Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fable across the years

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

With Flaming Fowl Studios, a company comprised of staff members of the now closed Lionhead Studios, making a Hearthstone-like game called Fable Fortune, I've been thinking about, and playing, the games that I own in the series, and thought about what the games are and what they did. I'm going to talk about storyline, graphics, gameplay and interface.

Now, the only main series game that I have not played is Fable the Journey, so I can't talk about it from personal experience, since I don't own a Kinect.  However, I will mention what I've seen on youtube when it comes to graphics and storyline.  I've also not played the Pub Games and Heroes Xbox Live games, but those are unimportant in the scheme of things.

Storyline:  Fable 1 is the only game in the series that is self contained.  It sets up the world, makes it seem lived in, gives you lots of exposition, but does not explain more than you need to know.  It is a common fantasy story where a boy survives his village's destruction, gets training at the Guild of Heroes, and goes off to make his way as a Hero, only to find out that he's the only one who is able to defeat a great evil.  And this story is told through the narrative; yeah, there are books in the game that give you some extra info about monsters, weapons, and some background info, but the story is told through the game.  The story is good from start to finish, making me want to drive through and see the resolution, even though I know how it ends.

Fable 2 is set 500 years after the events of Fable 1, and pretty much tells a story of revenge, with a "save the world" thing as secondary.  This game, through a couple of books, tells what happened between the games, what the MacGuffin is, insight into your enemy, and a lot of side and background information.  However, the story is engaging, and keeps you moving toward the end, despite the somewhat disappointing final boss.  However, the 2 DLC packs more than make up for it, giving you a fun story about Knothole Island, whose people are the descendants of those from Knothole Glade in Fable 1, and a link to Fable 3.  However, this is the game that tells why "Hero" is capitalized in this series; those called "Hero" have power in their blood, rather than deed.

Fable 3 picks up 50 years after Fable 2, and follows the child mentioned in Fable 2's final DLC.  You're playing as the newest descent of the Fable 1 Hero, as you start a revolution to overthrow your tyrannical brother, and then, of course, go on to fight a great evil.  It kind of falters somewhat in the middle, but a this point, you're committed to see the ending, which, while not as epic as the ending of Fable 1, is dealing with no less of a threat, and you feel satisfied with your victory.  It has 2 DLC packs; Understone and Traitor's Keep. Understone is weaved into the vanilla game and adds an extra "dungeon", and Traitor's Keep is a full short story after the ending.

Fable: The Journey takes place after the Fable 3 hero has disappeared, and Theresa, the sister of the Fable 1 Hero and the only character to appear in all 3 previous games, is forced to "create" a new Hero to fight the Darkness that has been hinted at through the rest of the saga.  This game is essentially an exposition dump to close out the story, with pretty much all story is between action segments.  In fact, due to this game being cutscene heavy, you can actually watch this as a 2 hour movie.

All in all, I like Fable 1's story the best, with 2 and 3 being a close second.  As for The Journey?  I'll stick to youtube, because unlike its predecessors, your actions do not change based on morality.

Interface: Fable 1 is definitely an Xbox era title, with usage of menus to access lore, stores, game save, everything. Everything works the way it should, though unfortunately, it is broken into 2 menus; the game menu, which is tied to the back button on the Xbox controller, and the save menu, which is on the start button.

Fable 2 streamlines the interface, consolidating all menus under the start button, and no longer requires you to return to somewhere specific to level up.

Fable 3 tries something new with the Sanctuary, which is tied to the storyline, but is not as extensive as Fable 1 and 2.  You can look at your clothes, your weapons, your spells, but not your items.  You can't see how many healing items you have left until you've actually taken damage. Same with your spell potions.  It also removed the health bar, and replaced it with the whole "beating heart" thing that I mentioned in my earlier retrospective.  It also brings back the whole "go to a certain point to level up" that Fable 1 did, but unlike Fable 1, new abilities and levels are gated off via the Road to Rule.

I don't own Fable: The Journey, so I can't speak of the interface, since that would require me to buy a Kinect for the Xbox 360 AND the game, and I'm not willing to spend that much on a motion control game.

Gameplay-Quests: Fable 1 is FULL of quests, which are actually integrated into the storyline! Since you're part of the Guild of Heroes, nearly all side quests are centralized via quest cards left at the guild, and all the guild quest cards have boasts that give an increased challenge for some extra gold.

Fable 2 is also full of quests; more than Fable 1, in fact.  And some of them are repeatable.  Unfortunately, this game only rewards with renown, but not gold, so you've got to work for your gold.  Fortunately, real estate nets you all the money you'll ever need, if you put in the effort to make the money to buy it early enough.  Real estate rent also when you're not actively playing the game, since you gain rent based on the console's time clock.

Fable 3 is full of side quests, and like Fable 1, they are integrated into the plot. So is your money, due to you needing 6.5 million gold to save all your people.  And when it comes to rent, you gain it faster while playing, but not when you're not playing.

Based on my research, Fable: The Journey has no side quests.  It is linear and story driven from beginning to end.

So, again, Fable 1 and 2 did it best.

