I’m going to summarize the plot of Fable. Especially intuitive readers might be able to discern my feelings towards the story along the way.
Note: Total spoilers!
The game starts of with your character in a perfectly nice little village where nothing bad ever happens. By the time you’re done setting up the controls bandits have arrived, murdering and burning as bandits tend to do. Your nameless protagonist is rescued from the carnage by a man named Maze.
Maze brings you to the “Heroes Guild”, a place that takes in children and trains them to be nondescript heroes with no particular goals outside of going out and kicking as much ass as possible. In the first half hour of the game (a sort of tutorial) you grow from a little boy into a man. Nobody else seems to age, or indeed even move from their given spot.
They make no effort to teach any sort of moral code or even instill a basic allegiance to the guild itself. When your nameless orphan hero graduates, the guildmaster mentions that the graduates may choose good or evil. He doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. despite the fact that he, and everyone else involved with the place, seem to prefer good people to evil. I guess it never occurs to any of them during the decade-long training process that they might be able to influence which way students choose to go.
Once graduation is over, you take a few jobs from the guild. Maze reappears and hints that your sister – who you saw for about twelve seconds at the start of the game – might still be alive! You fight your way through an army of bandits, and liberate her. She is so glad to see her brother that she delivers a little cryptic plot exposition and then wanders off. Looks like the bad guy (she never gets around to telling you WHO) murdered your father, then captured and tortured your mother and sister. He also blinded your sister.
You eventually learn that the guy behind all of this is named (Sigh) Jack of Blades.
Maze gives you a few more hints about what you need to do next, and you eventually rescue your mother, who has been a prisoner for the last decade or more, and who has been regulrly tortured for most of that time. She joins you, and the two of you fight your way out of the dungeon. You hack your way through dozens of minions, but just before you reach daylight Jack of Blades appears! He teleports in with a grand total of four henchmen.
Now, taking into account the following:
- You’ve just killed an army of these henchmen. They are not a serious threat to you.
- You are at last face-to-face with your enemy who killed your father, tortured your blah blah blah. This guy has been a phenomenal jerk to you all your life, and this is your first chance at revenge.
- You have your long-lost mother with you. This is her first chance at freedom since you were a child.
- You are an amazing badass. The most powerful hero in a generation.
- Your mother was once a member of the Heroes Guild, and quite the butt-kicker herself in her day. In fact, when it comes to having the title of world-champion badass, she’s the one who held the title before you.
Taking all these facts into account, you… surrender. (The game doesn’t give you a choice. It’s a cutscene.)
You and your mother are then thrown back into prison where everyone enjoys another round of torture. Actually, a year of it. Then you escape. With your mother. For whatever reason, Jack of Blades doesn’t teleport in, and you make it to freedom this time.
Your mother then wanders off to figure out how to locate Jack of Blades.
Later you arrive at the Heroes Guild. Jack of Blades (JoB) then teleports in, recaptures your mother, and teleports away.
You then catch Maze (the guy who rescued you at the start of the game) trying to recapture your blind sister. He reveals he’s been working for JoB all along! JoB needs the blood of your sister, your mother, and you, in order to get the Uber-Sword so he can DESTROY THE WORLD. It turns out the attack on your hometown years ago was done in order to capture the three of you. Even though he orchestrated the attack, (at the bidding of JoB) Maze spared you and took you to the Heroes Guild. But now that you know the truth, he decides he must kill you.
Let’s back up and see if we can figure out what Maze is doing:
- Maze joins forces with JoB, because he’s afraid of JoB. Maze figures it is better to help JoB destroy the world than to resist him and… maybe… die?
- Maze organizes the attack on your hometown. After slaughtering many people, he suddenly decided to disobey JoB. Now, if he killed you the prophesy would end and JoB’s plan would fail. If he hid you away JoB would never find you and thus his plan would fail. So Maze takes you to the Heroes Guild, where you will become a very famous badass.
