Those of you who were reading my column last week (and for some reason decided to come back for more) may remember me venting a wee bit of rage at Lionhead Studios and their new game, Fable 3. Some of you thought I was perhaps being a bit harsh. The expressions system that I so vocally excoriated was not, in fact, necessary to complete the game. I can concede this point. I still think it is intensely stupid, but I could probably have skipped the majority of it. Believe it or not, I actually do like it when our readers keep me honest. (Sometimes, I consider it a challenge, but that is beside the point.)
With a newfound sense of peace given to me by our faithful readers, I once again immersed myself in the world of Albion. In both previous Fable games, you could buy property. When I was playing Fable 2, I found it interesting that the rent and/or business profits you collected would accumulate over time, even if you were not playing. You got paid every 5 minutes (or a lump sum when you loaded the game again). I decided to see if this same thing worked in Fable 3, so I bought up a bunch of property. It did not, which was a little disappointing. But it was getting me enough profits that I decided to do it a lot. It beat playing Lute Hero or the other “job” mini-games. Those would have been fun, but the interface would stutter or skip frames (which is, in my opinion, the kiss of death on timing-based games) so I hated playing them. So I went around questing and completing more of the story and buying up properly and having myself a very nice time for a night. My rage died down. Perhaps this game would have a happy ending after all.
Suffice it to say, the opposite of that happened. Actually, there will be no sufficing. Those of you in the first five rows will find a tarp located under your seats. You might want to hold that up so your clothes don’t get messy.
The Glorious Reign Of King Vanir
Soon, it was time to take back the crown from my rampaging dire butthole of a brother. He apparently only had the budget for like 12 guards, which I promptly set on fire. Then I was king! Hooray! I decided to be a very nice king, and to undo all of the horrible things my brother did, and make wise financial choices and make the kingdom prosper. LONG LIVE ME!
Oh, wait. It seems that there’s some Giant Evil coming to kill us in a year, and the reason my brother was being a jerk is because he was trying to raise money for an army to stop it. Yes, I’m sure that’s why you killed my girlfriend because I was insubordinate in the beginning. Jerk. And apparently, there are 6.5 million citizens in Albion, and it just so happens that I need 6,500,000 gold to raise a sufficiently large army to stop the Giant Evil. How tidy. OK, that’s cool. Oh, wait. It seems we start 750,000 gold in the red. Well, I’ll just set smart financial policies, and we’ll fix this right up. So I go into the throne room and prepare to be Excellent to All My Subjects.
Oh, wait. It seems all of my choices revolve around living up to a promise I made to someone else earlier, which always involves me blowing a crapton of gold OR letting the sexually deviant industrialist that tried to kill me earlier in the game at his weird orgy do something tremendously horrible but profitable. (As an aside, whose sexual fetish is balverines? Don’t answer that.) Your choices are things like “let the mountain people hunt again and restore their lands” which costs 200,000 gold for some unknown reason, or let Thrusty McProfitable strip mine the entire thing and use the resulting crater as a high-priced water park to get you a million back. There’s never any boring or sensible choices to be made. You can either A. do the bad thing and you get money so your people will live at the end of the game, or B. do anything else and lose a ton of money and have someone constantly remind you that your people will be happy and very dead at the end of the year. Fantastic. I get it, it’s the “heavy is the head that wears the crown” narrative, and you’re forcing me rather heavy-handedly (crowndedly?) into it.
If I was playing D&D right now, this would be where I’m getting creative. I’m the King, dammit! I get to decide how these things work. So you say either I have to pay 50,000 gold to open a school or earn 1,500,000 gold by opening a brothel on the same property? I say it’s a school during the day and a brothel when the kids go home. You live in an industrialized society. It’s called hide-a-beds, people. And the ladies of the evening could help grade papers in their off-time. Everybody wins! What’s that? We don’t have a way to deal with the sewage problem? We don’t have to ruin the marshlands by diverting everything there. That is a silly idea. There’s a Giant Evil coming. Who needs an army? We’re going all B.A. Barracus on them, and making POOP CANNONS. Don’t f*#k with me, Giant Evil. I’ll cut you.
Better Living Through Real Estate?
Wait! I have a plan! A real, sensible plan! A plan that lets me escape from your stupid narrative! You can contribute gold from your personal funds into the royal treasury – and, as it happens, I have been buying up all the property I can get my Heroic hands on. Since I get paid every 5 minutes, I should surely have enough money by the time a whole year passes. Right?
