Get Thee To A Menu

This post is about Fable 3.

Generally, when talking about the Fable series, I talk about the decisions you can make in any given game and how I find them horribly lacking, but today I'm going to avoid that whole can of worms and talk more about how disappointed I am in other aspects of Fable 3. Specifically, I'd like to talk about Fable 3's menu system.

Or, really, its lack of a menu system.

I haven't looked at reviews of the game yet, so I don't know what other people are saying about Fable 3's new immersive menuing, but regardless of whether or not game reviews or community at large likes it, I freaking hate it. In any game, I want a menu system to do three things for me:

  1. Give me all the information I need to know
  2. Present me that information in a clear manner
  3. Allow me to get the most often referred to information quickly.

Fable 3 fails on all three counts.

Let's start with number 3, since here is where I feel Fable 3 is most egregious. Fable 3 is, first and for most, a quest driven RPG, and, as with any quest driven RPG, there are a few pieces of information I access repeatedly: my map, my quest list, and my advancement progress.

Advancement for your character is shown quickly and easily: any time I get experience, it shows me just how much experience I have and how much I can spend. It breaks immersion, but the information I need is there when I need it. Advancement for weapons, on the other hand, requires that I: press start, wait for a short load, walk to the weapons room (or, if I've been playing a while and know the shortcut, press left), wait for a short load, walk to my sword, press a to look at my sword, then press y to see my advancement on said sword. This is neither quick, not easy, and is actually fairly hidden from view. I didn't know you could even do this until playing the game for over 5 hours when I stumbled on it accidentally.

The quest list is even worse, specifically because changing quests is such a pain. Just to look at your active quests, you have to: press start, wait for a short load, walk to the map (there's no short cut key for this), press A to bring up the map, wait for a short transition, press Y to bring up your active quest list, select the quest you'd like to activate, press A to select it, press A to confirm it, then press X to fast travel to its closest location or B to not. This fast travel confirmation (and loading screen if you press X) occurs even if you are already in the same area as the quest. Again, this is neither quick, nor easy, AND I STILL couldn't find it until I stumbled on it accidentally. After 6 hours of play.

Then there's the map, which I've already described how to get to. However, what I didn't describe is how that map doesn't contain the single most important piece of information you can have in a semi-open world RPG: it doesn't show the player's current location in relation to everything else. Now, I can understand how that's more immersive, maybe, but it's a piece of information I want that doesn't actually spoil anything about the game.

I still can't find a way to gift things to friends without coming across their orb in the world. If there's a way, it's so well hidden as to be a useless feature.

The funny thing is, Fable 3's best UI comes through when it stops trying to be stupidly immersive for no reason and just gives you the information (like the player advancement). If they'd just thought for a minute about how often people access the map and quest lists in an RPG, they would have made start take you directly there, instead of requiring three clicks through.

Regardless of any advancements Fable 3 made mechanics wise, they're overshadowed for me by the terrible user interface design. I cringe any time I have to enter a menu in that game. About as much as I do when I hear anyone talk, but that's another post.

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2 Responses to Get Thee To A Menu

  1. JesterSks says:

    Not only was I complaining to Scooter about all those things the interface for managing rental property repair quality is atrocious. You have to zoom in and zoom out for each house which is at odds with your weapon room and wardrobe room where while zoomed in you can move to the next/previous item with the trigger buttons. The default menu item when you zoom in is “sell” when the action I pick the most is “repair” which is the third item. Worse of all the whole needing to repair buildings feels like it servers no other purpose than to increase play time.

  2. Jeff says:

    Oh there are other bad things than the ones I’ve mentioned for sure. Repair is pretty bad. I mean, in addition, there is NO easy way to get from house to house that you own. You have to remember which houses you’ve bought and which *might* need repair.

    It’s like Lionhead fired their UX guy and hired a retarded monkey, OR they hired a a UX guy with a masters or doctorate in the subject that thinks that “immersive” menus are more usable, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.