Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Queer in Albion: Fable 3 Playthrough One [and a half] Review

Author's Admission of Idiocy: Uh, I figured out how to adopt without giving the orphanage money as the monarch. So that basically makes 2/3 of the following entry pointless. Leaving it up anyway, because I always enjoy revisiting my ignorant indignation. [11/10/10]

As I get a bit less immersed in comics (mostly because I let myself go crazy and started collecting too many titles and am now nearly-broke), I'm going to start writing about other things that take my time up. So here's the first one about video games. Enjoy, and I'd love to hear what you think.

Warning: This review/commentary/rambling will most definitely contain spoilers to the main storyline (and probably several of the sidequests) of the recently-released Fable 3. So don't read it if you don't want to be spoiled. The end!

Alright, I got Fable 3 the day it released. I'm a huge fan of the Fable series and see them as sort of a spiritual descendant of the Zelda games. They're ridiculously easy to play, but very immersive and with a good fantasy-era storyline. Instead of adding stupid 3D control styles (I haven't really enjoyed a Zelda game since "Ocarina of Time"), they introduce choice and customization and keep the fighting simple.

As with the Mass Effect games (which I intend to discuss later), most of the marketing showcases the male player-character. But as of Fable 2, there's also been a female choice. And along with that female choice comes all sorts of neat ways to customize your character. She can wear men's clothes (there's even an achievement for this), she can wear facial hair, she can marry another lady... but in Fable 2, a same-sex marriage (whether with males or females) meant no kids.

Fable 3 changed that with the introduction of adoption.

Except... not really.

Before I get into that, I would like to say that I'd give this game a 7/10 for a lot of reasons. The world is large and interesting, the continuation of the world of Albion into a steampunk type place on the brink of violent revolution is interesting, and the Road to Rule is a way better way of customizing than having to earn specific orbs for skills. But I found the main storyline abrupt in its ending (at least on the first play through) and the moral of the story was that the good leader is still the bad leader. I'm not sure how I feel about that at this point.

Still, for any fan of the Fable series, it's a great game and definitely worth more (with money-to-play ratio) than the other game I got the same day, which was Force Unleashed 2.

General Thoughts on the Game
And now, just to make this a quasi-legit review, here's my breakdown of improvements versus, um. Unimprovments (TM) between Fable 2 and Fable 3:

  • The Road to Rule. It's nice not to have to kill enemies in a certain way to be guaranteed an upgrade in that particular class, and I'm glad to have all the dyes and expressions in one area. Makes it easier to customize my character without hunting all over the place.
  • Weapon customization based on actions, instead of total body customization. No more disgusting evil characters. I've often said that evil would look fairly pretty.
  • The Sanctuary. Way better GUI for all your options than just the plain old start menu.
  • The gnomes. Way easier to find than those damn stupid gargoyles.
  • Job upgrades via the Road to Rule instead of through gold earned.
  • Multiplayer. Seems easier than before, though I'll admit that I haven't really gotten into it yet.
  • Using the map to manage properties, families, etc.
Things I miss:
  • The expression wheel. I've got all these expressions, let me choose different ones!
  • The ability to hold multiple types of food. If I want to get drunk I have to get rid of my carrots? Hell no!
  • Black dye. I hear it's in an upcoming DLC. Bring it on, yo.
  • The economy. I don't find shopping or trading to be as useful as I did before, particularly because you can only give gifts when they're specifically requested and because there are now only a few places where you can sell your items.
New things I could live without/things I'd like to see:
  • The Big Bad. I hope there's a Fable 4 to resolve all that. It seems sort of, like I said, abrupt. Maybe I'll catch more as I complete my second playthrough.
  • No integration of Fable 2 game saves. I know it's possible, since ME2 does it. My hero of the Spire was a woman, why is the previous hero a king and not a queen?
  • Relationship quests. Snore.
  • Why can't I set my spouse as a target? She's a pain to find in Bowerstone Industrial.

Having Kids in Albion: Where does the pollen go?

So. Kids. Let me tell you a bit about my first playthrough of the game. I chose the princess, who was forced to wear pink, bow-covered pajamas and flirt with some dude during the prologue. I usually make my first playthrough a good character, so the dude ended up dying and as soon as I was out in the world, I got my princess into some better clothes. Men's clothes.

I got married to the first lesbian character I could find, which was a pain in the ass (interestingly, now that I'm playing through as a male I'm having trouble finding straight women). I did it just to see what would happen. I was exploring the social aspects of the game as I ran through the main storyline (and some sidequests, which also forced opposite sex relations on me, such as seducing the bad husband in "A Marriage of Inconvenience").

So we got married in a nice ceremony on a bridge somewhere, and then I tried to figure out how to adopt kids. No luck. I made it to Bowerstone Industrial, where the orphanage apparently was, completed the quest to save the people who ran it, and... nothing.

Not until I became queen. By then I'd divorced my first wife and married someone hotter, because, hey. It's good to the the princess (that's a Mel Brooks reference, btw). I had to wait until half a year into my rule to decide to open the orphanage.


So a heterosexual couple can have babies whenever, but a same-sex couple has to wait until the game is almost over. This honestly isn't much of an improvement. Not to mention that you can't adopt babies, only toddlers.

But the worst part of this, besides the delay, is that you make money from having kids. There's some sort of kid benefit (which later on you can abolish or increase) that a heterosexual couple can start collecting basically right after you open up Brightwall. A same-sex couple doesn't have access to that until, well. It might already be gone. It's at least 10 hours more into the game, though.

This sort of detracts from the the whole "you can choose whatever you want" idea behind the series. It penalizes you, literally, for choosing to marry someone of the same-sex. I'm not disappointed, really, because Lionhead has been so good about this kind of thing since day one. It's hard to say something this minor (relatively) could ruin the whole game for me. And it didn't, I still enjoyed the game.

But now I'm playing through as the prince, and it's a whole different world. I've got kids in every port, and I'm raking in the cash.

I also find, incidentally, that I prefer to play as males. I could get into my theories on my gender identity as expressed through games, but I think it comes down to the fact that males just look cooler (in a totally subjective way) in most of the games I choose to play. The only exception, really, is Mass Effect. In that one, I only chose a male!Shep so I could sleep with Miranda in ME2.

I'm shallow like that.

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