Fable 2 Part 3: Shadow Court Press

By Shamus
on Feb 6, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews
As I said in my earlier post: Fable 2 has fun gameplay, but the story is clearly offensively inept. It’s important to remember that there is a lot of other gameplay that happens in between these painful trails of plot delivery. You’re not supposed to power through the story all at once, and doing so would probably be very bad for you.

This series is a way of working out all the frustrations I had with the plot. For some reason, pointing out a plot hole makes it less annoying. You might want to read part 2 if you missed that yesterday.

And yeah, “Lucien” is still spelled “Lucian” throughout. (I wrote this whole series in one huge document and then broke it up when I realized how self-indulgently enormous the thing had become.)

Spoilers below.

Look, I’m not <em>trying</em> to stare at Hammer’s bosom, it’s just how things worked out, height-wise. She is, as they say, “a whole lotta woman.” Her ten years of sloth notwithstanding, she’s a really likable character. Perhaps the <em>only</em> likable character to survive to the end of the game.
Look, I’m not trying to stare at Hammer’s bosom, it’s just how things worked out, height-wise. She is, as they say, “a whole lotta woman.” Her ten years of sloth notwithstanding, she’s a really likable character. Perhaps the only likable character to survive to the end of the game.
Free of the Spire, you can now run free once again with all your equipment, your powers, your dog, your sidequests and all the other stuff that made the game fun.

You’ve been gone for ten years. Hammer hasn’t accomplished a thing since you left. Nobody has. Well, after ten years she has a lead. She thinks the third hero is in the port city of Bloodstone, which can only be reached via a Cullis Gate (a site-to-site magic teleporter) in Garth’s old tower. You, Hammer, and Garth all travel to the tower and find it crawling with Lucien’s men.

There is a huge battle at the tower. Lucian throws waves and waves of men at you while Garth opens the Magic Gate to Bloodstone.

The size of his army of kidnapped Crucible champions is truly preposterous.

Remember earlier how Lucian kidnapped Garth effortlessly and flawlessly by teleporting him away? That was a pretty major success. He pulled it off with one guy, no losses. Despite what a success that was, he doesn’t try it again. And we know his teleporter is still working, because he’s using it to send in waves and waves of men for you to kill.

Ha ha ha! I’ve captured my very own heavily armed mass murderer. Now I’ll just stick him in this cage and piss him off.
Ha ha ha! I’ve captured my very own heavily armed mass murderer. Now I’ll just stick him in this cage and piss him off.
The Cullis Gate opens, and you leap through. As you arrive in Wraithmarsh swamp, the gate closes again and you pass out. Garth and Hammer do not follow you as planned. An old man wanders out of the fog and cackles over your limp body.

You awaken in a simple cage with the old guy taunting you. He says your dog ran off into the fog and was probably killed by banshees by now. He rattles on, laughing at your predicament and musing as to what he should do with you. Finally he decides to burn you alive in the cage.

No reason. I just live out here in the Banshee-infested swamps and attempt to murder dangerous looking strangers for a laugh.

In my game, I was a 6’2 tower of pure chiseled beef. Unless this old codger owned a winch, there was no way he was getting me into an elevated cage.

He never bothers to take away the player’s gear, which doesn’t matter since the game won’t let you do anything except listen to his cackling. Sure, you could shoot him between the eyes with your gun, smash the cage apart with your mace, or nuke both cage and geezer with a huge fire spell, but that’s not what the writer wants to have happen.

Then the old guy hears a sound, and runs off into the fog to see what it is. He runs towards the fog and banshee sounds, and dies screaming.

Your dog brings you the key and you exit the cage.

The old guy has lived out here all this time and survived the banshees, but now that he’s got someone to burn he suddenly gets a case of the stupids and dies in the most foolish manner possible. And so you survive not because you’re strong or resourceful, but because the bad guy was a fool, you were lucky, and your dog was smarter than either of you.

Hail the conquering hero!

Reaver sees you while he’s having a statue made of himself. I’d make a snarky comment about his arrogance, but the player can have statues made of him (or her) self in various poses, and I’ve dotted Albion with statuary of myself giving everyone the finger.
Reaver sees you while he’s having a statue made of himself. I’d make a snarky comment about his arrogance, but the player can have statues made of him (or her) self in various poses, and I’ve dotted Albion with statuary of myself giving everyone the finger.
You fight your way through the marsh and arrive in Bloodstone, a pirate town. The mayor (?) of this decadent burgh is one Reaver, the third and final hero. Assuming you’re famous enough, he’ll meet with you. He’s already figured out all your plans, he knows that you want his help to defeat Lucian, and he wants you to do him a favor before he’ll join you.

He wants you to deliver a seal to someplace in the marsh called the Shadow Court. Then come back and he’ll talk. You take the seal (it’s a dinner plate-sized thing of wood and metal with symbols on it) and leave the city.

