I’ve been hearing a lot of complaining lately about Fable 3 and how the game nosedives towards the end. Most people say that they were upset because they were caught off guard by the quick turn-around after you become King of Albion. It broke the flow of the game for many as you were tasked with having to manage your income and make some tough decisions that would ultimately determine the outcome of the game. After reading an interesting article about how Fable 3 showed a player who he really was as a person, it confirmed some feelings I had about some great things that Fable 3 did.
I have an issue with many critics who clamor for change, and when it is served to them they want to spit it back out. In the case of Fable 3, I feel that not only did Lionhead Studios take the risk of trying something different, but they effectively implemented their new ideas into the gameplay. Our standard game presents choice to us in a way that is usually very predictable. Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 both give you a choice of doing the good thing and gaining valuable help later in the story, or doing the bad thing and getting lots of money or spectacular items. If you take the bad path you typically pull in just the right amount of dough in order to purchase the high leveled weapons faster, and if you take the good path you will earn the loyalty of powerful friends. Basically those games are offering you balanced gameplay so you are experiencing similar things in both playthroughs. This usually fans the “anti-complacent” flame in many critics and they shout that they are tired of these predictable outcomes and they want something that shocks them, or provides real consequences. Well that’s exactly what Fable 3 does.
*LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD*
At the end of the first part of Fable 3 you kill all of your evil, king brother’s soldiers and take the castle by force. Upon completing this action you have successfully stepped up from your humble title of Prince and become Ruler of Albion. What happens next is what is both shocking and unique; your brother tells you that an attack on your kingdom is imminent and that it’s coming in a year. Your brother wasn’t evil for the sake of it, he was inducing child labor and high taxes to ensure that there would be enough money in the coffers to save Albion. Whaddya know, an evil villain with legitimate reasons for his evil actions? Who would have thought that could make sense?
From that point on you have to make some hard decisions about what to do in order to save your kingdom. You’ve spent the entire game making promises to people that you can either keep or break, and now that you are king you will be making those choices publicly. Generally if you decide to do the noble thing then it will cost you; in the same way that giving citizens a tax refund means that the government has to fork out some change. Making the bad decisions, like choosing to build a brothel instead of rebuilding an orphanage, usually means more money for you but it makes the citizens upset. The dilemma comes when you have to decide to do the bad things in order to get the good results, or do the good thing but kill all of your citizens because you have no money. What does one do?
No game seems to have successfully captured this real life dynamic that actually makes an interesting story. Where most critics get caught up is in the part where they forgot to invest money in stores before they became king in order to make sure they had an income. Unfortunately, when the darkness came knocking they didn’t have time to build up their capital, so they were faced with unforeseen circumstances and lost control. Brilliant if you ask me.
Fable 3 presents an idea that is rarely used in games and points out how unpopular decisions can sometimes be the most beneficial. It catches you off guard and can potentially make the outcome of the game a little different then you might have expected. Why then are we complaining about the way Fable 3 presents us with difficult decisions? I know we all complain about how we have real problems in life that simply sneak up on us. What do you do when you know your car is about to bite the dust? You can save money and run the risk of not have some of your immediate desires or needs, or you can assure that your bills are being paid but you may not be able to gather enough money by the time your car is dead. You may not even have a year to decide…it’s now or never. This is a prime example of a video game trying to relate to its players in a way that is unique to other games on the market.
If you are one of the people who is blasting Fable 3 for its change in pace, or for the way it shoves you into a sudden and important decision making that ultimately changes the game then I ask you to take a step back and reflect on the points I’ve made above. Are these really game-breaking mechanics, or are you demanding change so you can look like a progressive game critic?