Gameplay-Combat: Fable 1 is odd to go back to after playing 2 and 3; it's clunky, despite how dynamic it is.  This game is heavy on spell casting, and spells can affect your melee and ranged combat, healing, summoning, AOE and direct damage.  Ranged combat works fine, giving you both sniping and lock on combat. But melee can be clunky; if you don't lock on to your foes, you can swing wildly and completely miss your target.  And combat also used too many buttons; 1 to draw and sheath your melee weapons, one to draw and sheath your ranged weapon, another button to bring up your spells, another to roll, and another to block.  Thankfully, Anniversary streamlines a LOT of that and makes it conform more to the Fable 2 and 3 combat system, which I have finally gotten used to, and find it a LOT better than the "Traditional" style from the original Xbox versions.

Fable 2 streamlined combat a LOT, making combat far more fun that it was in Fable 1 four years earlier.  Locking on to an enemy was a convenience, but not a necessity, heavy weapons were far less unwieldy, ranged weapons were faster and didn't require a charge up, and spell casting was tied to a single button.  It also eliminated a lot of spells, eliminating the healing spells and spells that augmented your melee and ranged abilities, and making all spells AOE and targeted.

Fable 3 uses Fable 2's combat system, but eliminated more spells, but introduced Spellweaving, a way to combine the effects of 2 spells in one spell casting.  However, the lack of a health bar in this game makes it more difficult than it should be.

Fable: The Journey.  Motion control. 'Nuff said.

So, to me, Fable 2 did it best.

Graphics: Fable 1 is definitely an Xbox Original title, taking full advantage of the console's graphical capability. All models looked great, and you saw textures that you wouldn't have seen on the Playstation 2 or Gamecube.  Unfortunately, the Anniversary version, made 10 years later for the Xbox 360, looks like an updated version of this engine, and does not look as good as Fable 3, which came 4 years earlier.

Fable 2 is an early Xbox 360 title, utilizing the more powerful hardware as well as they could.  The world looks more lush, colors are more vibrant, animations are more fluid.  However, faces lack any real emotion, due to a lack of familiarity to the hardware.

Fable 3 has the best graphics engine, using what Fable 2 did and made it better. Shadows are better utilized, and characters are far more expressive.

Fable: The Journey uses Fable 3's graphic engine, but I have to deduct points for changing Theresa's look, making her look slightly older than she did in Fable 1, instead of the 500+ year old character we saw in 2 and 3.

So Fable 3 wins when it comes to looking the best, but only by a narrow margin.

So, based on what I've come up with, Fable 1 is the best game, but Fable 2 is the most fun to play.  And, while I'm not one for card games, I'm actually looking forward to see how Flaming Fowl Studios does with Fable Fortune. Who knows?  Maybe we'll see a real Fable game in the future, and not a card game or motion controlled piece of shit if it's sucessful!

But for now, stay Beautiful Freaks!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Love One Another: A reflection on identity

So I loaded up my computer this morning, and I noticed that Google had something celebrating Independence Day.  I shrugged it off, since I have my own plans for today, and went about my business. But later, I pulled up that page again to do a search, and I accidentally clicked on the tab, and it took me to the "search of the day", and I saw something interesting.

This video.

That is John Cena, a 39 year old Professional Wrestler working for the WWE, among other projects he's been a part of.  Now, I'm not a fan of wrestling, and I'm definitely not a fan of his wrestling persona.  But he's been described as a "modern day Hulk Hogan", and this shows me why he's been said so.  This video, along with the Make a Wish Foundation, the USO, and cancer research, he's really doing his part to make the world a better place.

 Which brings me to the subject of this blogpost; Cena talked about patriotism and what people consider the "average US Citizen", and then talks about the number of people who compromise my country.  Cena brought up all kinds of statistics about the people who live and work here. Which made me think about how I grew up.

I'm a white, Christian male living in the Heartland of America.  And while I have fought and struggled for everything I've got, I'm actually considered part of the "privileged class"  of citizens.  There have never been any barriers to what I could have accomplished outside skill and education.  But I grew up sheltered; I never saw a black or asian or gay or trans or whatever growing up until a certain point (not knowingly for the last two as a kid, but still).  I had to overcome a LOT of preconceived notions as I grew up in order to be the man I am today.  I mean, I didn't meet a black kid until I was almost 12 years old!  That's a long time to not be exposed to someone with a different skin pigmentation than me!

It wasn't until I was 18 and joined the military when I was truly immersed with people from different cultural backgrounds; black, white, hispanic, asian, city dwellers and country folks.  I had never dealt with so many people so different than me before, and I was in a situation where "you WILL work together with each other, and you will do it well, or you're getting in trouble".  Between that and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I grew up a LOT at that point.

But the world's different now.  In the last 15 years, not only has gay marriage been legalized in all 50 states, but we've got a black President who is about to complete his second term.  Both of those are a HUGE deal for my country, especially when you consider our history.  I won't go into a great deal of history, but between the enslavement of black people for a good chunk of our history, the Ku Klux Klan's "anti-black, anti-jew, anti-gay" thing, the Black Panthers "anti-white, anti-gay" thing, and the more recent "muslim terrorist" thing, we've come a long way in acceptance of others.

But we've still got a long way to go.  The concept of transgender individuals is becoming a big deal in the media, with Bruce Jenner being the face of the community, and that idiot trying to record women in public restrooms and claiming that he's trans, these individuals are going to have a hard time for a while before they are accepted. But, despite my misanthropy, I do believe that acceptance will be what happens.  Because there's two constants about humanity; we are incredibly resistant to to change, but we are extremely adaptable to it.

So I leave you a Bible verse as well as my normal sign off. Something that was said almost 2000 years ago that applies more today than it ever did;

""A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34.

But for now, take what Mr. Cena and I have said to heart, and stay beautiful freaks!