Theresa can talk to you anywhere. She lets on that she knows who the Shadow Court is or what they might be about, but she doesn’t actually tell you anything. This is kind of a jerk move on her part.

She tells you to “be careful”, but of course the game won’t actually let you behave cautiously. You just have to plunge headlong into trouble and hope the writer doesn’t screw you too badly.

Into the tomb you go, fighting your way past all the undead inside. Three shadow dudes – Grim Reaper style robed apparitions – appear in the final chamber, and the door slams shut behind you. They are here to renew Reaver’s “bargain”. Someone (whoever is holding the seal) will lose their youth so that Reaver might retain his.

As luck would have it, a peasant woman has wandered in here. You can keep the seal and grow old yourself, or give the seal to the peasant and she’ll lose her youth. You’ll get a nice fat dose of evil points for doing the latter.

Aging you is a cosmetic thing. Your stats and combat prowess don’t change. A lot of the game is dedicated to customizing the look of your little avatar, so permanent aging is either going to be meaningless or devastating, depending on how much you care about that aspect of the game. But the real problem here is that the choice is completely arbitrary and contrived.

Smash the seal? Throw the seal into the abyss right in front of you? Have both you and the peasant hold part of the seal? Fight the shadow dudes? Escape? Try to strike a new bargain with them? Try to sacrifice the peasant for your own youth, instead of Reaver’s?

Shut up and stop ruining the writer’s tale! It’s time to have an arbitrary binary choice and your desire for meaningful input is really starting to chafe.

This is to say nothing of how screwy Reaer’s deal is. He needs to get someone to take the seal into the Shadow Court. But the place is infested with the undead. How do they get in there alone? How does Reaver get his seal back to use again next time around?

I never felt any guilt at passing the seal to the meaningless NPC the writer poofed into this existence for this fumbling attempt at meaningful choice. She never existed before this moment, and she’ll cease to exist as soon as you leave the chamber. It might be one thing if this was a shopkeeper you might have met or some other ongoing NPC. Or if this was someone you might bump into later and see the repercussions of your decision. But she’s nothing more than a cheap plot device. She’ll even inexplicably hold the seal when you hand it to her, instead of refusing it, dropping it, or throwing it into the abyss. The game might as well have simply given me a popup: Do you want the old age or the evil points?

It’s the classic mistake of authors and game masters: He expects me to take his NPCs more seriously than he does.

You return to Reaver. As you enter, Barnum the inventor is using his newfangled picture-device (he’s invented the camera) to take Reaver’s picture. Barnum is a friendly and likable fellow, if a bit silly. You met him as a child at the very beginning of the game, when he paid you a single gold during your attempts to raise the money for the magic box. He’s had running quests all the way since then as you bailed him out of various scrapes, and he’s probably the only truly innocent ongoing character in the game.

Barnum tells Reaver that the picture will take three months to develop. Reaver shoots him dead with a chuckle.

Turning his attention to you, Reaver welcomes you back from your encounter with the shadow dudes and has a laugh at your expense. Regardless of which decision you made, Reaver acts like he’s just pulled a prank and not, you know, stolen the life of another human being, possibly yours. He then reveals that while you were down in the tomb being screwed, he was betraying you to Lucian. He offered to turn you over to Lucian in exchange for gold or whatever it is that Reaver wants.

He’s standing in his study. He murders your friend in front of you. He laughs at trying to steal your youth. Then he explains to you that he’s betraying you to your (previous) worst enemy. You arrived thirty seconds ago and he’s given you three reasons to kill him already.

There is simply no rational way to explain not killing him on the spot, except that the game won’t let you. Reaver is an obvious author-insertion character. The writer has just pranked you and is now taunting you because you’re not allowed to hit back.

This is the worst case of railroading in the entire game, because nearly everyone gets to this point in the game and says, “To hell with Lucian, I’m killing this asshole right now.”

And Reaver, author-insertion character that he is, is obviously aware of how the game mechanics have hamstrung you. Only an idiot would tell a heavily armed champion that they were betraying them while the champion was still free to act. Reaver rattles on about betraying you, fearless of what you might do because the game won’t let you do anything.

And while we’re at it – how did he contact Lucien, anyway? Call him on his cell phone? Travel between Bloodstone and the rest of the game is supposedly impossible, remember?

But! Lucian wants you both. He attacks the mansion in force and you and Reaver are obliged to (sigh) team up and escape through a secret passage. Reaver rolls his eyes and makes snarky comments. This is all a joke to him.

The next post will complete this series and wrap things up.

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From the Archives:

  1. Sydney says:

    …I hate this campaign.

