Yesterday I went to the Fable III preview in London. I’m not able to say very much about the game’s content until next week, but what I can say is that I preferred it to its predecessor. Fable II is a title I just didn’t get on with and a big reason for this was Stephen Fry.
To be fair to Stephen Fry, I can’t lay all the blame at his door. Fable II rubbed me up the wrong way right from the opening cinematic. I was initially put off by the distinctly Terry Pratchett-esque veneer of the game – not a fan, you see – and my irritation deepened the more I played through it. It wasn’t just that the combat was incredibly simplistic, or that that progression through the story required hours and hours of grind. It was the fact that Fable II’s whole aesthetic seemed insufferably twee. I prefer my sword and sorcery/fantasy adventures with more than a hint of darkness and Fable II seemed about as dark as The Mighty Boosh crimp-off. Still I persevered with Fable II in the hope that the world of Albion would offer up some semblance of threatening atmosphere – a hope which was dashed to pieces the moment the character Reaver opened his mouth. Reaver, you see, is voiced by Stephen Fry.
I have nothing against Stephen Fry. I don’t know him personally and what little I know of him, from interviews and appearances on TV and radio, is positive. He seems a fairly affable chap and a real smart cookie to boot. He also comes across as one of the most charming men in existence. These are all pluses in my book, but they all hold Fable II back from appearing menacing or dark in any way. The moment Stephen Fry employs those vocal chords and his cheery, plummy tones issue forth from my TV speakers, I am immediately imbued with a feeling of safety. Hearing his voice is like being wrapped in a warm blanket; this makes him perfect for a game like LittleBigPlanet which is trying to out-cute every game in existence, but it’s the kiss of death for a fantasy game that wants its monsters to appear threatening at all. I mean, if Stephen Fry’s here, how dangerous can Albion be?
To make matters worse, the character that Fry voices in Fable II is supposed to be one of the game’s morally questionable individuals. Reaver is selfish, vain, arrogant and entirely self-serving. He even sold the population of Oakvale to the Shadow Court, in return for eternal youth. Not that you’d know it from his voice. While his verbal exchanges with the character are laced with sarcasm and sardonic humour, I can’t really buy into the notion that Reaver is entirely reprehensible because… well… he’s really Stephen Fry, isn’t he?
And Stephen Fry’ is really nice. Or at least, he seems to be. Too nice for me to ever buy into the idea that he or anyone who sounds exactly like him could be a bad person. That’s how nice he seems.