get.

    I just wish you could actually have dialog options instead of cute little yes or no responses.

  25. Loneduck3 says:

    Yup, I played the Fable 2. I enjoy buying up all the property in the world. The combat and stuff got kinda repetitive, and the story didn’t give me a lot of incentive to continue. Lack of dialouge is a source of consternation. The main character developement consists of :) and :(
    Still, the first fable had this problem too. At least the first Fable was novel. With Fable 2, you see a lot of the ‘twists’ coming a mile away.
    Only other complaint is this: for a game about the epic hero, you’d think there’d be horses, or other mounts. I mean, yeah, you can teleport anywhere you’ve been. But if you want me to look at all your pretty scenery, let me travel in style.

  26. Armagrodden says:

    I’m playing Fable II right now and really enjoy it (although that may be because I don’t care about the plot at all and am just running around the world). I just wanted to make that clear, because now I’m going to rant a bit. Combat doesn’t work off fat, as you said. But working at a job does; whether that job be blacksmithing or bartending. Working at a job also increases your purity, to the point where mine is off the scale and I have no chance at opening that demon door that requires one to have zero purity (which, unless there’s a corresponding purity door, is aggravating in and of itself). Given that my character is in a monogamous relationship (well, except for a couple of unsaved trysts for achievements), the fact that I keep racking up STDs suggests that either the STD system is random (likely) or that Lionshead has worked simulated infidelity into their otherwise cardboard NPCs.

    The morality system is arbitrary and annoying. Being a good person makes everyone fall in love with you and follow you around like zombies. You then get evil points for trying to get them to leave you alone. Ever. Even if they follow you into your freaking bedroom. Also, I can accept that Molyneux (or someone) has worked their vegetarianism into the game’s morality system (you lose purity or morality points for eating meat or hunting). I can even begrudgingly accept that they’ve worked it into the charisma system (you gain weight and lose appearance for eating meat). But, if I’m working at a job, do I really need an NPC to wander past every two or three minutes telling me about the wonders of their medieval vegan lifestyle? It just seems a bit much.

    Finally, if you want the “Completionist” achievement, I hope you are or know someone willing to shell out 800 Microsoft points for the Pub Games expansion, because one expression and one dog trick have to be won from there. In fact, for the expression, you have to play a hundred games of spinnerbox and hope that at the end you have more gold than the arbitrary number that allows you to win 5th place. Otherwise? At least a hundred more games of spinnerbox.

  27. Snook says:

    I was highly disappointed in the plot and never finished the game, just watched my roommate do so. It was a depressing ending.

  28. freykin says:

    My problem with this game is that they make a big deal about how you get to choose things.. and you really only have the pure awesome choice of righteous good or the dastardly evil choice. Nothing inbetween, except for the ending choice, which felt like they were grasping at straws.

    Also, when you go to rescue the hero of will? That was the most ridiculous plot sequence I’ve experienced in a rpg in a long time, and I’ve pretty much played every console rpg release since SNES. It almost made me stop playing.

  29. Derek K. says:

    I tell people “if you enjoyed Fable, you’ll enjoy Fable 2. If not, not.”

  30. J Greely says:

    MadTinkerer, what you’re describing is a slight variation on Brooks’ classic “second-system syndrome”, where designers look back at all of the features they had to leave out and compromises they had to make while building a functional product, and insist that We’ll Do It Right This Time.

    Inevitably, The Expedition To Mount Awesome leaves everyone Adrift In The Fecal Sea.

    [note that this also applies to best-selling novelists and movie directors…]

    -j

  31. Ranneko says:

    Nine of Swords, it was released in Australia at about the same time as the US release (didn’t really pay attention at the time to be honest). I bought my 360 near Christmas though, while Game had a deal where you got a Pro, Lego Indy, Kung Fu Panda and Fable 2 or Gears 2 for RRP of a Pro.

    Cheapest I can find Fable 2 at the moment is JB Hi-Fi for $94 or CDWow.com.au for $82.95

  32. Zolthanite says:

    @Kell: (Edit, I didn’t realize who you were quoting, apologies MT)I don’t really understand why you’re bringing that point up, since RPGs by their very nature almost require a story in order to give a sense of purpose. Only the most truly sandbox games, where the goals you create are your own, don’t require it. More importantly, “Interactive Drama” is perfectly reasonable and I personally think that MGS4 is a great example of that (The closing sequences of MGS4 were made more personal as a result of active user input).

    This is ignoring the simple fact that, for some people, the story is the basis for fun.

