Anyone who looks at my top games of all time will see Fable II sits rather prominently on that list. When I did my “30 Reviews in 30 Days,” I had mentioned I might even consider it my favorite game of all time, though it may have been supplanted by Mass Effect 2. While the game was almost unanimously praised by critics, there was one part of it many felt was a let down: the ending.
So just what was it about the ending of Fable II that left people feeling less than fulfilled? We explore that topic in this edition of “Good Grief; Bad Endings.”
Spoiler Alert: If you have not beaten Fable II and do not want the ending ruined, do not read any further.
The Heroes Assemble
Much of Fable II is spent gathering the three heroes representing the three main skill trees in the game: strength, skill and will. While trying to recruit Reaver, you are attacked by Lucien’s men. This leads to a showdown with a Great Shard, with you, Garth, Hammer and Reaver fighting to take it down. Once the battle is complete, Theresa arrives and teleports the four of you to the plateau outside the ruins of the Hero Academy to start the ritual that will bring an end to all of this. She directs each hero to stand on the the symbol representing their abilities and leads you to the middle. As the ritual begins, energy starts to drain from each hero, being drawn to you in the center. As a gamers, you start to anticipate an epic showdown with Lucien.
That is until he arrives in the middle of the ritual.
With all of you stuck in the ritual, you cannot fight against Lucien. He informs you he plans on using the power of the heroes to unlock the Spire’s full potential, allowing him to create a new world while destroying this one. The only thing left to do is finish what he started so many years ago. You stand helpless as he aims his gun right at you and pulls the trigger.
The shot never connects. Your dog, faithful to the end, jumps in the way of the shot, sacrificing himself to save you. Lucien dismisses the sacrifice as futile and pulls the trigger once more. The world goes dark, but Theresa’s voice calls out in the darkness, advising you that death is not your destiny. As light returns to the world, you find yourself…
On a farm?
The Perfect Day?
You are a kid again. You and your sister Rose are on your parent’s farm, and Rose has some tasks to keep you occupied. Bugs are getting into the crops, the chickens have escaped from the roost and Rose has set up some bottles for you to shoot. Rose and you seem truly happy, getting to experience the family life you did not have. All that is missing is your parents, who Rose promises will be returning soon.
As you complete the tasks, the sun starts to set. You join Rose inside the farm and get ready for a good night’s sleep…
But something is not right.
You are awakened in the middle of the night by something in the woods just past the farm land itself. Though Rose warns you not to go, you find you must. As you get closer to whatever it is, Rose’s warnings become more insistent, until her pleas turn to screams. You run back towards the farm, only to find a destruction in your wake. In the middle of the wreckage, you find the music box that started your entire adventure. Next thing you know, you are standing in darkness, slowly aging as you hear the voices of the characters you have met throughout the game recapping key events. Then Rose’s voice states you have passed the test and are now ready to face Lucien.
You find yourself in the Spire. Racing up the steps, you get to the main area just in time to catch Lucien starting his own ritual, only his was designed to destroy the world, not save it. Physical attacks, ranged attacks and magic can do nothing to him. Your only chance lies in what you brought back from the farm with you: the music box. You hold in in front of you, activating the music and draining the magic from Lucien. Not willing to give up, Lucien starts to rattle on about how he will rewrite the world, until Reaver shoots him, sending him falling to his death.
So there you have it. You have spent the entire game gathering the heroes that represent each of the skills within the world. You have fought numerous enemies both human and otherwise, lost years of your life being a jailer and, if you chose the good path, been scarred for life to protect someone else. You have suffered, lost your family if you had one and your dog. You have spent the entire game trying to pull together the pieces you need to gain the ultimate weapon to defeat Lucien, and in the end all you needed was a music box.
That’s right. In the end, it’s a music box that brings Lucien down. Could they have found a lamer weapon? The biggest villain in the game, someone who wants to destroy the world, and you take him down with a music box. This is just a huge let down.
Or is it?
For you see, though many people had issues with the ending of this game, I did not. In a rather interesting new twist to the Good Grief series, I am actually going to argue why Lionhead chose to end the game this way.
Things Come Full Circle
So why do I think the ending for Fable II works? Two reasons. The first is it brings the story full circle, as the music box is how it started.
Fable II starts off with you and your sister doing different tasks to earn enough money to buy that very music box. The music box has magic properties, and it is the activation is what catches Lucien’s attention and leads to the death of your sister. So the music box gets things started, and it is only fitting that what drew Lucien to you ends up being his undoing.
Not convinced that the ending works? Then maybe maybe we need to look at what separates Fable II from other games.
It’s All About Choice
It is easy to see why so many people got caught up in Fable II. The story was strong, the gameplay was excellent and there was just something about the dog that kept me coming back. Still, even though these were all interesting, one thing really set the game apart: the choices.
More than any other game I had played to that point, Fable II was all about the choices you make. Throughout the game, you are presented with many different choices, and there is no denying the fact that what you choose to do has an impact on the world around you. Meet up with the right person, lend him some money, and Westcliff will be rebuilt from the ruins. Try to earn Reaver’s trust, take the noble path, and find yourself scarred for life, with people reacting to the disfigurement no matter how beloved you are. Heck, even at the start of the game, the choices you make as a child in Bowerstone determine whether Old Town becomes a place where law abiding citizens can roam freely or a place run by organized crime. The choices you make shape the world around you in a way most games never even attempt.
So, in a game that focuses so much on choices, should it really surprise us that the ending leaves you with a choice? After you defeat Lucian, Teresa reappears, and she gives you three choices:
- The Needs of the Many: You can choose to have everyone resurrected who was killed in the building of the spire. This obviously is the noble choice, and as such, it comes with a price; you may be able to bring everyone else back, but your family and dog remain dead.
- The Needs of the Few: You can choose to have your family and dog brought back to life. An understandable choice to be sure, but everyone will know you had the chance to bring back many more people and chose to bring back your loved ones instead.
- The Needs of the One: You can choose to receive enough money to pretty much buy everything in Albion. This is obviously meant to be the evil choice, with you being the only one who benefits.
So why does this matter? After all, you just beat the game. Well, there are some quests that do not even unlock or cannot be completed till after you beat it, and the choice you make will affect this.To give you an idea of just how good a job the game designers did when it came to making you think through your choices, I ended up choosing “The Needs of the Few” purely from a gameplay standpoint as I had a quest to complete that required my dog to be alive, and I felt like a jerk for not choosing “The Needs of the Many.” Funny thing is, I am certain that if I had chosen to rescue everyone else, I would have missed my family and dog.
As I mentioned before, many people do not like the ending to Fable II. It was despised so much that the first downloadable content, “Knothole Island,” gave you the ability to resurect your dog if you had chosen not to bring him back. To me, this actually hurt the game, as it removed part of the weight behind that final choice you had to make.
So there you have it. While many feel that the ending of Fable II deserves to be the target of a Good Grief article, I disagree. In the end, however, it is up to you to decide in which camp you reside.