  2. potemkin.hr says:

    wow, I wonder if the plot can get any worse…can’t wait the epic epilogue :D

  3. Danel says:

    To explain tho those who haven’t played: it’s rather painfully obvious in the game that they were trying to make the other 3 Heroes balanced – not just on Strength, Skill and Will, but also on Good and Evil. So we have: pacifist, innocent Monk-In-Training Hammer; Garth, who just wants you damn kids to get off his lawn; and Reaver, who is a monstrous asshole. It can be assumed they were aiming for “Dashing and charming Magnificent Bastard”.

    They missed.

    It doesn’t help that we see how much of an asshole he is before we get a chance to see his skills; perhaps if we’d be shown him being an excellent shot and chuckling as he mows down our shared enemies BEFORE he stabbed us in the back, he might be a little bit less hateful. Slightly.

    But yeah – the really unusual thing about the game is the way they stop your progress on the Main Quest to demand you do some sidequests to raise your fame. As if they seriously believed that the Main Quest was the good bit, and they’d have to force people to stop trudging through this hateful nonsense to do the fun, entertaining, and whimsical sidequests. Similarly, the desperate trek through the haunting Wraithmarsh, battling hordes of the undead, is great fun. And then you GET to Bloodstone, and the bloody story begins again.

  4. SatansBestBuddy says:

    That was… wow, that was really, really bad.

    I thought that the previous two parts were simply poorly written with shoddy execution, but this, this says that this story is really bad, and nothing can redeem it.

    Are you watching a cutscene this entire time, or can you move?

    I’m just wondering, since I’m picturing you able to move during all this, able to furitlessly swing your ax through Reaver while he just stands there talking.

  5. balrog62 says:

    Honestly, I can’t see how you managed to even finish this game without throwing the thing against the wall several times. I couldn’t do it.

  6. Mike Lemmer says:

    So, what do you call it when a game asks you to age yourself for a nameless peasant, yet do nothing about the callous murder of a likeable inventor?

  7. ThaneofFife says:

    @Sydney
    Oh yeah? At my last level up, I took the feat “Improved hating this campaign!”

  8. skizelo says:

    Visible karma points may be the worst RPG mechanic in recent years. Previously if you wanted to talk about good and evil, you’d have to write characters people care for or situations with visible consequences. The karma shortcut is at the root of all the shoddy writing in recent games.
    Or maybe I’m just still upset that Fallout3 congratulated me for shooting an old man in the back of the head.

  9. Rick C says:

    Clearly Uwe Boll will never adapt this game into a movie: the plot comes pre-stupidified.

  10. Mordiceius says:

    I can understand the insertion of the Reaver character though. I mean in this game a hero isn’t someone who is a pious individual doing good things for people across the world. A hero is just someone with a super powerful bloodline. That’s it. Whether they’re evil or good doesn’t matter. They’re still a hero.

    The player can’t kill Reaver because then you would never be able to stop Lucien. I took it that by the time Lucien even went to the Spire he had tasted some form of immortality and could not be beaten until weakened. He needed all three heroes to obtain full godlike powers but you also need all three heroes to obtain the music box to defeat him. The music box saps any power he has so he is just a frail old man that dies in one shot.

    In essence, Teresa could have just taken the music box to Lucien in the beginning as a “gift of the old kingdom” and killed him with it, but then he would have never built the Spire for her. I grow more convinced daily that she is the main villain.

  11. Philip says:

    I wonder how short this story would be if it was actually run by a “GM” that didn’t force the railroading…

  12. Mordiceius says:

    @skizelo: I agree with you on the Karma thoughts. Basically all “morale dilema” (a la fable, fallout, bioshock, mass effect, knights of the old republic, etc) come down to two choices:

    You see a baby on the side of the road, do you:
    A) Pick up the baby and take it to its mother or
    B) Kick the baby.

    I hate the decisions being so utterly transparent. I don’t want to know the impact of my decisions before I even make them. I want to left thinking “these are a variety of choices that I would do, but which one would my character do” and not have the decision be hollow.

    This is all why I loved The Witcher. If you want to see a game with some hard decisions, play that one.

    Everyone else has to realize though that Fable 2 is a really fun game. The main story is terrible, but that is it’s only downfall. It is a good thing the main story only makes up about 10-15% of the game’s content.

  13. Strangeite says:

    I really really wish the author of the plot of this game would read these posts.

    But the plot was probably written by committee.

  14. Jos says:

    I always assumed that, in the ten years you were wasting time in the Spire, Hammer was training and gearing up. Before you leave she’s still wearing those monk robes, but when you come back she’s wearing some sort of armour.

    Besides, she’s probably figured out what a railroader dear Theresa is and didn’t even attempt trying to find the Hero of Skill before you came back with the Hero of Will.

    Also, Reaver really is a short little guy for a Skill specialist, isn’t he? Skill makes people grow tall in the Fable universe, so why’s he pretty much the shorterst guy in the bunch?

