Dog Days Are Coming

Every so often, a game comes around that changes all the rules. Final Fantasy VII did that for RPG’s, Halo did it for FPS’s, and Grand Theft Auto 3 did it for adventure games. But there’s a game on the horizon that just might do it again.

422px-fablebox.jpgIn recent years, a lot of the typical game genres have been merging, and in 2003, Lionhead Studios contributed to muddying those waters with its release of Fable. Fable was a game that received mixed reviews, mostly because it promised one thing and delivered another.

The game was the combination of an action/adventure game and a role-playing game. The controls were very “hack and slash” and the story wasn’t as immersive as most RPG’s, but the level of character customization was unprecedented. You started out the game as a young boy, and you are immediately faced with making moral choices. Will you be good, or will you be bad? Each decision affects your morality, and therefore, your appearance and the way others react to you.

You age in this game as well, which was highly unusual for video games. You could change your physique, your hair style (including facial), tattoos, clothes, and your method of play. Like crushing things with a giant club? Go for it. Prefer to stand back and fire arrows or use magic? You can do that too. If you’d like to focus your talents on stealth and become a burglar or assassin, help yourself. Or use it all; it’s up to you.

fable-magzine-cover-artwork-2139.jpgFable allowed a lot of freedom with your character, but not much in plot. That was one of the big complaints. Sure, you could be so righteous that your character sported a halo, but your in-game experiences didn’t vary much from someone who was so evil he had red eyes, horns, and clouds of flies buzzing about his head.

The other problem was reality. Peter Molyneux, who runs Lionhead, is a very excitable person. He has a real passion for video games and likes to share all his wonderful ideas. The only trouble is, people start to believe them. The hype for this game was incredible. At first, it even went by the name Project Ego. The idea was that everything reacted to you. If you got irritated at some little kid in a town, took a swipe at him, and cut him with your sword, then 20 years later, that same town might harbor a fellow with a scar and a grudge. One town might love you because you once saved them from an attack, while another might despise you because you treat them differently. You could marry. You could even have children. It was the game to end all games.

But it wasn’t what got released. Don’t get me wrong, I bought Fable (because I like to believe hype), and though it wasn’t everything I’d hoped for, it was still an awesome game. You could get married, if you chose. As a matter of fact, you could marry a different woman in every town, if you wanted. You could buy property, you could attack random people, and you could change your appearance rather drastically. But people didn’t react all that differently to you. There was no doubt that you were the only “real” person in that world. And the worst problem, in my opinion, was that even though my character aged, no one else did. I looked like an old man by the end of the game, and my “wife” still looked 20-something (strangely enough, this is pretty similar to my real life, as those who know me could attest).

Anyway, it’s now 2007, and Fable 2 is in the works. The really exciting thing about this is that Molyneux has learned his lesson, and he’s keeping things very close to his vest. The things he has released about the game have actually been seen and documented, so it sounds like this second edition will be light years ahead of the first.

In Fable 2 you can actually have children. The towns are gigantic (and so is the world, for that matter). And for perhaps the first time in a game, Molyneux plans to make you feel love. Yes. Real, true, unconditional love. You’re probably assuming that the object of this love will be your children, but that’s not his intent.

In Fable 2 there will be no heads up display (so far). You will have an unusual tool that will serve as a guide for you, that will help you defeat enemies, and will even play games with you. It’s a tool that has been created with artificial intelligence so that you don’t actually control it at all. This tool… is a dog. And this dog is to be the object of your unconditional love.

fabledog.jpgIf you’re standing still or talking to someone, the dog hangs close by. He might lie down, sit, or sniff the ground, just like a real dog. When you start to walk or run, the dog takes point, just like a real dog. When enemies are close by, he will growl… yep, just like a real dog. But he’ll never give away your position. He’ll never get in your way. You don’t have to feed him, and you don’t have to clean his poop – none of those things are like a real dog, but I’m ok with that.

The team at Lionhead has worked to make this dog indispensable to you, yet not be annoying. That was one of its prime directives – don’t be annoying. The dog’s appearance changes depending on how you play the game. If you’re one evil dude, then your dog’s going to resemble a Doberman. Play the game like a saint, and you’ll have a lovable sheepdog.

If you’re into games like this, and you’d like to read more about it, there’s an excellent article here. Technically, this is pretty old news, but this blog is fairly new, so I thought I’d post on it. Plus, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about today… 🙂

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One thought on “Dog Days Are Coming

  1. I enjoyed Fable. I enjoyed Oblivion. For me though, those games tend to get old pretty quick. I’ll most likely give Fable 2 a run.

    The PC game I’m looking forward to is Spore. I’m a big fan of the games like Sim City, The Sims, and Civilization.

    If you are into those kind of games then Spore is going to be, or is expected to be, the top dog.

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