Fable OST: The Power of Nostalgia Goggles
Recently I’ve really needed comfort food, and very few game soundtracks are more comforting than that of the original Fable. When I started this post, I was trying to pinpoint why I love the soundtrack so much – I knew that a lot of its comfort comes from my nostalgia goggles (seriously, it’s the first RPG I ever played and really put my heart into), but I was looking for more. As it turns out, aside from the main theme, this soundtrack doesn’t really stand up on its own.
As I’ve mentioned before, I truly love a musical theme, and Fable has a doozie.
I think more accurate would be to call it the “Hero’s Theme,” because it comes up whenever addressing the player character’s heroic nature – the fact that by blood and by actions, the player is a hero. The game starts with this theme, then only plays it when you’ve really earned it. It’s super inspiring. More entertaining, though, is when you’re wandering through town and a random peasant is whistling that theme. I’m not sure if it’s an easter egg or if it’s intending to be meta (everyone knows what it takes to be a hero?), but it always made my day. Even if I’ve always confused it with the theme for Stargate (compare this and this), I love the theme so much, and I love hearing it. I literally got shivers when it was reprised in Fable II.
Aside from the theme, though, the soundtrack is… lackluster. Again, please don’t misunderstand me: I love it, but I can’t really explain why (aside from nostalgia goggles). The fight music is repetitive and generic, the ominous soon-to-be-fight music is hardly more than ambient noise in minor keys, and the ambient city music is catchy but the same for every city.
When I started writing this post, I was convinced that the music themes for the cities was evidence of genius – now I’m torn between ‘genius’ and ‘hackneyed.’ Each city has a unique track on the soundtrack, and each of those is a unique cover of the same song.
Bowerstone has plucky strings playing the theme all in staccatos:
and Oakvale takes the waltz at a slow lilt with a flute and haunting strings:
It could be clever; I mean, it’s obvious just from the music that you’ve wandered into a safe place with everything you’d expect out of a town. That being said, I can’t tell the towns apart, and I feel like that might be important…? I’m still torn – I love the city theme, and I love hearing different adaptations of it, but part of me feels that if you’re giving each city a unique track, one should be able to tell them apart without study.
However, I’m not sure it matters. When playing the game, the soundtrack did exactly what it was meant to. It gave me cues for when I was safe or in danger, it built me up to be inspired and hacked away at my sanity to get me ready for the scary parts, and I can sing the theme even now, without having played the game in just under a decade. While the Fable OST may not be empirically “good,” it’s still my comfort food, and I’m happy with that.