  15. Solid Jake says:

    Yesterday I called the Spire/Hero of Will section “literally the worst story I’ve ever heard.”

    Oh, how I yearn for that innocent time when I assumed that it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

  16. CobraCmdr says:

    Mordiceius, actually in ancient myth heroes weren’t necessarily good people, just people who performed larger than life feats. Hercules and other ancient heroes often raped and murdered inocent people. That doesn’t make up for Reaver though, I hate him and it sucks that he gets off Scot free.

    I agree that Theresa is the real villain of the story though. Her goal was to make sure that Lucien constructed the Spire, then manipulate the hero into killing Lucien so she could claim it herself. Other people have pointed out that her costume (Red and White hood) somewhat resembles Jack of the Blades from the first game.

    Even taking this into account though, Shamus is totally right about the gaping plot holes.

  17. Kevin says:

    It is unfathomable to me how anyone could bankroll something this stupid… unless it was someone who was truly disinterested in the product and didn’t understand it anyway.

    BTW, sorry if I missed it, but what is the consequence for having evil points? Does it affect anything in the game?

    I have seen nothing to indicate that the writer is smart enough to make Theresa the hidden villain.

  18. Andrew says:

    It made me think of this http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_059.html “I am compelled to do evil regardless of its utility.” I know in that it made sense but it’s close enough.
    I want Dungeons & Discourse rules.

  19. acronix says:

    @Kevin:
    Evil points: People run away from you, prices go higher. I think you get horns, too. I din´t play a bad character (got sick of the main plot after finishing it), but Fable 1 did that, so I guess they keep the tradition.

    Good Points: people run to you (which is ANNOYING), prices go lower. Oh, and you get a shinny circle floating over your head.

  20. CobraCmdr says:

    Actually, no effort is made to hide the fact that Theresa is evil, she is extremely creepy and sinister in everything she does. In fact, since she got the hero’s sister killed at the beginning of the game you wonder why he bothers to follow her at all?

  21. Klay says:

    @mordiceius

    The thing about KOTOR though is that it avoided these types of impossible choices (at least if you were light side). The only thing I didn’t like about KOTOR was that for the evil side you never really had a chance to be actually evil until later in the game. It does what every other RPG does, that is, it mistakes being an asshole for being evil. In Fable 2, it transcends mistake territory into something completely new and horrific.

  22. Mari says:

    Kevin, I can’t speak for 2, but in the first Fable being evil netted you mottled gray skin and cute little showers of brimstone that puffed up with every footstep you made. Oh, and eventually horns. I dug my horns.

    Yes, seriously, this was the consequence of being a bad guy. You looked – badder – with each passing act of evil. And a few more people would run away from you if you looked at them. Not that it mattered because you chased them down and hacked their heads off like the nameless peasant dung they were anyway because you were evil. Every once in a while it’s fun to RP the psychotic disorganized variety mass murderer and Fable is a perfect medium for doing so. It’s like playing Dungeon Keeper but with less micro-management.

  23. Lazlo says:

    @ThaneofFife: I’m thinking this site should develop a house-rules prestige class “Hater of this Campaign”.

    Thoughts?

  24. Shamus says:

    The good / evil thing is a little different in Fable 2:

    There is a slider for good and evil, and another for purity and corruption. Good and evil is about killing. Corruption is about indulging yourself. Eating pies is an act of corruption, eating veggies is an act of purity.

    If you’re evil, you get gray skin and red eyes. If you’re good, you get healthy skin and a halo.

    If you’re corrupt, you get skin with red glowing cracks, and horns. If you’re pure, you have great skin. I guess.

    Purity is pretty easy to move up or down. Buy all the little stalls in Bowerstone Market and crank the prices all the way up to grow horns and such. Then go do something else. In about half an hour of real-world time, you should be fully corrupt. Lower the prices to clear all of that up. Rapid shifts like this often cause the engine to behave oddly. (For example, I had lily-white horns at one point.)

    You get small handfuls of good / evil points during the game, but during the game you can really move the slider with murder or philanthropy. $100 = 1 good point. Sacrifice a dozen or so people to turn max evil. Then give away about 100,000 to somebody to turn good again. (25 evil points for a murder, so 1 human life = ~2,500.)

    My evil char has 6.2 mil in the bank, and was able to redeem himself by dropping some pocket change on random strangers.

  25. Jabor says:

    @Lazlo:

    The “Hating this campaign” feat tree should be a prerequisite.

  26. Mark says:

    I interpreted the good/evil mechanic in this game as basically being another way of customizing your appearance, not a storytelling device or any such high-minded thing.

  27. Benjamin O says:

    This is the point when I’d probably quit if it were D&D.

