In the wake of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, a great deal of developers have showcased many new products to the excitement and delight of the gaming consumer base. One project, however, had a certain British game developer on damage control.
Peter Molyneux, titular ‘head’ of Lionhead Studios and High Grand Master of Hype, was busy during the conference feverishly trying to convince the media that the latest demo in his infamous Fable series, the Kinect-powered Fable: The Journey, was not a completely worthless and pointless attempt to shoehorn a Fable title into Microsoft’s selection of Kinect titles. He has even gone far enough as to apologize to the community for allowing the showcasing of the demo and claiming that The Journey, in which the players take on the role of a traveling mage riding around Albion in a wagon, would “not be on rails” and that the full game would allow much more than what was showcased at E3.
The last statement was not a figment of the imagination. It has gotten to the point where a Fable product is so bad that Peter Molyneux himself has apologized for how unimpressive it is.
And yet, despite this being a demo (and a very, very rough draft of the final product), the impression that The Journey is going to follow Fable‘s traditon of mind-numbing disappointment to a tee is strong, with the pressure to make the game Kinect-worthy certainly not helping its case. But as much as this site–and Lusipurr in particular–bash on the series, a play-through of the series reveals that despite its flaws, it still holds the potential to be a truly great franchise if only so many of its problems would be changed. A huge number of suggestions have been made, but to address them all would take too long. And besides, having a minor flaw or two doesn’t make a game bad. Sometimes flaws add character.
But despite the hopes and dreams of its fans, even long-time supporters are losing or have lost all patience for Fable. Some would argue that many of the games’ annoyances could be forgiven if the story was decent enough in execution, but this simply isn’t the case. There are incredibly rare, brief moments of truly powerful storytelling and clever humor hidden in the narrative, but these instances are overshadowed by the series’ general repetitiveness and its focus on several annoyingly omnipresent fantasy tropes, with the endings of each game ranging from boring to downright insulting in their execution. Fable‘s famous morality system–on which the series seems to greatly pride itself on–has little to no impact on the story or gameplay whatsoever. Though when it does have an impact, the system can be so easily exploited that any meaningful choice can be negated through simple manipulation.
Bottom line: can the Fable franchise be saved?
Yes and no. Despite The Journey‘s disastrous E3 debut, there’s still hope for Lionhead to improve the series. However, it must be admitted that this cannot be done without making such major changes being made to the next Fable that it may end up being an entirely different game than its predecessors. But make no mistake: this is not a bad idea, and may be well worth exploring to regain the confidence and support of Fable‘s audience.