Friday, May 3, 2013

Fable (XBox, 2004)



 
  The Three Decade Project returns with a game I have never played before until now. And on that note, the XBox clock is wrong, so the game says it's 2001 every time I save. Yeah, I wish. It's pretty funny to load up a game with "2004" on the title screen and have the save file say it was last played in "2001" on it a second later.





The intro is very charming. This game does nail the "fable" part of the title. It's the story of a boy dreaming of greatness, then growing up and becoming it. More or less.




Peter Molyneux is behind this game. Apparently he wanted to do all kinds of stuff with the game like have it be an open, evolving world, but none of those things came to fruition. The game seems very linear, like it transpires in "levels". It certainly isn't everything they hyped it up as.


The first quest of the game? Run around town doing good deeds to get enough money for a birthday present. I believe you need to get all of four coins. Coincidentally, this game cost me $4 brand new. It's worth a lot more than that, I'd say, so I got a good value here.

The character models in the game are unbelievably bad. Especially the hero, who looks like the creepiest hobbit in all the land.


I named him "Dildo Baggins".

This has been a strange week.
Having absolutely no knowledge of Fable makes this interesting. I didn't even know what the game looked like. I picked it up on recommendations (while avoiding Fable 2 and Fable 3 on recommendations... they're for the 360 anyway, which I don't have). It looks... a lot like World of Warcraft. It plays like a next-gen Secret of Mana would have, I assume. Real-time and all that jazz.

Awwww!

The beginning of the game has you running around a peaceful town helping out really heartwarming characters like a little girl who lost her teddy bear.

....and then after a few minutes THEY ALL DIE.


What the fuck. This game is DEPRESSING.


Damn it, Sephiroth!

 Those people didn't do anything to you, ya rat bastard!

Well, no. It was just some roving, nameless bandits. Luckily, our hero is saved by a bunch of guys who decide to train him in the fighting arts.

...but first, poor Dildo Baggins vomits everywhere. Well, he DID just see his village get destroyed...

"They're DEAD! They're DEAD alright? Can I GO NOW?"

He then flails about spastically. You know, the hero being a mute is something that works well in a lot of games, but it isn't the right choice here. He really needs to speak, because this is getting weird very fast.


At first, the objective of our hero is just to survive. He gets older and badder-ass, Conan the Barbarian style. I guess you could also say this is a little bit similar to Gladiator in that awful things happen and then the hero gets thrown into a harsh life he wasn't prepared for.


He may be a bit older, but the hero is still gangly and awkward. And yow, this game sure does look like World of Warcraft. Came out the same year, too.


The early game basically consists of you continuing to run errands for people. The first number is gold acquired from the quest, second is Renown (the stat that determines how well-known you are and thus what quests are available to you) and the third is EXP. Take note of those numbers so you can compare them to another quest a little later and be mind-boggled.


The game basically becomes a montage, as between each training exercise the hero ages several years. This is all a tutorial, more or less, and it goes on for like the first hour of the game. I imagine that on a replay this might be annoying. Too bad, because this is one of the most replayable games I have seen in a while.

Case in point: There are two paths you can take through the game. You can either be good or bad, depending on your actions. A good character helps people and does good deeds, and as a result is applauded everywhere he goes (just like real life!) while a bad character... well, basically just kills everyone. It's two vastly different ways to play the game. Doesn't Knights of the Old Republic do something like that? Mass Effect sorta does, except it's more like "Rule Following Calm Jack Bauer or Yells At People Jack Bauer" than it is good or evil.

And if that weren't enough, there are three different character archetypes: fighter, archer, spellcaster. You're probably only going to really excel in one field of combat per game (though I suppose it's possible to max out all of them if you play long enough), and the game is fundamentally different in playstyle depending on what "class" you go through it as. So three classes times two alignments = six concievable ways to play the game and have it be different each time. That's a lot of replay value. I'll stop at one, and like archer, but the mage is intriguing too.


The Guildmaster basically sends the hero on his way after the training (and awkward puberty years) fly by. Wait a damn minute, is that guy on the right Ganondorf? The hell is Ganondorf doing here? Nintendo should sue!


People cheer and applaud for the latest graduate of the academy that apparently trains teenagers to be heroes: the mighty...


"Dilll-do Baggins!"


Dildo's journey begins. Oh boy, are we excited? I'm excited. He's going to find out if any of his family survived, and find them, and... well, hold your horses. The first quest of the game... kill ten wasps! It's like an MMO without the people!


 You can change your title (what people call you in the verbal dialogue), which is kind of cool. Piemaster? Really? I would have gone for Arseface, but it cost a cool 73 G and at this point I was barely finding any money.


Stuff happens, as our hero does more busywork quests like clearing out wasps and bandits and stuff. More importantly than all of that, this game finally discovered a way to be MORE annoying than the infamous Alia messages in Mega Man X5. How is that possible, you ask? The Obi-Wan esque Guildmaster's voice wafts in constantly to tell you things you already know...and you can't jump through the dialogue since it's vocal. It doesn't interrupt the gameplay, but it's even more annoying because you can't disable it short of muting the music. At least, I don't think you can. I turned off "tutorial messages" in the options but I kept hearing from the guy. At some point (around the halfway mark of the game) the messages suddenly cease, at least.

