Friday, May 6, 2016

Ode to Albion

I remember revisiting Bowerstone after proving myself in the Arena, proud of the new gold I earned and eager to spend it on new armor and weapons in the shop. I strolled back into town and was greeted eagerly by the villagers. Cheers rang out as they shouted my title of Ranger, one I chose for myself based on my customization tailored to ranged combat. I pick a few new pieces of armor before visiting the local school and soaking in all the applause and praise from the children, striking a heroic pose before setting off to greater dangers.

That was the initial feeling of Fable that was sustained throughout three entries; taking the role of a powerful hero and laying influence on the world around you.

What made Fable standout for me was its world of Albion, and the overall charm that it possessed. A living, breathing world that continued even after my console was turned off., the dog is not for sale.

Albion was a world that never took itself too serious. A Monty Python-esque setting where the absurd was encouraged. Demon Doors barred your path to treasure in the demand of your character being too skinny, gnomes taunted you from high faced cliffs as you aimed to check them off of your collectibles, and local villagers made comments as I remain unmoved exclaiming, "You just gonna stand there like a lemon?" Humor was central to the world of Albion, and even amidst the tragedy your hero encountered, you could always expect a good laugh around the corner.

In the same respect, it held an array of creatures plucked from fairy tales. Litters of Hobbs would guard hidden treasures in damp caverns, lumbering earthen trolls would pop out of the ground and toss boulders at you, and even undead Hollow Men would rise from the grave to overwhelm you. There were unique takes on famous creatures of lore, from Balverines to Sentinels, and each felt more intimidating as the game progressed. You felt like part of the storybook as each fantasy themed creature sought to bar your path.

Albion was a world of heroes and villains, and the personalites you met along the way made a lasting impact. The domineering villainy of Jack of Blades and his ruthlessness in his quest for control, the mysterious Theresa's appearance in all three installments acting as narrator and guide to your journey, and the quick-witted Hero of Skill, Reaver whose morally questionable acts teeter him on the edge of villainy and heroism. There was a healthy mix of characters with noble intentions and those with ill conceived views of the world. Each was unique in look, tone, and overall impact. You were quick to pick favorites and even quicker to vow vengeance on those who did you wrong.

Daddy's gotta go get revenge, be back before dinner

The most outstanding aspect of Albion was the individuality of its impact. The world and the game, was what you made it. For me, it was playing the role of noble hero, opting to save villagers and help those in need in every decision. It was gaining a wife and child and settling them outside the city to have them run to greet me upon my return. For others it was breaking into every house and stealing, it was having a slaughterfest of town guards to see how big of a fine they could rack up, it was cross dressing and fighting bandits in the woods; what you got out of the game is what you put into it and the world of Albion was expansive enough to accommodate those desires.

Lionhead's recent closure had me ponder if I would ever venture into a newly envisioned Albion ever again. No, the Fable franchise was not the pinnacle of gaming excellence and there were promises unfulfilled; but the world of Albion and the playground the developers created was a joy to explore. There may never be another Fable title, but I rest easy knowing that my world in Fable III will always be there should I ever return to kick chickens, battle bandits, or just interact with the townsfolk.

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