Fable II is, in many ways, a great and satisfying game to play. For those unspoiled by the likes of Zelda or Skyrim, and perhaps even for those who are, Fable II is a perfectly adequate adventure game. It’s not that it does anything particularly well, but neither does it do anything particularly poorly. Its combat is fun despite its shallowness, and its story is able to hold one’s attention despite its lack of presence. It has a mostly delightful sense of humor that extends from its characters all the way into its quest design, even going so far as to reward one’s dungeon crawling efforts with a gender-change potion (which just so happens to be permanent). No other adventure/RPG before or since has managed to mix silliness and convention quite like Fable II does. Of course, it’s not all novel, and one of it’s running jokes gets more irksome the more it comes up. I don’t mind Fable II’s goofy quest rewards or silly approach to morality. I do mind the delight it and its developers seem to take in poking fun at me every time I do what comes naturally as an adventure game enthusiast.
Perhaps it’s a bit too much to say that I mind what amounts to a small joke Lionhead Studios incorporated into their game. What I should say is that I was a bit annoyed that I kept falling for it. See, as much as Fable II messes around with adventure/RPG convention, it still follows it. Quests yield usable rewards, players gain access to more powerful weapons over time, and exploring the world often pays off in some way. Where Fable II doesn’t follow convention is in its handling of destructible containers. The game is littered with them just like any other RPG, but Fable II’s containers are all empty; Every. Single. One.
It doesn’t matter how many boxes, crates and pots one breaks; there will never be anything to find inside. In any other adventure game, a room full of empty crates and pots is a room full of possibility; in Fable II it’s a room filled with disappointment. You’ll always break those pots looking for something too. You can’t not do it. To avoid it would be to unlearn months, if not years, of adventure gaming lessons. The worst part is that Fable II knows exactly what it’s doing too. I forget where it comes from, but I suspect that it’s found in the very first group of crates the player breaks. What it is is a note the game awards the player for going through the effort to break those boxes. It’s not a long note or anything, just a couple of cheeky lines scrawled on there that are just enough to make one’s blood temperature go up by a couple of degrees. I no longer remember exactly what the note says, but it might as well be something like “Try all you like, but you’ll never find anything in these crates. Who keeps their valuables in crates anyway? :P” Valid point game, but I wonder why you’ve got such a smug attitude about it.
As annoyed as I am that Fable II made me fall for its little prank more times than I can count, I suppose I have to give credit where credit is due. You got me Fable II. You got me so good that all I can do is admit my defeat and tip my hat to you. I’ll get the last laugh though. In a couple of years, I’ll be having the time of my life playing Halo: Reach while all you’ll get is a disappointing sequel that’ll more ore less kill your series. Yup, that’ll teach ya to mess with an adventure gamer’s pots and crates.
Did Fable II manage to get you with its empty crate joke? What game out there managed to thoroughly prank you? How did it do it?
Lede image captured by Hatmonster