From Videogames & Cyberculture Reference
The following is a brief summary of the story/narrative within Peter Molyneux's Fable 2 videogame on the X-Box 360. This brief outline is intended to give the reader of my article an understanding of the game and my arguments without having to play through it entirely. I do, however, always recommend a first-hand experience of any videogame I write about, as describing a videogame after the fact is difficult at best.
The story of Fable 2 is so archetypal it almost requires no attention in a critical study of this kind. The narrative revolves around an orphan street urchin who comes across a magical music box that supposedly grants the user a wish. The urchin, known as Sparrow (regardless of gender), and his (or her) sister acquire this box on the advice of a mysterious blind woman who suggests they should not give up their belief in magic and wonder, despite their destitute lifestyle. The box does indeed react to the wish of the siblings, but simply disappears, rather than transporting them into their fantasy. The next night, however, the siblings are invited to the Castle Fairfax by Lord Lucien who, after some slightly confusing muttering about three legendary heroes, shoots the older sister and Sparrow. The sister dies immediately, but Sparrow survives the gunshot and a fall from the tower window. The blind seer woman retrieves Sparrow’s battered body and raises her among gypsies for ten years.
The game jumps forward here from the childhood period to the late teens, a typical coming-of-age point in any hero’s life. It is time, Theresa (the seer) tells the player/character, to take up the quest to avenge Sparrow’s sister, and of course, save the world from the evil Lucien. The adventure is to journey across the land of Albion and recruit the three heroes to attack Lucien’s new stronghold citadel. The three heroes are aligned with the three skill sets available to the player/character: one for Strength, for Skill and Will (or armed melee combat, ranged marksmanship and magic). The player may choose any of these three paths for Sparrow to pursue.
The physical journey is much like that of any other fantasy hero, far and wide across the continent, encountering many obstacles. Some are native to the land, such as the swamp creatures or denizens of tombs, but some are Lucien’s henchmen. Eventually, Sparrow must rescue the second hero from the Tower Lucien has reconstructed, and so spends a full decade working alongside the villain to gain access to Garth, the Will-user hero. The videogame does not force the player to endure ten years’ playing time of course, and the story jumps forward in bursts of years at a time.
Eventually the four heroes come together and attack Lucien, who proves to be a surprisingly weak adversary in person. The structure of this story is, as mentioned before archetypal; Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces inevitably comes to mind. There are also glaring literary flaws in the details of this story, and though they bear close scrutiny, an illuminating analysis of this very subject already exists, so I will not repeat it here. Shamus Young, a software engineer and author of the videogame-related blog TwentySided presents a point-by-point breakdown of various plot failings in Fable 2 from an admirably literary perspective. (Young, 2009)
The fundamental flaw of the Fable 2 story is logical justification, and will be explored in detail later in this piece. Shamus refers to ‘railroading’ a term used to indicate where a game-master (a Dungeons and Dragons term, here coinciding with the videogame designer) forces the player/character down a certain path without offering convincing explanations for why the character would choose to do so. With so much of the world of Fable 2 based on mechanical logic, cause and effect relationships, the narrative fails many times to adequately convince the player that his or her character would make the choices the narrative forces him or her to make. This disharmony is jarring when observed closely.
Shamus Young's blog Twenty-Sided has saved me a great deal of time by transcribing the major narrative events in Fable 2, while simultaneously giving a very competent critique of the quality of that narrative. The four-part article can be found here. Twenty-Sided: Plot Failures of Fable 2
--Adam Ruch 04:13, 11 Jan 2010 (UTC)