Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fable and Fable II Pub Games

With Fable II coming out this year, I decided to finally finish Fable. I got it as part of an Ebay auction when I had to replace my old Xbox. It's a pretty good game. The only real glaring issues I had were with camera control (can't look "up" or "down", just rotate around you and zoom in or out on you), target lock (I rarely used it except when trying to shoot my bow or magic from afar, and in the final battle it kept locking on to the minions instead of the main boss), the enemies that would multi-hit faster than my character (may have been a function of me using a slower weapon, although it was described as "light"), and that my character would occasionally swing in the wrong direction (which might have been helped if I used target lock, except when fighting groups of enemies, I didn't want to target a single enemy).

The game suggests you can choose between good and evil. However, I found that it seemed very easy to get on villagers' bad graces without even trying, and difficult to correct mistakes. Towards the end, I had managed to build up a fairly "good" reputation, which happened quite slowly. Women (and some men) would fall in love with me just walking into the room. It was rather amusing. Then, I had a choice of three quests. One was to rescue a bandit spy. That one seemed fishy, so I passed it by. Two involved a bandit execution. One was to free the bandit being executed, and one was to stop the bandits from freeing the one being executed. I thought that the game designers would determine that stopping a killing was the lesser evil, so I chose that option.

Apparently, that was the wrong choice. But here's where it gets very annoying. My stats said I was still positively aligned. I even saw the halo and butterflies around me when I stood still. Yet my face had become darkened, and now villagers cowered in fear. My (in-game) wife wanted nothing to do with me. Even when I tried picking up a simple escort mission, the traveller refused to follow me, instead trembling in fear and running away.

I didn't get any more quests to undo the damage, and even wandering around killing bandits (which did give me "good" points) didn't change anything. I was quite annoyed with the whole thing at that point and just went on with the main quest to finish the game.

Maybe there's some moral point to that, like it's easier to be evil than good or that people believe the worst — but it was a rather disappointing twist to an otherwise good game. The main story (which hopefully didn't change with my errant quest), at least, was interesting.

Moving on. Fable II comes out this fall. As in Fable, you will be able to earn gold by playing games in pubs. To make things interesting, though, the pub games can be downloaded separately as an Xbox Live Arcade title. These games can be played outside of Fable II, and the gold earned in those games is "real" gold earned in the "real" game.

Personally, I think they should be giving away the Pub Games for free as a promotional tool for Fable II. They only "sort of" are — if you pre-order Fable II, you can get a code to download the Pub Games for free. Which I did.

Right away, there's a huge difference in the games between Fable and the Fable II Pub Games. Fable had several games across Albion, and some of them were actually based on skill rather than chance. The Pub Games, of which there are only three, are almost all chance.

The first, Fortune Tower, is a type of card game. Cards are dealt, and you are given the opportunity to collect money based on the total value of cards in a row, or take a chance that the next row dealt will be a better value — the risk being that a card that matches a card from the previous row can end the round and lose your complete bet. I would argue this game takes the most thought, as you have to constantly weigh the risk against the potential reward and decide whether to "press your luck or pass". Still, it is quite possible to completely lose your bet with a deal of only six cards, and while it would seem the odds of this happening should be quite small, it happens with alarming frequency. Fortunately, a small glitch in this particular game allows you to bet the minimum but get credit for betting the maximum, minimizing the risk and maximizing the rewards. As long as this glitch goes unpatched, this game can actually be used to consistently make money.

The second game, Keystone, is essentially roulette, except instead of a spinning wheel, you bet on the outcome of three dice. The third, Spinnerbox, is nothing more than a slot machine, where gameplay consists of pressing the A button.

These games can be extremely frustrating, primarily because you really have no control over the situation. Indeed, the achievements aren't based on doing anything, but on the random chance that something just happens. Example: The "No Stone Unturned" achievement is earned in Keystone when a 3 or 18 is rolled as the first roll in a game. For an hour and a half, I played the first roll of Keystone, cashing out and restarting when the roll failed to come up 3 or 18. It never did.

The tournaments are especially bad, in that it seems the computer opponents are especially favored by Lady Luck. Many times, I have watched helplessly as my minor successes are leapfrogged by the major successes of the AI players. I lost count of how many times I'd win gold and yet drop two or more places in the leaderboard for the tournament, because my winnings were a pittance compared to my opponents'.

If nothing else, this game is a strong reminder of why I don't gamble in real life.

I just hope I can get those final achievements, so I can spend the rest of my time earning gold before Fable II is released...

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