Well, the first thing I learned about being the King of Albion is that 30 days passes in the blink of an eye once you make your rulings for the day. And apparently, I need to fire the Royal Real Estate Lawyer because he completely missed the clause that lets all my tenants go rent-free when I black out for a month. OK, that is infuriatingly stupid, but I can still win this thing. It’s become clear to me at this point that Real Time and Time Before The Giant Evil Kills Anybody are two separate things, and my personal coffers are filling up nicely, so I decide to buy everything in sight and jack up the rent just a little bit (with the full intention of making it ridiculously low after, you know, we’re not all going to die). And it’s working great. I’m questing, I’m raising my skills, I’m occasionally making some rulings and letting a month go by, and the money keeps rolling in. Before I know it, I’ve got 2 million gold, and another 2.5 million in real estate I can sell. It wouldn’t be long now. I would beat this stupid game at its stupid game. I’ve got almost 90 days left, and the clock on my living room wall read about midnight, so I decided to make one more set of rulings before I went to bed.
It was the worst decision I could have possibly made. Aside from, you know, purchasing Fable 3.
The Facepalm Of The Gods
At this point, I wish I had heeded the advice of my readers, as one of them warned me of something very important. I ignored his comment after reading the first few words, not wanting to ruin the experience. What a horrible idea.
Turns out when you make a ruling, it’s not always a month that passes. Actually, there’s no consistent amount of time that passes. In this particular case, with 90 days left, I had just made the very last set of rulings before the Giant Evil shows up. Guess what? I wake up, it’s suddenly the one-year anniversary of my taking the throne, I’ve got a crapton of gold sitting in my personal treasure room that hasn’t been used for buying an army, and everyone in Albion is dead. Better yet: the game thoughtfully autosaved for me after I made my rulings, so there was no going back. A week of gameplay, wasted. Hours of careful planning and managing real estate, wasted. Remember Fable 2? When you were going to go to a critical part in the story, and it puts up a message that says in big bold letters “HEY THERE IS NO GOING BACK AFTER THIS! ARE YOU SURE? NO, SERIOUSLY.ARE YOU SURE?” Did that not test well with the focus groups this time around? Maybe they did tell me, but it was through expressions? I knew I should have paid attention to that copiously-farting businessman back in Bowerstone Market!
So, after the whole total annihilation of millions of people bit, me and the four guys I was hiding in the castle with went to go fight the Giant Evil, handily gave it a good thrashing, and took its Evil Lunch Money. I kind of wish we’d done that, you know, before it killed everybody. You know. Advanced battle tactics and all. Anyway, I rush back to the castle to find my wife. She is waiting there in the Royal Bedroom, as she always is, to greet me. Somehow her “approval rating” meter is well into “Happy”, but clearly something is amiss because she decides to divorce me right there on the spot. That’s right, everyone. If you accidentally get everyone in the kingdom killed through no fault of your own, your wife is programmed to automatically divorce you. A final twist of the knife. I loved you, Freedom the Eco Warrior. Even if you never bathed.
The Final Analysis
This is why, dear reader, I am compelled to give Fable 3 the worst review any game has ever received.
I genuinely believe Fable 3 to be a threat to our very way of life. If you give this to your children for Christmas, you should be thrown in prison. If you buy this game for your significant other, you should probably start hunting for an apartment now. If you bought this game for yourself, do not remove the shrink wrap from the game box, lest some of it gets on you and causes you lifelong depression and anger management issues, and that is IF you do not suffer an explosive aneurism that levels everything in a 2 mile radius. I will never be the same. I am a broken man. My pants will never be the same, and neither will what used to be my guest bedroom. I will approach every game I play, every experience in life, every breath I take with the fear that it will be as bad as Fable 3. There are proven links to the spread of Restless Leg Syndrome across the world and the development of Fable 3. The Black Plague that ravaged Europe in the 1300’s was actually caused by Fable 3 sucking so badly that it travelled backwards in time, where a bunch of rats played it. All of these things are 100% true and backed by SCIENCE.
Don’t do it. Don’t hurt yourselves or the ones you love. Don’t play Fable 3. Really, don’t do it.
Also, it will make you mad because stupid things happen in a lot of very critical parts of the game. I don’t recommend it. But mostly, never play Fable 3.