Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fable 2: Mission Structure

Although I said Fable 2's narrative choice systems are generally indiscernible, it does actually contain quite a lot of features made for building dynamic narrative. Specifically...
  • Mission Structure -- the player can choose to take quests in any order.
  • Property ownership -- the player can buy and manage property in any town, adjusting prices and rent as they see fit.
  • Life Simulator Junk -- The player can take mundane jobs to raise gold, since killing monsters no longer yields gold.
  • Good/Evil options -- the player can select either a good or evil alternative to completion of specific quests.
  • Relationships/Expressions -- The player can form relationships with NPCs and take specific attitudes to different events in the story.
  • Exploration -- The game has a strong emphasis on exploring the world of Albion, moving off the path and finding things to do/loot between quests.
In all likelihood I'm forgetting something, but that's a pretty good overview of the systems the player ends up interacting with. While quite a few are implemented and even generate some amusement, all of them carry virtually no weight and generate no interest outside of practical problems like having to get gold to buy new weapons every so often. Even then, the new weapons aren't that interesting--they feel like less of a reward and more like a quota to be met for the player to be allowed to continue.

Otherwise, a consistent problem I end up having is finding some emotional context for these choices. When I pick missions, I don't really know anything about the town in which they take place or the people I'm working for. I have no connection with them, so how the job gets done doesn't matter. Additionally, I have a hard time even remembering where the jobs take place or where I'm supposed to go in order to complete them due to navigational problems, which are alleviated only by the "golden trail" directing me back to the place I have to go for the current mission. I'm not learning the world at all, nor am I immersed in it--I'm just going along with the motions.

This is an example of why narrative choice systems actively trying to avoid explicit narrative or character development are fundamentally flawed--I have no context on which to base my decisions, therefore I don't care and am unengaged. It's like they focused really hard on trying to make a lot of choices more than trying to make what choices they had meaningful. We'll see if Fable 2 continues this trend as I play further, but in the meantime it's off to a fairly sorry start.

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