Adam's Rant: The Fable Series Needs A Break

By Adam Ma on March 20, 2011, 5:53PM EDT

I hate to make such a blatant attack against any video game franchise, but the Fable series holds a spot near and dear to my heart. I remember walking into EB Games when the first advertisements for Fable came around, proudly declaring that players would be able to do anything and go just about anywhere; boasting the ability to shape a character's future in ways that no one has ever dreamed of when it comes to player customization and interactivity. It sounded almost too good to be true. A smooth combination of open world combat and questing that would progressively craft a character who reflects the player's choices. Fable, for all of its faults, was a relative success. Sure it didn't meet many of the promises that were laid out by its developers, nor were a few of the ideas that were supposed to be in the final product ever brought to light, but the fact remains that Fable was a success that would eventually herald a sequel, and that's when things began to make a turn for the worst.

Perhaps this isn't entirely Fable's fault. As a series, it certainly tries the hardest that it can. Maybe we should just pin this entire issue on Peter Molyneux, who has almost built a career on over-hyping various technologies in the gaming industry. Either way, there has yet to be a title in the Fable series that hasn't disappointed due to failing to live up to expectations set by the development team. It's not that they're bad games, it's simply that they have promised too much to players every single time. Burdened by the weight of broken promises with each and every instalment, the series seems to limp into the spotlight, an absolute shame considering that if the bar was set just a little lower, these titles would be absolute gems.

Logically, it seems like the best way to fix the problem Fable has as a series would be to ignore it altogether, which begs the question, who out there actually supports Fable? If most of the fans of the series already know and agree that it is extremely prone to overhype, wouldn't buying into the title simply be supporting this? It wouldn't be so bad if the developers stuck to their guns and pumped out a "full experience" via DLC (a deplorable act that other dev's do these days, but fans seem to accept), but rather instead Fable takes on a very unique approach that consists of admitting they were wrong about the game, that it fell short on just about every significant level, and that the next title will be everything we've ever dreamed of.

Perhaps this kind of behavior is acceptable for a sequel and, certainly to an extent, every developer wants gamers to know that they have recognized the flaws and learned from their lessons, but Fable never truly does that. Fable II was supposed to, again, be the open world, non-linear, character defining experience that fans expected of the first, but somehow that didn't quite work out as planned. Fable III ran into an equally frustrating issue, trading a little bit of open world freedom for a relatively bland experience that only truly became refined at the very end. Individually, each of these titles aren't bad games, in fact they hold some pretty impressive scores across the board by critics. However, as a series this sort of behavior shouldn't be supported in the slightest, and the fact that every single title takes the same sort of marketing roller coaster ride is a little upsetting.

Even now Molyneux has begun the vicious cycle for the next installment in his series, promoting potential ideas and changes for the next Fable while blasting the last game - not even a year old at this point - as being old hat. Again, perhaps these statements would be appropriate if taken in a context such as "we realize what went wrong with our old title" or "this new game will show a wide string of improvements," but instead we seem to just get "the prior game was horrible, this new title will be perfect" act. It just doesn't add up, and considering Fable isn't the only series that Molyneux has done this for, it's fair enough to call this kind of behaviour habitual. Purchasing his titles only to realize that the experience explicitly promised by such a developer simply will not be delivered is called being tricked, and of course as the old saying goes; 'Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me'.

I'm not suggesting that fans who truly enjoy the Fable series avoid it in the future, if you can enjoy the series despite a few broken promises and blatant over-hype, then more power to you. I will say, however, that maybe it's time we just give the series a rest. The sort of sensationalism that Lionhead Studios tends to flog around hasn't gone over so well for any of their other associated titles such as Black and White, or even Milo (both of which fell far short comparative to promises made), yet somehow the Fable series seems to endure and spawn more sequels. In all fairness the developer has already admitted to this sort of problem, having promised us once that Lionhead, though more specifically himself, would never speak about a mechanic unless they could actually display them in the game, a rule that has been somewhat adhered to throughout the years.

So please Lionhead, take a little bit of a break. Give us some time to think fondly of what went wrong with Fable III and what we would actually like to see expanded upon. Perhaps this time we'll give you all a little bit of extra room to sit back and improve upon individual aspects of the series to create a more refined gaming experience. Or maybe you'll take this time to rewrite Fable from the ground up, giving is something completely different to work with. Either way, I think it's time to step away from Fable for a little while and just let it sit. It's clear that you all have some pretty fantastic ideas bubbling away in there, ready and waiting to be applied; gamers just really don't want to hear from you anymore unless you're ready to apply them.

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