The most annoying of these messages? "Hero, your willpower is low! Watch that!" every time I run low on mana. Which, for the entire early game when you have very little mana, means you literally hear this message after every spell you cast. Turning off the sound is out of the question, because this game has really good music. Yargh.


 The quest soon switches gears to the hero finding his long-lost sister, who is, judging from this mural, both blind and super-sexy. She has a really tragic story in this game. Seems the bandits took her when they raided the village and did awful things to her, then she was rescued by other bandits that took care of her, remaking her in their image. And by "took care of" I mean the chief basically made her his love-toy. ...and that was the easiest way out for her. This is a bit Game of Thrones-y.


 Some great scenery in this game. I very quickly developed this guy into a master archer. He has three spells, and that's all he needs: Heal, Multi Arrow, and the barrier spell. In this game, HP doesn't regenerate, but Mana does. Despite the prevalence of healing items in the game, it was simpler to just get Heal and use that to recover between battles. Multi Arrow is an enchant that makes your next few shots do vastly more damage. That's a slightly overpowered one, and at higher levels it even takes big chunks out of bosses. Goes hand-in-hand with being an archer. The barrier spell (damage uses mana instead of HP when it's up) is useful for beelining through areas, something I do a lot of to save time. The areas in this game tend to be very tedious to fight through.


 You can build up a character any way you want while drawing from all three "talent trees" as it were (so you can have a pure fighter, or a less-tough fighter who has a few spells, etc). Obviously I went with archer. There have been times when I wished I was a meleer, and lots of times when I wished I were a mage. Against multiple foes, this character isn't the best, but he excels against bosses and single foes. Multi Arrow + high archery talent levels = mega-damage. As you complete quests, you get points to distribute in the various skill trees. Strength, Skill, and Will apply to melee, archery, and magic respectively. For the most part. They have some general skills in them as well. For instance, Strength contains the skill that raises HP, while Skill contains the ability to sneak and do thief things.

The green bar is General exp, which means you can use it anywhere. The other three bars of exp can only be used for their respective fields. Thus, even if you're building up one field (using all your General points on Skill, for instance, in addition to its own points), your other fields are accumulating points that can only be used for them and allow you to dabble a bit. It's an interesting design and I like it. Wish it were in a superior game, though.


 One major problem I had with this game early on: a weird lack of merchants that sold weapons or armor. Every merchant I'd find would only sell me items. It was bizarre, and forced me to go through the first third of the game with newbie equipment. It got really difficult after a while, and I nearly quit during the segment where you need to run through a mountain pass finding bandit clothes. I couldn't even kill a single enemy in that area, and only got past it by fleeing from everything and blowing through healing items. At that point I was fed up with being so behind the curve. I probably missed an obvious early merchant that would have fixed all my problems, but I'll still blame the game for having so few equipment-selling merchants.


Another idiotic merchant problem: you can't sell a lot of the stuff you find. No idea why, but I can barely sell any of the loot I've found and don't need. It sucks. Matter of fact, at this point in time the only thing the game would let me sell were the things I had equipped. How backwards is that?


 FINALLY, I found a shop that had weapons and armor. Bought a bunch of up-to-date equipment here and completely changed the look of my character while literally TRIPLING his attack and defense in one fell swoop. After this, the game was suddenly easy. ...this game is so unbalanced it's ridiculous.

Lamest thing is, it wasn't even a standard shop that had the equipment. After checking every shop I could find earlier and coming up with nothing, the merchant that finally sold me equipment was a one of four merchants wandering down a road that were, as far as I could tell, all randomly generated in the middle of the wilderness. So I guess I lucked out.


 I wish I had changed his name to Arseface after all. Our hero arrives at the Arena at this point, which is pretty much the halfway point of the game. It's a series of thirty or so waves of enemies that you have to fight. No, seriously, that many waves of enemies spawn in a row, with little time to rest between waves. Each wave consists of one to eight enemies. Weird that this huge battle is suddenly dropped into the game when it has consisted of mild-mannered fetch quests up to this point. Almost seems like something that belongs at the endgame, not a few hours in.


As our hero marches to what would have been his doom an hour ago, I gotta say I'm glad that I got him upgraded when I did. He wouldn't have lasted five minutes in the Arena before. Then again, the Arena (and every new area now) has an equipment shop. I guess they just forgot to itemize some of the early areas. I'll be a broken record with this, but the game feels very unfinished.


 Overseeing the Arena fights is the villain of the game, Jack of Blades. This guy is a renowned "hero" who is undefeated and stuff. ...or something. Apparently he had something to do with the hero's village being torched. I don't know. I haven't been keeping up with the story as well as I should have been, and the existing story is a bit scarce to begin with.

Wait a minute... a red-clad former hero turned villain overseeing a tournament? Reminds me of Saro in Dragon Warrior 4. Kinda like how the hero's story is taken from Conan the Barbarian and many of the powers (Force Push, etc) are taken from Star Wars. The various character-building traits seem ripped from other WRPGs for the most part. Looks like Fable is an amalgamation of a bunch of other existing ideas.