- Despite his cowardice at standing up to JoB, Maze is brave enough to take you to be trained as a hero. This is a gutsy move, considering how he just got done destroying your hometown.
- Once you were a fully trained morally ambiguous badass, he started giving you information on how to rescue your sister.
- Once you rescued her, he then set about trying to re-capture her.
- Despite the fact that he saved your life and saw to it that you became the world’s foremost badass, he blabs his plan to you and then decides to kill you.
Once you kick his ass, with his dying breath he gives you an exceedingly long speech about how he did all of the above because he is “a coward”. (And at this point I really hope you’re enjoying reading this because I am experiencing physical pain trying to put this into words without sustaining brain damage.)
Where was I? Right. Next you go fight JoB. Actually, you have to run all over the gameworld while he teleports around. No matter how fast or slow you move, you’ll always arrive just in time to see him teleport away. (Thankfully, you don’t surrender to him again.)
Eventually he goes to the Heroes Guild to claim the Uber Sword. He has both your mother and your sister. Just as you reach him, he kills your mother in front of you. Then you have a long-multi-stage boss fight with varying attack patterns until JoB becomes vulnerable and you kill him.
You sister then reveals that you have two choices:
- Cast the sword into the abyss, destroying it forever. OR…
- Kill your sister, claiming the sword as your own. She presents this choice to you the same way she might suggest that you could have the chicken or the beef. She really doesn’t seem too invested in it one way or the other.
Note that even if you do take the sword you do not get the power to RULE AND / OR DESTROY THE WORLD as Jack was planning to do. You just get a sword with better stats than the one you have now. Note also that we’re at the end of the game and the utility of a better sword is somewhat questionable. It doesn’t occur to either of you that you could just walk away with the sword and NOT kill her with it.
So there it is. That’s the plot of the game, such as it is. I could tell you that the plot “could have been better”, but only if today was Enormous Understatement Day. (I think that falls just after Halloween this year.)
This was probably most infantile plot I’ve run into in an RPG. Even the mindless shooters of yesteryear handled their stories with more finesse than this. Most of the plot hinged on Maze and his actions, and the guy made not one bit of sense. His service to Jack of Blades was irrational. Allowing for that, his betrayal was then irrational or at lest inexplicable. His help to you was irrational, and then working against you after helping you was irrational. And finally his trying to kill you after all of the above was sad and comical.
The storytelling was all over the place. It tried to incorporate heavy, serious subject matter – such as the prolonged torture and maiming of close family members. And yet the story itself had all the sophistication of Smurfs / Scooby-Doo crossover fan fiction. The plot was childish, so they tried to make it more “adult” by throwing in grim torture. The villain was about as deep and interesting as Skeletor, so they had the villain dedicate his life to being an absolute ass to you, in hopes that they could get you to care.
I know some people are going to object to me berating the game like this. This is very similar to my review of Transformers. Stop taking it so seriously! It’s just supposed to be fun! I suppose that works if all you want is action, but I can’t help looking at this beautiful game and thinking how much better it would be if there was a worthwhile story to go with it.
This doesn’t mean the game sucks. I had fun with it. I enjoyed the combat. The scenery was pretty. I played through twice. But when the plot took center stage it was a painful thing to witness. This was a showcase of plot devices so lame they need hospice care. The dialog was so tired it could fall asleep in a mosh pit.
I really don’t think I’m asking too much. This game could have had an interesting plot, and it wouldn’t have cost them a dime. It didn’t need to be longer, or have more voice acting, or more missions or scenery or music or spells or special effects. All they needed was to treat the story with the same respect and seriousness that they expected from the player.
Zenimax vs. Facebook
This series explores the troubled history of VR and the strange lawsuit between Zenimax publishing and Facebook.
What did web browsers look like 20 years ago, and what kind of crazy features did they have?
The Best of 2011
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2011.
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
How to Forum
Dear people of the internet: Please stop doing these horrible idiotic things when you talk to each other.