  28. LafinJack says:

    Basically all “morale dilema” (a la fable, fallout, bioshock, mass effect, knights of the old republic, etc) come down to two choices:

    You see a baby on the side of the road, do you:
    A) Pick up the baby and take it to its mother or
    B) Kick the baby.

    To be fair, in Fallout 3 you could eat the baby too.

  29. LafinJack says:

    Also, hey Shamus (I always type Seamus, damn you for your difference!), would it be possible to get a comment notification feature? I see you’re on WordPress, and Rowntree’s blog is WordPress too and uses one, if that helps.

  30. ThaneofFife says:

    @Lazlo Definitely. You should come pre-equipped with boots of +3 hating this campaign, and other +campaign hating gear. You should also get the once daily ability “Improved Plot Hole Generation,” in which you get to foil the GM by creating plot holes of your own. Also, your saddle bags are by definition infinite in volume and completely weightless…

  31. chiefnewo says:

    I don’t know why and I am fully aware it’s an over reaction, but the gross stupidity of this storyline actually offends me! :p Maybe someone who has the game could check the credits for the writer’s or writers’ name/s and email them a link to these articles so they can know how much they really suck.
    Actually, telling game designers just how stupid parts of their games are to their face has been a comforting fantasy of mine since I was a kid.

  32. Zolthanite says:

    Someone, somewhere, is reading all of this and is vehemently disagreeing with just how bad this story is. I cry for that person.

    @Shamus: If I’m reading this correctly, both sliders for corruption and alignment are easily manipulated within the context of the game? Doesn’t that basically remove the whole point of putting those mechanics in the game?

    Maybe the Fable is “Anything evil you can do is easily solved by philanthropy”.

  33. acronix says:

    I wonder what would happen if Shamus´ review was posted in Lionshead fora once he finishes posting it here…should it go in “Choices and Adventures”, “Spoilers” or “Game Design”?

    Bah, I don´t really wonder: fanboys would spit on the review and say “u n00b, game pl0t rockzor”, and developers would just ignore it.

  34. Johan says:

    One thing I’m kind of wondering is why you didn’t do this the way you did Indigo Prophesy, it seemed to work as one post there.

    Ah well, your decision.

  35. Armagrodden says:

    @21: You’re right about Theresa being evil. This is especially obvious after you make your “wish” at the end of the game. She grants your wish and then claims the Spire as her own, the whole time she’s backlit so you can only see a dark hood with her creepy white eyes shining out at you. I thought she was going to try and kill me right there.

  36. Cybron says:

    Just one more level, then I can take Greater Hating This Campaign.

  37. Veloxyll says:

    I would’ve quit the game right when I was talking to Reaver. because damn that’s some bad writing. It’s like – this guy just tried to betray you, do you want him to join your party y/y?

  38. Joey says:

    I don’t own an X360 so I haven’t played this, but I did own an Xbox a few years ago and the original Fable featured some truly horrible moments (what you call railroading, but there really needs to be a better word because Final Fantasy is laden with railroading and it never reaches this level of absurdity or sheer frustration) that I didn’t have high hopes for this one. But I never, NEVER expected anything like this.

    I’m actually torn on my thoughts here. One part of me is pissed off to an insane degree by EVERYTHING you have described, and for the exact same reasons you have come to. The other part of me is happy that this kind of pain is being inflicted on all the people who keep games like Halo, Gears of War, and Fallout 3 alive, furthering the decline of gaming into a dark hole of stupidity.

    Either way, this campaign/”story”/disgrace-to-mankind is truly shocking. It’s like the character has died without repenting and the game is the story of his tortured soul through Hell. Yes… that’s it. That’s it exactly. Hehehohohohhahaha….. :X

  39. Joey says:

    My edit failed for some reason, so this is the updated comment.

    I don’t own an X360 so I haven’t played this, but I did own an Xbox a few years ago and the original Fable featured some truly horrible moments (what you call railroading, but there really needs to be a better word because Final Fantasy is laden with railroading and it never reaches this level of absurdity or sheer frustration) that I didn’t have high hopes for this one. But I never, NEVER expected anything like this.

    I’m actually torn on my thoughts here. One part of me is pissed off to an insane degree by EVERYTHING you have described, and for the exact same reasons you have come to. The other part of me is happy that this kind of pain is being inflicted on all the people who keep games like Halo, Gears of War, and Fallout 3 alive, furthering the decline of gaming into a dark hole of stupidity. That’s just the disgruntled video gamer in me talking, though. Either way, this campaign/story/disgrace-to-mankind is unbelievable.

    Why would you do this to your players? This isn’t a case of the bad guy throwing your warrior in a cage and lobbing fireballs at you. This is a case of……. the main character being completely brain dead. I’m not talking about retarded. I’m talking completely brain dead. He’d have to be. He’d have to not only feel no emotion whatsoever about anybody, but also not be able to feel physical pain. I guess that’s why you can only communicate in emoticons.

