Or, my thoughts on Fable II.
NB: This post will contain horrendous **spoilers**. Do not read if you do don’t wish to know the ins and outs of Fable II’s plot.
For those of you who played the first Fable, Fable II will feel reassuringly familiar in the opening couple of hours. You’ll be unsurprised to note that the game starts during the early years of the protagonist’s life and time-skips its way through to mid-life. The two games are very similar in their intentions, though I found the sequel to be disappointingly shorter than the original. A pill which was only made more bitter by the announcement of and trailer for Fable III, less than a year since the release of Fable II.
Despite the introduction, I don’t plan to review the game here. I will be giving my thoughts on the Good vs. Evil mechanic made popular by the original Fable.
The Fable Hype Machine is a formidable one. With Peter Molyneux in the cockpit, this mecha-monstrosity tramples its way across the various gaming news blogs, firing Promulgation Lasers and Ballyhoo Bombs at the unsuspecting public. The big hitter, the machine’s WMD if you will, is the Morality Missile.
Petey-M loves their morality system. The player is able to take actions which can have a positive or negative effect on their morality. These come in the form of player-driven actions, and quest-based choices. For example, if a good player wished to increase their moral standing with the public, they could play the lute in the town square for a crowd, have a bard sing songs disseminating tales of their good deeds, purchase a property and lower the rent or give a child an autograph.
On the other hand, if an evil character wished to further debase themselves, they could kill (any number of) villagers, draw a weapon in town, thrust their crotch at unsuspecting passers-by, increase rental prices or sacrifice anyone at a dark altar.
The consequences of these choices will have effect in the world of Albion in the form of differing quest outcomes, NPC reactions and the protagonist’s physical appearance. Good players seem to look perpetually happy, or at worst, pensive. Somewhat reminiscent of a bride or groom on their wedding day who need to smile at all times but stop to relax their mistreated facial muscles when they think no-one is looking. It is even possible for a paragon of good to end up sporting a halo above their heads.
Evil characters, conversely, look increasingly angry as the game progresses and will actually grow clichéd devil horns as they perform unspeakable acts.
What I want to know is, why would a character who has killed hundreds of innocent civilians, made uncountable human sacrifices and has a visage including devil horns, deep red glowing runic symbols and the faint haze of black smoke emanating from their person want to help Mrs. Spade by rescuing her two sons who seem to have the nasty habit of accidentally summoning horrible creatures which then terrorise the surrounding hamlets [Deep breath]?! Wouldn’t you be quite enamored with the idea of terrorising hamlets? Haven’t you in fact been doing just that yourself?
Also, why would you care about what Lucien was up to? He’s got a Spire? Meh. He’s going to do, something, with it? Meh. He killed your sister when you were a kid? Well, the hundreds of murders that you’ve committed since kind of put that in perspective, don’t they? You seem perfectly happy to annoy villagers and make a pain in the arse of yourself wherever possible. Revenge seems both below you (murders) and above you (being that you’re pretty much just a d-bag).
Also, since when was being a d-bag worthy of evil devil horns? Just because I raised the rent in a few places I own, stole some stuff from houses and wouldn’t give Timmy an autograph, doesn’t mean that I’m evil. It just means that I’m an arsehole.
This is my problem with morality systems in games. Rarely do they actually model ethical or moral reasoning, rather they tend to require the player to choose between entirely virtuous acts, or being a prick.
I would think that our wonderful and entirely irreproachable OFLC would have something to do with this – I was surprised that what was, in essence, human sacrifice made it into Fable II. I felt a little uncomfortable playing my evil character, but only a little. The vast majority of the things that I did to earn my evil countenance simply required me to act like a prick.
I’m pretty sure that acting like a prick doesn’t make someone evil.
It just makes them a prick.