30VGC: Day 17 – Favorite antagonist

To know me is to know that I love my yearly series, and here’s a new a one! This year I’m taking on the 30-Day Video Game Challenge (30VGC). Though, actually, it’s going to be more like the 26-Week Video Game Challenge, since I’ll only be covering two or three topics from the challenge each month. You can check out my intended schedule in this post. With that, it’s game on!

My favorite antagonist in a video game is Reaver.

No shock there, right? Also, I’m glad that this list used the word “antagonist” over “villain.” Because while the two words have the same spirit, in my mind, an antagonist falls within the realm of simply being an adversary over that of an outright evil adversary. Reaver isn’t a figure I’d called “evil;” he’s more of a charismatic and amoral conniver, a…self-serving bastard, if you will. After all, he did sacrifice people in order to gain everlasting youth, so he’s far from angelic. But is he flat-out evil? Eh, I’d say no.

Seems I’m in a semantically-driven mood today, but we’re talking about Reaver from the Fable series, games 2 and 3. Why pick someone from a middling, gimmicky RPG series? Why bother with a character that seems to fall right into the hackneyed, mustache-twirling, dark-clothed, silent movie stereotype who’s not above tying innocent people to train tracks for his own enjoyment? Might it have anything to do with the fact that Reaver is voiced by the illustrious Stephen Fry?

Maaaaaybe.

Okay, yes, it has almost everything to with Stephen fucking Fry because I enjoy him in pretty much everything he’s ever done, ever and forever. There. I said it. HAPPY NOW?

But there is honestly more to it than Fry’s immensely pleasurable voice acting. There are plenty of reasons to see the glass half-empty when it comes to the Fable series, but it also has its glass half-full moments, one of which comes from the scripts of the second and third games. Outside of the simplistic mechanics and gimmicks that try to make the games seem more than they are, they contain some damn find wordplay among the characters. I mean, we’re not talking Emily Dickinson or T. E. Lawrence here, but the writing in the games ain’t half bad. In Fable 2, Reaver, especially, has some very memorable one-liners that all key into the hero’s certain demise when faced with Reaver’s challenges. Further, his findable journal entries offer up some sublime storytelling in terms of not only revealing Reaver’s own lascivious past but also his role in creating the hero’s current destiny.

In Fable 3, Reaver takes a much larger role in Albion’s — the game’s world — fate. He’s become a corrupt, industrial magnate who’s not above bending the rules in order to get what he wants. The hero is once again forced to face Reaver head-on, though Reaver is quite keen on keeping his dignity, and face, in tact. So more challenges from afar, thanks to his Wheel of Misfortune, it is. Speaking of misfortune, it’s all too unfortunate that in the less-than-pleasing second half of Fable 3, the one that requires players to “rebuild” Albion after its near-destruction, Reaver’s role is neutered to that of simply representing the “bad” choices for Albion. While his arguments for “restoring” Albion per his twisted, Machiavellian visions are compelling, he become little more than a narrator before he’s gone for good. (Off to make another self-sustaining sacrifice, no doubt.)

If you’ve never played Fable 2 or 3, I can’t say that Reaver alone would make doing so worthwhile, buuuuuuut… … …he is an awful lot of awful fun.

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