From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Fallout 3 vs. Fable 2: Mutants, Marriage, Magic and Mutts

I think about the end of the world as we know it quite a bit.

Well, okay, usually I’m contemplating causing the end of the world as we know it by conquering said world with my robot army, but when I’m not doing that, I’m thinking about how it might otherwise end.

So I am totally loving Fallout 3, the new role playing video game from Bethesda Softworks (the creators of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion).

But I also love freezing time and blasting my mortal enemies with spells of lightning and flame. And since I’ve found that doing so in real life tends to be frowned upon by the authorities, I am pleased to find I can do so in Fable 2, the cleverly named RPG sequel to Lionhead Studio’s Fable.

RPG fans like myself with limited time or limited budgets face a real dilemma, because these two new games came out at the end of October, just a week apart from each other. If you have to choose between the games, the decision may be made easier by the fact that Fable 2 is exclusive to the Xbox 360, whereas Fallout 3 is available on the 360, PS3 and PC as well.

But if platform is not a factor, which shiny new RPG should you get?

Just the Facts: The Games Side by Side

Feeling Moody

The two games differ immensely in aesthetics and realism, so, other than co-op options, this may be the biggest decider for you.

Fallout 3 is a post-apocalyptic SciFi RPG shooter in an ultra-realistic urban wasteland with touches of 1950’s culture and retro-futuristic technologies. It is gritty, nasty, bleak and bloody.

Fallout 3 - Wasteland

Fable 2 is a fantasy game with swords, sorcery, and yes, even steampunk elements, in a stylized animated world that looks to me like a blending of late medieval and early colonial eras. It is comparable to young adult fantasy that dabbles with darkness and mature subjects.

Fable II Monster

Stop Playing with Yourself

Fallout 3, like Oblivion, is a single player game.

But oh my GAWD was I happy to learn that Fable 2 had co-op play. After the Baldur’s Gate and Champions of Norath games, the fantasy RPG world has been a co-op wasteland. Further, Fable 2’s co-op is innovative. You can play your own single-player game, and then drop into another player’s game to play co-op on the same console or online, split the experience and gold however you choose, then return to your own single player game with your co-op earnings. Sure, there are some issues like single player camera control, and the second player appearing as a henchman. But still, it … (sniffle) … it’s a beautiful thing.

You Got the Look

Fallout 3 allows you to create a character that looks something like you. You can pick your gender, race or ethnicity (black, white, Hispanic or Asian), and change your facial structure and features, coloring, and hairstyle at the start of the game. After that, the only real change is in what you choose to wear.

Fable 2 is somewhat the reverse. It allows you to pick your gender, but the starting character models are the same generic Caucasians for every game. However, your appearance is transformed throughout the game by your actions in the world. Eat too many pies, get fat. Build up your strength, get all uber-muscled. You get scars from losing battles, and being good or evil affects your appearance as well. You can also buy tattoos, and a wide variety of fashions.

Bo Staff Skills, Nunchuck Skills, Bartering Skills …

Both games follow a pretty traditional Experience Point leveling system.

In Fallout 3 you don’t have to jump everywhere to increase your agility, or let people beat on you to increase your light armor, as you did in Oblivion. You do get “Perks” every couple of levels, however, that grant you special abilities and game features – like the “Mysterious Stranger” perk, which causes a secret agent to randomly appear and aid you in fights, or the “Cannibalism” perk, which allows you to eat the flesh of your defeated foes for health.

Fallout 3 - Skeleton

Fable 2 is much the same as the first Fable both in how you level up and your options, allowing you to select from specific abilities and enhancements in Strength (i.e. combat), Will (i.e. magic), or Skill (i.e. ranged and defensive).

Living the Vida Video

Fable 2 includes many sandbox-like features (game options that are not tied to linear game goals/quests) that make it feel a bit like The Sims meets RPG. You can buy any residence, even the main castles, as a home. The game also allows you to take jobs and invest in local businesses, which impacts both your own wealth and the economy of the town.

And you can find a true love (or three), get married (hetero or homosexual), convince a bunch of folks to love you and come back to the house for a love fest, and have children who will be waiting at home when you return from quests. You can even use condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs. But while these are entertaining features, they still feel like distractions to me after a while, and I suspect if you really enjoy those aspects of the game you will be happier just getting The Sims, and focusing instead on the RPG quests in Fable 2.

Fallout 3 on the other hand is the same as Oblivion. It has many side-quests that are “jobs” or that may have a positive or negative outcome for a town, but these are more scripted events that progress a particular storyline than sandbox features. You can buy residences as well, though only specific buildings in each town.

For the easily offended, know that in both games you can hire prostitutes and get it on, but neither game shows naughty video or has sex mini-games. And Fallout 3 is fond almost to excess of using expletives to portray “character.”

It’s a Big World After All

Bethesda knows how to build huge open-ended worlds packed full of peanuty goodness. Fallout 3 is built on the same engine as Oblivion, so much of the way you move and interact with the world will feel familiar for Oblivion fans. But one nice improvement is that there is no running for miles through the wilderness encountering little more than an angry crab. In the wastelands of Fallout 3 you only need take a few steps to encounter an object, character or battle.

