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Fable: when sequelitus hits

Sequelitus is a terrible illness which has affected many video game franchises. The good news is that it’s curable and some do go on to make a full recovery; but sadly there are others which don’t listen to the doctors’ advice and take the time to fully recuperate, turning into mere shadows of their once awesome selves.

The worst case of the disease for me is that which infected Fable, the action-adventure series developed by Lionhead Studios until its closure in 2016. The original title received positive reviews from both audiences and critics back in 2004, going on to win more than 50 awards and becoming the Xbox’s fastest-selling game up until that point. Aspects which were praised were its tongue-in-cheek characters, ‘very British’ sense of humour, concept of free will and consequences for the protagonist.

As I’ve written before, this was the part of the game which fascinated me the most. Good deeds such as saving villagers would cause your character to become a light-featured champion with a halo above his head and butterflies fluttering around; while evil acts made their eyes glow and a malevolent haze appear around their legs. Drinking excessive amounts of beer would make them ill (a fact we all know only too well) and their clothing changed how the townspeople around them reacted to their presence.

I loved the title so much that when Fable II was released in 2008, I booked some time off of work so I could buy it as soon as possible and spend the entire day playing it. It turned out to be everything the first game was and way more: here was a sequel which surpassed the original and remains on my list of favourites even today. Gamers cited its adherence to the previous title while praising changes that redefined the game system, and it became a best-seller for the Xbox 360.

The dog is an integral part of Fable II and the aspect that broke my heart. After some twists and turns he remains with your character for the duration of the game, assisting you in combat and finding dig spots for buried treasure, and it’s a great way of strengthening the player’s emotional bond with the world. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t played so I won’t say too much here but that choice and the ending… damn. It was my faithful friend going through all that which hurt the most.

You can imagine my excitement when Fable III was released two years later and I couldn’t wait to jump straight back into the land of Albion all over again. But what was this: a plot to overview the King by forming alliances and building support for a revolution? And a Road to Rule to replace the previous levelling-up system, a path in an alternative realm blocked by a number of gates? New features that didn’t feel like previous Fable content but I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and continue.

I’m afraid to say however that it went downhill from there. After leading a successful revolt and becoming monarch, the player is then tasked with defending Albion from ‘a great evil’. This sounds amazing and you may picture yourself bravely riding out into battle with your army behind you, but it consists of finding ways to raise 6,500,000 gold in order to fund the defence of the kingdom and prevent as many civilian casualties as possible. And you know what? It was kind of boring.

You obviously have the choice of not doing this and cruelly letting all your subjects die in the war, but I always go into games intending to be a ‘good’ character and there was no way I was going to let anyone suffer on my watch. So instead I spent too many late nights working as a blacksmith and making pies – essentially an ongoing series of progressively-harder quick-time events (QTEs) – so I could earn enough money to transfer the millions from my personal funds into the kingdom’s treasury.

Despite the repetitiveness, there was a huge sense of achievement in reaching such a high target before the Crawler invasion hit Albion and knowing I’d done everything I could to save my people. When the time came for the final fight and I was called out into battle I expected drama, explosions, and a test of strength and skill that would see me mashing the buttons as hard as I possibly could… But it was all over in a matter of minutes, and it was disappointing.

Although many gamers blame Peter Molyneux’s broken promises as the reasons for Fable’s failure, I don’t find myself siding with this. They won’t agree with me but he’s someone I admire: he’s certainly over-ambitious, but I respect him for reaching for the stars and challenging the status-quo. He may make grand promises that don’t always come to fruition, but I’m far more intrigued by a developer who takes risks instead of churning out carbon-copy titles with little vision.

No, the reason for Fable’s downfall was the fact that the third instalment just wasn’t a very good game. Instead of taking what fans loved about the series and improving on it, making it better – as had happened with Fable II – they’d changed the winning formula and turned the title into something which wasn’t quite befitting. The franchise will always be one of my favourites (and writing about it now is making me want to replay the whole thing again) but even I can admit it ended on a low point.

Fable II, video game, Hero, dog

With the news that Playground Games are working on a new Fable title, my feelings are slightly mixed. While on one hand it’s exciting to hear that the franchise isn’t dead and we may get the opportunity to see it return to its former glory, on the other I’m sad that Lionhead didn’t get the chance to make the Fable IV fans have been waiting for. Will this new developer be able to take what made the series so special for us and recapture the magic of Albion?

Only time will tell. But let’s hope it doesn’t involve blacksmithing or making pies for several hundred hours.

This post was written in response to the Asking Big Questions series hosted by The Well-Red Mage: what video game series got infected with sequelitus? Take a look at this post to see everybody’s answers.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

21 thoughts on “Fable: when sequelitus hits Leave a comment

  1. Great post Kim! You know we are kindred spirits on the subjevt of Fable and thanks for finishing the plot in fable 3 because u know.. I couldnt finish because of the choices rofl. I heard of the new fable and while sequels can be devastating im still super excited for the possibility of recapturing that feeling with fable and fable 2. Its a feeling thats hardly replicated.

    Also I would answer with the Call of Duty franchise. The games have been so great for so long but since Ghosts vame out about 4 years ago ita been going downhill. I think making a cod game every year is what is tearing thw franchise apart. The audience needs to miss the game in my opinion. We need to be able to have new features that arent adaptations of features from the following year. Great response!

