Fable III – Completion Log

WARNING: The following contains spoilers that will ruin Fable III for you.

I became King in Fable III for the Xbox 360 on Nov 1, 2010. This was the day before the midterm elections, and I remember that fact vividly. The first half of Fable III is basically the same as Fable II. You play through a story and eventually become king. The difference here is that once you become King you are tasked with making the same sort of difficult decisions a King would have to make. Err, let me correct that – it’s not quite the same type of decisions, it’s more the weight of the decisions.

But lets go back to that election. Choosing who to vote for was fairly easy, but also on the ballot were several propositions and amendments. These included whether or not to give Property Tax Exemptions to Disabled Former Prisoners of War, changing the rules regarding earning taxes, prohibiting taxing home sales, and changing the laws regarding puppy mills. The way many of these were worded and attempting to consider all of the potential repercussions made it very difficult to just answer yes or no. These laws seemed pretty clear on the surface, but I didn’t know enough about how things are currently structured or how badly Missouri needs money to take a strong stance. I voted against puppy mills because, you know, puppies are cute, but I left almost all of the other boxes blank.

In Fable III, leaving the boxes blank is almost never an option. You’re forced to decide between things like a brothel and an orphanage, deforestation or a sewage treatment plant, and removing all taxes on liquor or outlawing drinking altogether (full disclosure: on that last one I chose the neutral option and just kept the taxes). These seem pretty cut and dry, but the game makes the decisions harder by forcing you to actually pay for your benefits to society. To give those decisions even more weight, on your first day as King you learn that in exactly one year, a plague will come and wipe out any person that you don’t have the resources (money) to protect. How the money protects people is vague, but it’s clear that you need to have $6,500,000 in the bank a year from becoming king if you want to protect your people.

It’s this balance between short-term happiness and long-term health that gives your decisions weight. Do you save everyone’s life by creating a world that isn’t worth living in, or do you create the perfect world for a bunch of goners? That’s what the game’s big question is and it’s effective.

That is, it’s effective until you start reading up on things. You see, soon after I reached the king section I happened upon a Fable III thread where someone complained that Day 120 was the last full day, and after that day you would no longer be allowed to put money toward saving people. I wanted to pretend like I never read it and play the game the same way I otherwise would have, but I couldn’t lie to myself. I still made all of the decisions the way I believed I would have, but I ended up changing the way I played the actual game with that date at the front of my mind. I bought every single house in the game and lingered through side missions and cultivated pointless in-game relationships while my money grew, so that by the time I hit day 120 I had almost exactly the right amount of money.

I finished my last mission, played through the endgame, got the good ending, and felt empty. Part of this was the unfulfilling endgame, but the majority of it was that I had taken this experience which was designed around making your decisions feel less like binary game options and had reduced it almost entirely to binary game options. When the decisions felt like the same type of decisions I was making in the election I was overjoyed. I cared! This is ultimately the greatest achievement of Fable III. There’s a time when you actually care about your subjects. But all of that goes away when you inevitably begin turning those decisions into a game again.

I believe that the reason the game ends on day 120 might be because the designers want you to rule with your gut instead of your head, and they want you to get the ending your heart would have led you to. I wasn’t given this luxury, and Fable III ended on a sour note as a result.

I’ll never know exactly how I would have felt had I not happened upon that forum post, but if you’re reading this, I apologize for ruining the game for you. Now that you’ve read this, it’s probably not worth playing.

One comment

  1. When I was king, well I played as a girl actually thanks PES3. Anyway I didn’t save everybody and I was alright with it. It is possibly the best part of that game, when you rule. I don’t know if I ever finished Fable II.