    This is also ignoring that Mass Effect, which I found the plot to be cookie cutter and the dialogue to be crushingly oppressive, had a lead writer that published the Mass Effect novel a few months prior to launch. I don’t trust actual writers with my games any more than I trust the Houser brothers to produce fiction novels or successfully direct a live-action motion picture.

    @MadTinkerer and JGreely: I can’t speak to Daikatana, since its slightly before my time, but Hellgate seemed like it was more a problem of overly passionate people working in horribly inefficient ways than a hubris of “We can do it!” The game itself was absolutely wonderful. But when you have part of your team working on another game in perpetual beta, part of your team is doing Polish localization, and your development process is “organic” (the euphemism for “I don’t believe in hard specifications!”), you’re really asking for your software project to kill itself.

    If you look at the post-mortem Bill Roper did with Gamasutra(I think) and follow some of the launch-era threads where they had to completely redesign the memory allocation system to combat the massive leaks caused by the game, you realize that the scope of what they were trying to do wasn’t actually out of reach.

  33. Miral says:

    If it ever shows up on PC, I plan to buy it. I enjoyed Fable 1, for all its plot-thinness and despite the over-hype Peter Molyneux gave it, and Fable 2 looks as least as interesting.

    But yeah, if it takes too long I might lose interest ;)

  34. CobraCmdr says:

    I enjoyed this game a great deal and am actually playing through it a second time. The one part that bothered me to no end however was…

    SPOILER ALERT

    The “Hero of Skill” character (Ravenger I think). I detested this character, was annoyed that I was obliged to work with him, and was especially angry that he escaped any sort of punishment at the end. In some ways he was worse than the actual villain of the game, who was something of a tragic figure.

  35. Smileyfax says:

    I’ve no intention of playing, but my friend loves it. She’s collected over 30 STDs so far, something she’s very proud of. (I have awesome friends).

  36. Mark says:

    I totally ignored the story in Fable 2. I say the sidequests are the real meat. Which is why I think the DLC is going to be my favorite part of the whole thing.

    Shamus, did you get the Knothole Island DLC?

  37. MuonDecay says:

    My experience with Molyneux has been more along the lines that he suffers from chronic over-ambition.

    He cooks up 3 dozen seemingly awesome ideas and wants to cram all of them into his next game, and spreads his team so thin on them that they all wind up implemented to a mediocre degree.

    The man needs focus.

  38. R4byde says:

    And so Microsoft’s glorified Zelda clone gained a sequel, and Shamus approvel, for the moment.

    Bring on the BRIMSTONE! I say!

    I’ve no intention of playing, but my friend loves it. She’s collected over 30 STDs so far, something she’s very proud of. (I have awesome friends).

    Are there even that many in real life? Lets see, Aids, Syphilis, Herpes, Gonorrhea, um should I be counting regular catching sicknesses too?

    What I really want to know is other than an entry in some menu do they have unique properties? I can’t believe they’d spend THAT much time adding STDs, but it sure would be funny. :}

  39. Mark says:

    Shamus, when you talked about how Fable 2 has “all the rich details abstracted away,” it made me think of Progress Quest. I’ve played the game for literally hundreds of hours. The multiplayer is riveting!

  40. Zaxares says:

    Awwww… Before you mentioned the storyline, Shamus, I was really, really impressed with Fable 2 and willing to give it a go.

  41. Flying Dutchman says:

    My cup of tea, the game needs to be more strict on enforcing decisions made by the player. Like in the previous game, ‘switching alignment’ is easy. You just sacrificed a few virgins to the Temple of Evil/Doom/other-generic-profound-term. But you don’t like the devil horns, so you get in on a massive tofu diet, and the problem is solved… It’s like this with everything; being fat, being evil, being in love, being gay (Yes! It CAN be cured!)…

    Besides that, for players who are not all into plots and story-driven characters, this is a great game. Big plus: guns and the pirate-like setting. And on a different note: How can you not bond with the dog, I mean, even the evil version is cute. Jus’ look at it run! Awww. Such a good wittle puppy!

  42. MadTinkerer says:

    Holy Cow! Kyle Gabler’s #1 Trick To Making A Game In 48 Hours is exactly what we’ve been talking about in the comments. It’s right at the end:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/01/30/kyle-gabler-delivers-global-game-jam-keynote/#more-7661

    Also, Progress Quest is unexpectedly fun. Frumrum the Battle-Finch Shiv-Knight is currently level 3 and happily questing away free of any input from me. I check back every so often to see how many Eagle Scouts and Underage Bugbears he’s slain to finally upgrade his -3 Motheaten Bearskin Gauntlets. Answer: not yet…

  43. Anaphyis says:

    I wouldn’t call The Witcher gritty realistic. I would leave it as simply gritty. While some fantasy settings are in dire need of some realism shots – or not, fantasy utopia is a actually nice as long the medieval inspiration isn’t so obvious – Witcher is even more on the cynical side of the sliding scale then reality. A nudge and you end up in Lovecraft land.