Fallout 3 - Home Again

Fable 2 is also a huge open-ended world, supposedly ten times the size of the first Fable game world. One nice feature of Fable 2 is a glittering “breadcrumb trail” that you can always follow to your next objective. This allows you to wander freely off the beaten track, exploring and fighting, and then easily continue towards your official goal when and if you choose.

Both games also have fast travel options.

As far as quest and story structure, both have central quests, along with many side quests. And both games have interesting, well-developed storylines. I haven’t reached the end of either, so can’t speak to how satisfying the endings are.

Anger Management Therapy

Combat is fun in both games.

The VATS combat system in Fallout 3 is a blast — no pun intended. You are able to spend Action Points to freeze the battle while you consider just where exactly you want to shoot your enemy, and are shown the probability of making each shot. Do you want to shoot the arm holding the gun and watch it fly off? Shoot that grenade he’s holding and blow it up in his hand? Or go for the gruesome decapitating head shot? You have the control, and the game isn’t shy about showing the carnage. This was a nice homage to the original games’ turn-based combat system.

Fallout 3 - Exploding Head

In Fable 2, a single button is assigned to melee, another button for ranged, and a third button for magic. You can build up the variety and power of abilities you can assign to each button. And fun is had in combining them — shoot an oncoming pirate with your flintlock pistol, then zap them with lightning, then as they are twitching hit them with your melee weapon. Combos also give extra XP.

Fable 2 - Kill Em

Puppy Love

Both games have dog companions for your character.

Fallout 3 - DogmeatFallout 3’s dog is named Dogmeat, and you have to find him early in the game. You can send him forth to fetch supplies, and he can help in combat, but Dogmeat can also be killed. He’s a bit less interactive and endearing than the dog in Fable 2, but it is still nice to have a canine companion when traveling the wastelands.

Fable 2 PuppyFable 2’s puppy is with you the whole game, can be hurt but not killed, and is highly interactive. Your puppy is intended to replace the typical “heads up” display by growling and facing nearby danger (rather than showing you little red dots on a minimap, for example), and will also sniff out treasure and help in fights. You can give it love, play with it, name it, and teach it tricks. It will definitely bring a smile to your face.

And for those who ranted about how Bethesda stole Fable‘s dog idea, fact check: in addition to Mad Max, Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog, the latest Bard’sTale game, Baldur’s Gate, and everyone else who did it before Fable, the first Fallout game also had a dog named Dogmeat. So go lay down.

Nothing Funny about the Apocalypse

People familiar with the original Fallout games might expect plenty of clever humor and SciFi pop-cultural references from Fallout 3.

Bethesda set us up to expect that too, in fact, by having a game trailer that featured a hilarious mock Vault-Tech commercial. But that level of humor is sadly lacking in the game. Apparently Bethesda takes the apocalypse seriously. Very seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a smattering of tongue-in-cheek humor and light touches, but not nearly the level that series fans will expect. You are much more likely to encounter tragedy, misery, pain, resignation, desperation, and than laugh-out-loud humor or the TARDIS. This is not your daddy’s Fallout.

Fable 2 also has a darker tone overall than the first game, but it still has plenty of enjoyable humor, some of it ribald. Unfortunately, many of the social interaction options are downright silly, and detract from the overall feel of the game.

In Conclusion

These are two very different games, but both provide hours of open-ended RPG bliss.

Fable 2 has co-op. And I think that Fable 2 will appeal more to those who enjoy classic fantasy themes rather than urban wasteland warfare, and may be a better choice for younger players (tweens, young teens, et cetera) if you are concerned about the profanity and gory violence of Fallout 3 but don’t mind some PG-13 material.

Fallout 3 will appeal more to Oblivion-style RPG fans who enjoyed the quest structure of that game but aren’t turned off by a world of guns and computers instead of swords and magic. It will also appeal to players who are looking for as much realism as they can get in their RPG. And finally, to some fans of first person shooters who don’t mind having to deal with NPCs to find out their next goal.

Fallout 3Title: Fallout 3
Developer and Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform(s): Playstation3, PC, XBox 360
ESRB Rating: M(ature)
Rent It @ GameFly
Buy It @ DeepDiscount: Playstation 3XBox 360PC
Fable IITitle: Fable II
Developer / Publisher: Lionhead Studios / Microsoft
Platform(s): XBox 360
ESRB Rating: M(ature)
Rent It @ GameFly
Buy It @ and Amazon
Randall Scott Henderson is no cliché — he’s a talking cat with a soul stealing sword, employed by a vampire detective and sent back from the future to stop aliens from sabotaging the space program, who ended up as his own great-grandfather. Or (gasp) was that all a dream? His fiction has appeared in Alienskin Magazine, The Harrow, and From the Asylum, and most importantly he has won the prestigious Fantasy Friday Blog for a Beer award three times (to date). For his genre-related musings, go to his blog.

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