    A good way to implement “Haha, you can’t do anything!” is like it happened in Zelda: Ocarina of Time when you first met Ganon. For those of you who never played this, or forgot, you first meet him as he runs out of the castle with the princess. He taunts you and zaps you with lighting.

    However, consider this. He’s an adult, and the infamous “King of Thieves.” You (Link) are twelve. Also, he’s on the Black Horse from Hell (TM).

    And even then, TWELVE YEAR OLD LINK STILL DRAWS HIS SWORD TO ATTACK! Let me repeat that. He’s all powerful and on a horse, you’re on the ground with a wooden shield, and you still prepare to fight. THAT’S a f*** hero!

    You know what happens the next time you come face to face with him, after you break the barrier to the castle he’s holed himself up in the entire game? YOU ATTACK.

    Even Final Fantasy VII, which featured some very questionable scenes of plot paralysis (you know what I’m talking about), did not reach this level of absurdity. The writer (Molyenux?) obviously hates every single person who bought this game and wanted to inflict upon them unprecedented mental punishment. I refuse to believe that a human can write something like this and think it is actually compelling or a true representation of choices, or that it makes any kind of sense at all.

    Then again, thinking back to your articles here, it’s almost as if the character has died without repenting, and the game is the story of his tortured soul through Hell. Yes… that’s it. That’s it exactly. Hehehohohohhahaha….. :X

    You are right. Writing it out is lethargic. Phew…

  40. Christian Groff says:

    Good lord! I’m glad I didn’t purchase this game! It sucks like its predecessor! And it seems like you have to play a man again, which is odd because I heard you can choose to be a female character. No, I’m no pervert, I just like playing female main characters. <_<

  41. Stephen T. says:

    Actually, beyond giving money, if you wanted to save the gold you could just play your lute to random passerby’s for 1 Good per listener, or eat baby chicks for 5 evil/chick. Renown could be gotten by simply raising up an acquired trophy endlessly, spamming the townsfolk for fame. Not that gold is hard to acquire anyhow since wealth accumulates pretty fast, just buy property, and every 5 minutes of game time you’ll get some put into your magic purse, or every 30 minutes if you have your system shut down, you really do have much more money then you know what to do with so giving it away isn’t really a hard decision either.

    Beyond the plot inanity, it was actually the interface which bugged me most, the process to get to your potions was long and you couldn’t set up quick buttons, instead they seemed to randomly put items into your directional keys you often couldn’t easily identify at a glance making you eat meat pies in the middle of combat with no health when what you really needed was one of the several dozen healing potions hanging off you. Heck even experience comes conveniently packaged in a fairly cheap potion package at discernible ranks. Which made the interface even more annoying, heaven forbid if you get multiple potions, you’ll spend long minutes going through the same screens over and over to drink one potion at a time.

    Even the appearance score is arbitrary assigned according to the developers desires. This style beard is attractive, this style of clothing is posh… etc. Thus you could wear what you liked and hope that it’s what the developers decided was nice and get the small benefits of being attractive, or just ignore it really. You could either game the system by giving yourself a beard for the bonuses, or take it that being cleanly shaven is essentially an unattractive option, in fact you can make yourself look pretty stupid and still impress the locals. Of course that isn’t exactly hard, later on in the game with a high goodness/purity score and decent attractiveness farting in the presence of your horde of admirers will get you dozens of rather unsubtle hints that you should be giving them a wedding ring. Of course why you would want to marry any of the many generic townsfolk is beyond me, none of them have any story or personality, and if you walk down the street you’ll probably find a dozen clones of them. Oh, I guess they do have rather arbitrary and seemingly random personality traits listed in their character page… but they don’t seem like much more then that… a listing of them.

    In the end none of the arbitrary gauges and points systems put into the game were of any purpose, your questing and decisions were essentially for naught. Pretty much everything can be manipulated cheaply and easily, eat pies to get fat, celery to lose weight, drink experience potions to gain experience, flash off a head endlessly to gain fame. Hell if you didn’t like how the game aged you by giving you white hair… dye it back to the color it was before.

    It all seemed so… pointless, and made all those decisions poised to you all the more inconsequential and silly.

    Oh… and high purity gave you rosy cheeks and facial skin with a silken smoothness… frankly freakishly smooth and rosy.

  42. Galen says:

    Wow, whoever said “I hate this campaign” first, way to go.

    And it occurs to me how a peasant woman got into an cave or whatnot FILLED WITH UNDEAD. I mean, unless she was armed or a magician (in which case why would she just stand there losing her youth). Yeah I wasn’t buying fable 2 anyway, but this is great shamus.

