First Thoughts on Fable 3

I’ve been binging on Fable 3 for the past week or so (with a break for the XBox downloadable Costume Quest, which is adorable and Halloween-themed). I loved Fable 2, with its pastoral settings, funny reversals of some video game conventions, and a pretty straightforward hero’s journey that you could more or less ignore in order to become a master welder, marry a bunch of villagers of either sex, or go on all kinds of side quests.

Fable 3 is, in many ways, less satisfying than Fable 2, precisely because its ambitions are higher. Moving the story to the Industrial Revolution, asking the player to stage a coup, and then  to govern the kingdom of Albion should be an opportunity to expand and deepen the choices and effects that the player can make. Instead, the choices remain frustratingly binary – do I repair these buildings now, or let them crumble forever? There won’t be an opportunity to revisit this later! In fact, past the halfway point of the game, I never felt like I was allowed off of the rails; it’s an amusement park ride, not a piece of interactive fiction. Michael Abbott details a lot of the disappointments with the game better than I can do here.

That said, I was pretty captivated by the initial scenes in the region of Aurora:

The use of blindness – whether sand blindness or a magically-induced psychological or physical blindness – in this segment is unusual in that it actually brings up disability in a game that otherwise shies away from it. Designer Peter Molyneux always promises that players’/avatars’ actions and choices will change their avatars – in Fable 2, my poor fighting skills meant my avatar was covered in battle scars and scratches – but the games consistently avoid any real incapacity. My poor fighting skills should have meant that one of those mercenaries would permanently injure me by slicing off my arm or something, or my stamina should have decreased, or something.

My next quest is a return to Aurora, so I suspect that I will continue to think about the use of disability and avatarial embodiment in Fable 3 over the next few weeks!

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