    As for Fable 2, disliked the first part and cannot find the masochism in me to try the second. Also, if it really suffers from plot degeneration (a real pestilence, considering how fast it spreads in C-RPG land) I probably will never have enough.

  44. Anaphyis says:

    As for the story vs. game discussion: There are many games which are fun to actually play and still do a great job as storytelling device. My most recent example: Eternal Darkness.

    One major problem however is execution: See aforementioned quote from Peter Hines. Now take a look at a Bethesda game and try to find a good story. Ironically enough, the only one in my opinion with actually good storytelling was the Cthulhu one, which was only published by them but nonetheless followed the typical route of throwing out a game riddled with bugs and asinine gameplay mechanics for the customers to fix it themselves. Their “LEGO” release policy aside, their complete inability to write good story and dialog is actually my only beef with them.

    Also, the problem is seemingly one of taste. I have no problem with a game railroading me if it is for the sake of storytelling, yet I despise sandbox games for their insultingly short and trivial main plot plus the large number of completely inconsequential “quantity instead of quality” sidequests.

    However, I do believe it is possible to actually combine great storytelling with a large degree of freedom for the player. It definitely isn’t a trivial task; still, it is about time for some game designer to have some stones and actually try it.

  45. Felblood says:

    There’s three ways to write a good video game plot.

    1. You can let the player do as he wills, and tell the plot to stay the Sigma out of his way. The plot either adapts to his actions or is too minimal to interfere.

    2. The player has no control over the plot, but isn’t encouraged to believe he does. Don’t promise me a plot for every path, and then give me Fable. Tell us the story you actually wrote.

    3. You can make Planescape: Torment. System Shock comes close, but nobody has ever made story and game flow together, without sacrificing player control, that well, before or since. –Not even Spider and Web, the text adventure game about getting interrogated with a mind probe.

  46. Conlaen says:

    I thought Fable 1 was incredibly shallow and after having heard all the praise of ‘choices’ I felt thoroughly ripped off. First they had the gall to explain to me that saving a baby was a good thing, and eating a baby was a bad thing (ok it was something with destroying supplies or guarding them, but they actaully went out of their way to explain to me which was good and which bad, *sigh*) but after that the ‘choices’ always came down to that exact pittyfull semblance of what they dared call choices. Save the town or raid them? Kill the girl of save her? It hurt my intelligence in a way I can’t even describe.

    And from what I could tell from watching a friend play Fable 2 for a minute, it has not changed much. Conversations still come down to farting and flexing, and the precious choices are still naughty or nice, with not really any middle ground. Peter Molyneux would do well to play some actual RPG’s sometimes. Even the Baldur’s Gate games usually had somewhat appropriate answers for at least 3 (g,n,e) alignments, often for 5 (or 6) (g,n,e,l,n,c) and sometimes even for the full spectrum of 9 (from LG to CE). In Torment it was even better where almost every conversation culculated in how good you were at your skill or even how your stats were).

    So yes, in the end I was insulted by Fable, just because they said I could make choices that would affect my life, where in effect all it did was make me ‘look’ evil or good, through a very shallow moral system where in other games, I might not change my appearence with a choice I made, but it would damn well be the choice I thought was best.

    What it really comes down to is this: sure Fable can be an enjoyable game, I just don’t like it because it is not what was marketed to me. But then again had they tried to sell it to me as: “A somewhat shallow action game in an rpg setting where you can change the way you look by picking evil or good deeds” I probably wouldn’t ave tried it at all huh? Score one for their marketing I guess.

  47. Gamercow says:

    I was annoyed with Fable 2, until I realized that i wasn’t playing an RPG with social aspects and an open storyline, I was playing a Sims game in a Fantasy setting:

    – Simplified social interactions
    – Main character speaks nothing, or at best, bits of gibberish when making expressions(to me, this KILLED the story and writing)
    – Straightforward good and bad choices
    – Getting “killed” has no effect(you don’t even have to load the game, for cripes sake, you just stand up)
    – The sidequests and minigames are more fun than the actual main story

    All that said, once I realized I was playing a Sims game with swords, I had a blast.

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