I recently finished Fable 3, and it’s the most broken, lazily designed game I’ve played in a long time. I hated it. But I still played the game for 25 hours and finished the main story.
Did the combat keep me going? No. The combat system is shallow and hinges upon mashing the X and Y buttons.
The exploration? Please. Open-world games from 2001 have more robust and developed exploration than Fable 3 does.
Oddly, the game's most boring and broken aspect kept me playing: raising the $6.5 million to protect and fortify my kingdom from an impending attack.
After you become the King of Albion (which occurs a little over half-way through the main story), Fable 3 gives you a full year to raise enough money to protect your kingdom. Except it doesn’t. Each of those 365 days are actually about five in-game days. They jump from 365 to 339 to 294 to…well, you get the picture. That was fine — I sure as shit didn’t want to spend an actual 365 in-game days in this busted, broken, video-game world.
The laziness of Fable 3's development shows on day 121 — your "last" official day to accumulate the $6.5 million to save your kingdom. The problem is that the game gives you no clue this is your last chance to raise money. After the day is over, it suddenly thrusts you into the final battle. If you don't have the funds to save your people…oh, well.
Luckily for me, I checked Fable 3’s wiki beforehand, so I knew day 121 would be my last chance to raise money. (What does it say about a game’s design when the only way you can know such a crucial plot device is to visit the game’s Wikipedia page?) The bad thing was that I had about only $3,000 to my name.
I scoured the Internet looking for fast ways to earn cash. Except for cheating the system (something my conscience just wouldn’t allow me to do), my best option was to buy and rent-out a bunch of houses and businesses. So I built up my bank account a bit and started amassing property.
Before long, I had bought enough property to rake in $100K every five minutes. It would take awhile, but I would eventually have enough money to save my kingdom. I figured I would just do some side quests until I reached that $6.5 million goal.
Except Fable 3 provided me with hardly any entertaining optional quests while I was amassing my fortune.
I had already completed the few fun side quests the game offered. Sure, I could have done hundreds of boring fetch quests for random citizens or scoured the world looking for smart-ass gnomes (Fable 3’s equivalent of Grand Theft Auto’s hidden packages). I also could have taken off my socks and watched my toenails grow.
So I would leave the game on, amassing increments of money every five minutes, and go do other things: laundry, the dishes, prospecting for my freelance business, etc. I could be wrong, but I don’t think you’re supposed to spend a significant chunk of a game not playing it.
Yeah, I know I could have triggered the final mission without having raised the money to protect my kingdom. But I am always the nice guy in games with morality systems. I couldn’t let millions of NPCs die because I didn’t have enough patience, and Peter Molyneux didn’t have enough brains to design a better game.
I suppose I could write an in-depth article as to why I have to be so damn morally righteous. But the reasons I always make altruistic moral choices in video games is irrelevant here (and lots of writers have explored the topic of player morality). What is relevant is that Fable 3 punished me, in essence, for trying to play the way I wanted to.
What other games exemplify lazy design, and why? What games make you think, "Man, the developers didn't even try"? Am I wrong about Fable 3?