Speaking of unbalanced and unfinished, when you reach the Arena story quests suddenly start giving you more exp. And by more, I mean they jump from 900ish exp to 38000ish exp in the span of a few minutes. It really does seem like they made the beginning and end of this game, then didn't have the resources to actually make the middle 80% so they just stuck the bookends together. It's a ten hour game at the most if you stick to the main story. Lots of sidequests, but they aren't necessary and most of them don't go anywhere. No desire to take out more wasps, thanks.


Later, our hero gets thrown into prison by the bad guys, losing all of his equipment and powers. You get them back before long, at least. In the meantime you run around in a speedo. Stuff happens, the hero escapes, he fools around in an incredibly boring graveyard for a while, he saves his mom from prison and goes after Jack of Blades... I'm summing up here because quite frankly not much happens in the game. It heats up a bit towards the end when you arrive in the snowy lands up north, though. Even though the entire game up to then looks sort of like Generic Yet Pretty Warcraft Forest #6, the snowy areas are different and interesting. Wait a minute... a game that looks the same up until the endgame, then suddenly drops you in a snowy valley? Sounds like Dragon Warrior 2!

From there, you chase Jack of Blades around for the last hour of the game. Now, we join that last hour in progress.



So yeah, right after the hero rescues his mother from the clutches of the bandits (who are evidently working for JOB, therefore I will now call them the JOB Squad), she gets captured again. Yeah, this is definitely where the design team ran out of money and had to skip to the end of the game. No way she should have been captured right away after being rescued. I'm guessing there was supposed to be a lot of story between the two events.


Dildo Baggins travels to the snowy northern land to battle the JOB Squad. I'm just glad that the scenery of the game changes towards the end.


Battling scores of banshees in this frozen town gives me an opportunity to show the Lightning spell. This is, make no mistake, Sith Lightning. It zaps from the hero's fingertips and channels nonstop. Between that and the good/bad alignments, it seems like this game got a lot from the previous year's Knights of the Old Republic.


Ganondorf shows up here, and as expected, he's now evil. That bastard!


JOB shows up. This guy is a fairly lame villain, to say the least. As a villain-thusiast, I don't approve.


The fight with Ganondorf (well, his name is Maze, plzdon'tsue) is absolutely the most difficult fight in the game. Actually, it's the ONLY difficult fight in the game. He has a forcefield up about 50% of the time, and the rest of the time he has astronomically high blocking abilities. He also dishes out massive close-range damage. However, archery gets the job done really well here.


The Hero looks on silently while Ganondorf makes a speech and slowly dies. Creepy.


....aaaand the scene keeps going and going. If The Hero's silence wasn't already creepy for the rest of the game, it sure is now. But not as creepy as...


...Creepy Richie Ryan. "Oh yeahhhh" he says as he watches the proceedings.


JOB does the typical villain thing upon learning that his right-hand man is dead. He shouldn't be so nonchalant about it considering Maze was much more of a threat than he is. But more about that in a moment.


At this point JOB warps around opening ancient gates to hell. Or something. You basically just have a really long chase scene for the last twenty minutes of the game.


Next thing you know, he torches the Guild. Here we see the Guildmaster making a plea. Does JOB ever stop torching places that mean something to young Dildo Baggins? Why is he such an ass?


The final battle takes place inside of the Guild. JOB is an extremely easy fight to cap off an extremely easy game. He hides behind a barrier and summons a lot of reinforcements, but once they're gone they don't respawn (unlike the adds in the Maze fight). After that he goes active and attacks, but archery makes short work of him. His energy attacks do a huge amount of damage, but once he starts using them the game is nice enough to make a bunch of rocks appear in the room that you can hide behind. Without those random rocks materializing the fight would have been a challenge, but c'est la vie.


Victory gets you the strongest sword in the game. Wait, isn't the game over? Yes, but it lets you continue after and keep doing quests. There's also Fable: The Lost Chapters which has a lot of extra content. I presume it includes everything they left out of this one, eh?


This sword is beastly...and evil. As a result, you can only keep it if you kill your sister. I chose not to, and he cast the sword into a pit of fire. If I were playing an evil character, and had plans to keep playing... well, I might have gone for it then.


Everyone lives happily ever after. So, final thoughts on this game? I think I covered everything I had to say about it already. It's good, but it's very unpolished, very unfinished, and very easy. Liked being an archer though. It really does seem like Molyneux was going for an Elder Scrolls style open-world game with this, but it ended up being so short and linear that it falls far short of that goal.

Annnnd there's another year. The Project is nearing the end, and I'll likely try to wrap it up inside of the next five weeks or so. We'll see if I can manage that.


4 comments:

  1. Dildo Baggins. Good stuff. You're right that the game was supposed to be much longer than it ended up being. Some of that made it into Fable: The Lost Chapters.

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  2. You did a great job explaining the game. Really enjoyed the explanations of the mechanics. It's too bad they ran into so many barriers that limited it, but it is 2004. The story looks like total misery...but the kind of misery that happened in the Middle Ages.

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  3. Great stuff here, enjoyed it.

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