  43. elliot says:

    You know Shamus, If you were playing FF12, you wouldn’t be miffed at all by the lack of choice provided by the game. But because Fable 2 boasts freedom as a selling point you insist on holding that freedom to that same standards applied to a pen-and-paper RPG.

    The reason that the later genre can be so flexible is because it has no “infrastructure”; If a change is to be made it is a purely imaginative one, whereas if a game tried to create such freedom, code would be rewritten, plot forever bifurcated, new lines of dialogue written for each possibility. Multiply all that work that by the number of plot points and the number of possible actions and the result would make it impossible to have fore than even a single choice in the game. from an economic standpoint, the marginal cost from making a new option exceeds the marginal benefit, as most players will only get to experience one or two sets of choices.

    You first demand the impossible; Such limitless choice is a technological impossibility, never mind an economic unfeasibility. But second, you lambaste the game because of you unfair expectations: You hold Fable to the highest standards of thematic malleability, while a purely linear experience would extract no such qualms from you.

    Fable was able to instill within you three posts worth of dissatisfaction because you are haunted by what this game could have been. You have projected your desire to have a D&D experience on the console onto this game and it unsurprisingly fell short.

    P.S. I kinda feel guilty for making my first posts so confrontational. I’ve been reading you for years but have never posted. Also If you’re dissatisfied with Lucien as a character i recommend that read the journal entries.

  44. Shamus says:

    elliot: As I said earlier in the series, it’s not that I expect infinite choice, it’s that I expected the choices I’m forced to make to make some kind of sense. I don’t mind being railroaded in a game. I DO mind being railroaded into doing things that serve the plot instead of myself.

    Jade Empire was just as inflexible as Fable 2 – perhaps moreso – but the things I HAD to do were reasonable, justified, and worth it. When I did make a choice, it felt meaningful not arbitrary.

    It’s not about having infinite choices. It’s about writing skill. A good writer will lead you in the right direction with dialog so you never even feel the rails. A bad writer grabs you and shoves.

  45. elliot says:

    Perhaps I ascribe to a “gameplay-first” theory of game criticism, where one does not criticize an interactive medium for the parts of it which are not interactive.

    If you spoke about shallow character customization or ability progression these would be valid points. But a silly plot does not warrant such great emphasis.

  46. Cyprene says:

    Elliot:
    This plot is abysmal. What makes it so bad is that it commits the ultimate sin of making your character, your in-game persona, behave in ways that you would never, ever do in a million years if you were in that position. Shamus is comparing it to a D&D game because that’s what he knows best, but the comparison holds up just as well when you pick any random playstation title. Take Resident Evil 4, for instance; you’re offered no choice whatsoever at any point in that game, but there was never a time when I wanted to do something radically different than Leon Kennedy. He wants to kill zombies. I want to kill zombies. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.
    Now imagine that he got to the last boss, inexplicably shot the heroine in the head, and joined forces with him in trying to zombify the world. And then the game ends.
    That’s how retarded this plot is.

  47. Dan Hemmens says:

    Also, Reaver really is a short little guy for a Skill specialist, isn’t he? Skill makes people grow tall in the Fable universe, so why’s he pretty much the shorterst guy in the bunch?

    One of the many things that annoyed me about Reaver, in fact, was the fact that he seemed immune to the ravages of the game’s customization system. He got to be evil without turning grey, corrupt without growing horns, and be good with guns without looking like a lanky idiot.

  48. Cyclomega says:

    I swear to God anyone still telling me Fable 2 is awesome has serious issues…

    Even GMs I have played with were not such bad writers and tried to take distance at their stories…

    Last time a forced team up made me cringe that much, I was playing the tutorial part of Phantasy Star Universe’s single player campaign to see if I could bother enough to gain some weak achievements… I didn’t get past chapter two, I felt like crying…

  49. Guile says:

    @elliot: I disagree. Bad gameplay is a serious problem – I’m reminded of Magna Carta: Tears of Blood, which seemed to have a fine, even excellent, story; but I couldn’t get more than 5 hours into the game before the gameplay drove me away – but a terrible plot is equally upsetting.

    You need both.

  50. elliot says:

    well played cyprene

  51. Jos says:

    @Dan Hemmens
    I don’t mind as much that Reaver gets to stay pretty. I mean, that’s what his deal with the Shadow Court is all about.

  52. KiwiGlen says:

    @chiefnewo: I am also greatly offended by the storyline. It goes beyond mere incompetence. What sorry, sad sodality of stupidity wrote this sea scum of a plot?

  53. unitled says:

    Just been reading through some old Twenty Sided posts, and Fable II seems to break every rule layed out here.

  54. Dan Hemmens says:

    I don’t mind as much that Reaver gets to stay pretty. I mean, that’s what his deal with the Shadow Court is all about.

