Lionhead versus BioWare: The Emotional Battle

I’ve got to hand it to Lionhead Studios.

They’ve done it.  They really have.  I’m quite proud of them.

This Dog Smells Spoilers Ahead

What, exactly, have they done?  Well they’ve finally, FINALLY managed to really tug on my heartstrings.  With a human, that is.  The dog in Fable II was adorable, but doesn’t quite match an attachment to a human.

And yes, this post is spoileriffic.  If you haven’t finished Fable III yet (or Dragon Age & Mass Effect 1&2, for that matter), you won’t want to keep reading.

The thing about Fables I and II was that you never really felt a human connection, and emotional pull towards anyone, or any type of loyalty.  Of course Fable gave you the option to marry and have children; however all the characters you could marry were flat, one dimensional, cardboard cutouts that could easily be replaced by the next guy or gal.  I would have no qualms over leading my husband through Wraithmarsh or along the Bandit Coast and having him be killed in some way.  The characters that were unique and interesting (the far and few between) didn’t have the option of marrying.

But Fable III, I’m happy to say, has gone beyond the boring and identical characters (although plenty of them still exist).  In the very beginning of this game, you will encounter a person of opposite gender named Elliot or Elise.  You’ll learn that this person is your lover of sorts.  About 2 minutes later, you’ll have to decide if you want to kill your lover or a group of villagers.  If that doesn’t sound too bad to you, imagine letting your lover live, only to end up being apart from them.  That is, until you embark upon a quest to find a kidnapped fiancee…only to find that the fiancee missing is your former lover!

And at that point, you’re given the option to choose if that person should stay with their betrothed, or if they should move on…to you.

You really want to kill him?!

Yeah, it’s a tricky choice you’re given, and while there aren’t a whole lot of repercussions (a few good or evil points, depending on if you ask them to leave their betrothed or not), I want to applaud Lionhead Studios for giving us gamers such a difficult decision.  Even though I played a good character the whole way through, after re-meeting Elliot and hearing him talk about how he still loved me, I couldn’t bear to give him up.

However, I want to point to my favorite video game developer, BioWare.  BioWare REALLY knows how to manipulate emotions and make the player feel connected to characters even though they aren’t real.  For example, in BioWare’s game Dragon Age, when you go to fight the final boss, it is inevitable that the boss will kill someone, and you have to decide who it will kill; yourself, one of your comrades, or, in a strange twist of events, you can have someone sleep with and impregnate a witch in order to save everyone.  Imagine, if you will, you play as a female, begin a romance with your fellow team member, and then, if you want both yourself and him to live at the end, you have to force him to sleep with the witch.

Yeah, that’s painful.  See this post to glimpse the depths of my despair when I decided I wanted both of us to live.

Or what about BioWare’s epic space game, Mass Effect 2, when finally meet up with your lover from the first Mass Effect?  You were separated for two years, imagine the pain you put your lover through… and the anger they throw back at you.

So, congratulations Lionhead Studios, for finally instilling some powerful [human] emotion into the Fable series, but you’ve still got a long way to go if you want to make a true mark in that area.

-Kat

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Comments

Posted On
Nov 30, 2010
Posted By
Calamitybird

Kat, you nailed it. The Fable games are addictive and delightful, but they really lack the human connection that the friendships and romances of Bioware games provide. I have the same complaint about Oblivion, though I was still fascinated by the character’s experiences despite being a loner (for example, playing as an Argonian it was interesting to experience varying degrees of racism in my encounters). I will in fairness point out that I still squeezed every last drop out of that game, including the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles expansions to it.

Elliot struck a chord with me right off the bat, but being the sort of person I am I chose to sacrifice him for the greater good (though I was sufficiently touched by the experience that I named my rifle after him…and made sure I used it in avenging him). I had grown so disinterested in the cardboard cutout marriages that I married no one at all. But when my son played the game and I saw that the fiance/fiancee returned in “Kidnapped!”, I was so surprised I started a new game specifically in order to save and romance Elliot.

Okay, I get waaay too hung up on the relationships in RPGs! Game developers, take note, for you know my weakness!

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Posted On
Dec 14, 2010
Posted By
kattiki

Definitely my weakness as well! I 100% agree with you on the Elder Scroll games, how they’re sort of stale in the romance area (or just relationships in general) as well. I never feel like I have a specific tie in that world, because usually you start the game as a prisoner of some sort and they don’t make any mentions to your past. It can be too easy to kill someone in those games and not think twice about it. However the world in those games is so mind-bogglingly huge that I never get tired of it. And the things you can happen to stumble across…!

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