Fable: Anniversary and my relationship with sequels

I had ultimately wanted to blog twice per month in this new year, but I have been in the midst of making a number of significant personal and career decisions.  Whenever I have personally or professionally important matters ruminating in my mind, I tend to lose my focus and wind up not accomplishing much other than the bare minimum.  In this case, I guess it’s better to do that rather than nothing at all.

Just after its release, I played about 10 hours of Fable: Anniversary.  I had intended to finish it, but the significant load times and frustrating controls got in my way.  The original Fable was terribly important to me as it was one of the first games I got totally absorbed in when I started playing video games again in 2005/2006.  I fell in love with it, warts and all, and played through the main story 3 times.  I was, of course, very excited about Fable 2.

I think I played about 2 hours of Fable 2 before I dropped it.  I didn’t even get the dog.  I just didn’t like it.  I had become so accustomed to the first game’s crappy controls that while the sequel’s control scheme was simpler and far more intuitive, I just couldn’t compute the differences and thus I had a negative play experience.

These kinds of subtle differences have always been problematic for me and sequels, particularly to games I really love.  I played games when I was a kid (I had an NES and later a Genesis and did play some PC games growing up), but I was never all that good at them and the medium never grabbed me the same way it does now.  I spent my teens and early 20s reading history texts and classic novels, watching pretentious movies, and hanging out in weird internet communities.  I did not spend my youth with a controller in my hand, and I didn’t get involved with hobbies that required any kind of strategic thinking.

So, when I got in to games, I had to learn each game I played from the ground up.  Each new game was a slow and laborious learning process, unless it was something simple like a visual novel.  For a long time, this made it difficult for me to process subtle changes in control and strategy.  Fable 2 was, at the same time, too similar and too different to its predecessor.  Had it had a completely new control scheme, or had I had different expectations, I may have initially liked it better.

The combat in Persona 4 was also a difficult challenge for me.  I wanted to play Persona 4 using the same strategies I used in Persona 3, using my protagonist as the primary magic attacker, but that just didn’t work in Persona 4 due to the subtle changes they made in the combat.  The growth of the P4 protagonist’s mana and health made him more like Junpei where the P3 protagonist was more like Yosuke.  He’s better suited to physical attacking and avoiding using magic all the time.  Not to mention that Persona 4’s combat just doesn’t lend itself as well to the basic strategy of analyze, knock everything down with magic, and all-out attack.  These types of subtle differences just weren’t obvious to me when I first started playing games again.

And now, of course I’m much better, but it’s taken me quite a long time to actually get comfortable with approaching both new games and sequels.  I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy certain types of games like first person or third person shooters (for a lot of reasons), and I will always prefer less twitchy, turn-based experiences, but I don’t feel like I have such a difficult learning curve ahead of me when I try out something new anymore.  I’ve been wondering over the two weeks since I tried out Fable: Anniversary if I should try out Fable 2 again.  This time I think I might like it a lot better.


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