    True, but that’s part of the issue for me. As an evil character I would *love* to get that kind of option, but I don’t. I just get the option to be arbitrarily “evil” for its own sake (which is kind of fun, pretty much my favourite thing in Fable 2 is slaughtering the population of Fairfax Gardens for no good reason), I’m never given the option to do anything genuinely *villainous*.

  55. K says:

    You should really learn how to use Find&Replace on that name ;)

    Also, that tale is just horrible. I would smack my GM in the face if he did that. Honestly.

  56. CobraCmdr says:

    Despite all the things I hated about the plot I’m still glad I bought this game and I enjoyed it immensely. Exploring the gameworld, buying and selling real estate, and customizing your character are all incredibly fun. The side quests are for the most part pretty entertaining and well written, and there are a lot of them.

    I really enjoyed how your actions can affect the gameworld. Murdering and stealing from people in the various towns will cause them to eventually degenerate into filthy slums filled with beggars and whores, while investing in property, patronizing local shops and helping people in sidequests will improve the neighborhoods.

    Those of you who say you have no interest in checking out this game after reading about the (admitedly bad) main quest are doing yourselves a disservice.

  57. ryanlb says:

    This series is seriously killing my desire to buy this game. I hate being forced to team up with someone I’d rather kill.

  58. […] Their attempts at an entertaining or thoughtful narrative are painfully, criminally, offensively stupid. Except with porn, there’s no expectation for brilliance, so it’s okay for them. […]

  59. hiraethin says:

    Oddly, both Hammer and Garth are quite likeable characters, despite their differing outlooks and their constant arguments. (Hammer’s viewpoint often parallels that of the player, snarking at Teresa or the presumably vastly-educated Garth for their lack of foresight).

    Reaver, on the other hand, is possibly the most irritating person imaginable. Especially because he is, as Shamus says, aware that game mechanics protect him from the player. If Reaver had sounded less foppish and egotistical, had been less amused by his own evil acts and more bluntly straightforward and serious, he would have been both more realistic and less annoying. Still evil enough to kill in a heartbeat, of course.

  60. tiny tim says:

    I’m glad everyone is on the same page about Reaver. I wanted to gut him like a fish and watch him flop around on the floor.

    Now if we can just get to that point with Hammer…

    What self respecting evil character would let her live?

  61. edwardsch says:

    This post is completely and utterly awesome. :) This story sucks balls on so many different levels it’s hard to list.

    I kept trying to kill Reaver for fifteen minutes to no avail. :D

  62. BallzMcGee says:

    I only have one thing to say about this entire post. If you think you can do a better job then go for it. I will agree that making a one-sided storyline is stupid and naive, but the problem is making a COMPLETELY open-ended world and actually fitting it on a disk for your pleasure. Try running a program that literally has infinite possibilities, outcomes, goals, achievements, milestones, etc., and you will have ruined the whole essence of gaming in the first place; to escape real life. Of course these games aren’t going to be perfect and will have completely dull choices with yes or no answers, but how do you expect to fit all of the choices you would like into the game? For example, the disk you must return to give Lucien youth. Yeah the programmers could have infused the ability to shatter it, or throw it off a cliff, or share the burden of age, or fight the grim reaper things, but in reality, do you realize how much more code that would have taken? Do you understand that limitless possibilities is impossible at our current state of technology? And this question must be raised. Were they to include all of these options, would you be grateful, or would you write another column on how disappointing the game was to you? These people put time and effort into their work, and instead of being thankful for the game being created at all (I mean is it not what we all wanted?), we just cut it down and make it seem like we could do better. Maybe this game did have a pretty terrible story, and maybe it didn’t live up to the original Fable’s standards, but did you not see the improvements in gameplay? the improvements in graphics? Come on people. Give them a break. After all they did a damn good job at improving the game in general, it was fairly good, and in all honesty, they probably make more money than most of us posting on here in royalties alone. When it comes to this game, we all seem to act like children who are unhappy with a toy they got for a holiday or their birthday. I mean even though they got what they asked for, maybe it didn’t live up to their standards so it sucked. I am pretty sure we are all more grown up than that.

    • Shamus says:

      Your argument fails. I don’t need to be able to make a AAA game before I’m allowed to criticize one. I never asked for INFINITE choices. I didn’t even ask for CHOICES. All I ask is that the things the player is asked to do make sense.

      This is what critics do. They say if they enjoyed a game, and why. If you can’t handle seeing a game you like being criticized, don’t seek out reviews.

      • Rayen says:

        reminding you this post exists 6 years later. Have some smug self satisfaction. You’ve written two(three?) books and have published and sold them and you made an enjoyable Video Game. Maybe you didn’t make a AAA game but you probably did more than this guy has. And if Peter Molyneux posted that, well you never got asked in an (arguably serious) interview if you were a pathological liar.

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