    -Luna 🙂


    • Oh no… I hope I didn’t say too much about the third game’s plot and spoil it for you, in case you ever decide to go back to it! 😦

      The choice at the end of Fable II and the one at the beginning of Fable II were absolute killers. But I think that’s one of the reasons why I like the series so much: every so often to have to make a really agonising decision and they’re not ones you take lightly. Hopefully we’ll see more of this in Fable IV… I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s going to be good.


  2. Fable 2 sure was great. Excellent co-op too. Wife and I played it so much when it came out that our first 360 overheated and died.

    She was so excited about 3 that she pre-ordered the special collector’s edition. Oh, what a disappointment. Still not sure what the point of that hand holding system even was.


    • Oh yeah… I didn’t play the Fable II co-op and had forgotten all about it. I might have to rope the other-half into playing it with me – thanks for the reminder!

      I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out to buy the collector’s edition of Fable 4 straight away. I’m really hoping it’ll be good (and wash away all memories of II) and I’ve got my fingers crossed, but I’ll reserve judgement for a while…


  3. Everything I’ve played by Playground Games has been great so far. Granted they’ve all been racing games but I’m more than willing to give whatever it is they may be delivering in Fable a try. It can’t be any worse than the on rails Kinect game.


    • I’m ashamed to admit I actually went out and bought The Journey on the day of release. I’d totally forgotten about it until you mentioned it – it was obviously that bad, I’d wiped all traces from my memory.

      It really was terrible though, wasn’t it? A Fable game shouldn’t force the player to stick to a path and – even worse – the Hero and his voice were so annoying!


  4. ” I spent too many late nights working as a blacksmith and making pies” ahh that brings back memories! I have to admit, I too was very disapointed with Fable 3. Even though I thought the premise for it was brilliant, and yes the first half where you have the revolution was a lot of fun. but the second half, was boring and mundane. Also I think the combat took a backwards step, I loved the way you could combine and experiment your three types of attacks in Fable 2. But in Fable 3, it was just three mapped buttons.

    But I’m hoping the reboot, will capture the magic of the first two, while bringing something new to the table. Great post!


    • I *really* want to be hopeful for the next game, and I know I won’t be able to help myself but get excited when it gets close to the time of release. There’s a part of me that’s worried it’ll be even worse than Fable III (if that’s possible) or it’ll be so completely different and no feel like a Fable title at all… but time will tell!

      Although I don’t want to be stuck making pies for hours on end, I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t some sort of job-based QTE in Fable 4. 😉


      • The fan in us will always get excited when we see something new for our favourite games! I can understand why you would be worried though, but fingers crossed Microsoft do not let us down 🤞🏾

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have hope too with many franchises seeming to make recoveries from their sequelitis. The only unfortunate thing is I, embarrassingly, have never played Fable! Some day!


  6. I really enjoyed Fable 2, however was unable to finish due to a game breaking glitch which stopped me in my tracks 😢. I’d gotten far enough that starting again was just too big a task for me, but I think I’ll go back eventually.
    I was really looking forward to giving Legends a go. E3 certainly sold it to me. Its a shame it got cancelled.


    • I read somewhere ages ago that nobody from Lionhead wanted to make Legends as it kept them from working on Fable 4. I can see where they were coming from, and it would have been perfect to get another instalment from the developers themselves; but at the same time, I think so many fans would have loved an MMO. Perhaps the idea will be put back on the table if Playground’s version does well… 🤔

      Fable II is definitely the best in the series – let me know what you think if you get a chance to pick it back up again!


  7. Fable 3 is one of those games that I just don’t agree with the majority of people on. Spoilers to follow.

    I found the whole putting together this cool rebellion to rise up against this corrupt ruler, and then basically accomplishing that goal to be a really great narrative. In addition it doesn’t stop there, instead you find out you have this huge world ending threat to deal with, and I thought some of the choices (especially for the time) were really not black and white.

    For the first time I’d ever experienced in a game of this type I had these choices where they might seem like the bad guy choices, but it prepared my kingdom much faster. In this way it was juggling doing a bad thing for the overall good of everyone, and if you wanted to go all good guy route it was FAR harder to get together the gold needed to save the day.

    I’ve always enjoyed the two more fantasy based ones because of the thematic setting, but I feel that the third one had a narrative that was as good as, if not better than, the second iteration in the franchise.


    • It’s really interesting to hear from someone with the opposite point of view! 🙂

      Reading back over your comment, I can see how I could have spoiled the game for myself as a result of the way I take on titles with an alignment feature. I’m always so set on being as good as possible and perhaps that caused me to miss out on some of the title’s nuances; instead of really considering the moral choices during the second half of Fable III meant, I just jumped straight into earning as much money as I could for the best outcome. You’ve definitely given me something to think about here.


      • The choices today are probably far more black and white then I recall, especially after some of the morally grey choices in stuff like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or similar games have provided us since.

        I too am a goodie two shoes when it comes to these sorts of games, so I always strove to make the best choice possible. I guess I didnt see the gold thing as a problem then because I was so into the concept.

        Perspectives indeed. Perhaps if I replayed it today I would not remember it so fondly.


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