TLF: Once Upon a… Nevermind

This is my second – and possibly last – post on Fable III, mostly because I couldn’t actually make myself continue through it. My TLF review – which includes a stream-of-playthrough-commentary – is up, but I’d like to talk a little more about what really bothers me about Fable‘s interaction mechanics.

Specifically, why my Princess’s utter inability to carry on a conversation bothers me so damn much. After all, the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Awakening doesn’t speak, and neither does my (male) orc-mage-warrior in Skyrim. In fact, my Skyrim character’s interactions are even more rudimentary than the Warden’s. And yet, I would much rather play my orc than my Fable III princess any day.

Why?

Well, first, because my orc is not a princess. He is fantastically special, being the Dragonborn and all that, which I do find annoying simply because of my profound dislike for Chosen One narratives. But he isn’t a princess (or a prince), and I find that much less alienating (despite his lack of humanity) than royalty because I’m not royalty nor do I want to be. The narrative I want to construct for my character isn’t one of privilege. I may be a person in a privileged social position as a mostly heteronormative white female, but that isn’t the narrative I’d like told by my playthrough experience.

Second – and this ties into the first – because for a game that purports to be all about choices, I wasn’t given many in the creation of my character’s origin or even physicality. While the point of the gameplay in Fable games is to construct the player-character’s general personality, the hero comes pre-loaded with certain attributes (physical and non-physical) that are quite frankly offensive (particularly the physical attributes). The utter lack of intellectual capacity of my princess, especially when paired with her literally heaving bosoms, infuriated me from the beginning. I understand needing a character to be a tabula rasa, but it should be possible to construct one – like in Skyrim or DA – that isn’t a drooling bimbo/idiot.

Third, and most importantly, because even though my orc doesn’t actually speak (you choose conversation options in Skyrim as though your player-character does speak, but there is no actual voice-over to accompany those choices, like in DA:O and DA:A), he also doesn’t make asinine cooing or babbling noises. There is nothing about my orc’s actions that I find distasteful or embarrassing, unlike with my princess. And this was really the deal-breaker for me – I can live with a privileged narrative, even if it isn’t the one I would choose – but I absolutely cannot live with being humiliated at participating in basic gameplay interactions (which are necessary to progression and leveling in the game). I didn’t want anyone to even see me playing Fable III because of the idiotic actions and noises my princess made (and I was wearing headphones).

Because in Fable games the player does have the capacity to change the non-physical attributes of their hero – clothes, weapons, skills, attitude – it is possible to “overcome” the first and second irritations to enough of a degree that they become tolerable. But the prospect of facing that idiotic cooing for the rest of the game made me unable to force myself to continue. It was insulting to my princess’s intelligence and to mine as a player – irrespective of gender, because the prince sounds like just as much of an idiot – that I had to behave like a tactless toddler in order to engage in character interactions. Even silence – as in Skyrim – is preferable.

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