Fable II is an action oriented role playing game where the player’s action decide their character’s alignment and fate.
Release Date: October 21, 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360
JustRPG Score: 95%
-Did not deliver what was promised
Fable 2 Overview
Fable 2 is an action role-playing game that truly allows players to live the life they choose in an unimaginably open world environment. Set 500 years after the original, Fable 2 will provide gamers with an epic story and innovative real-time gameplay, including a massive amount of freedom and choice to explore a vast collection of dungeons, catacombs and caves in the world of Albion.
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Fable 2 Review
In the run up to the release of Fable II’s prequel, betwixt those heady press conferences and pre-release interviews, things were promised about Fable that saw it receive a behemoth volume of hype. To put the hype for Fable as it was back in 2002/2003 into some kind of perspective for the layman, games the like of Halo 3, GTA IV and any number of Final Fantasy titles can only come close to appreciating the response in gaming press and associated fan sites and forums that Fable accomplished. We were talking a legend, guaranteed stellar success, before the fabulous disc even went gold.
The thing about hype, especially when it gathers pace like the proverbial snowball come avalanche as it did for Fable, is that the erstwhile gamer generally does expect some of what is offered up into the ether of promises from marketing gurus in the press junkets to actually materialise. For many gamers, this reviewer counted amongst their number, this failed to happen in more than just a small way. Whilst it wasn’t a disastrous, or for that matter even a bad game, Fable really was a victim of its hype, and ultimately a game that failed to add up to the sum of its parts. But let us not dwell too much on the past, because unlike for the first game, its successor Fable II, has managed more than adequately to balance its promised features list into a game play experience that’s sublime in almost every way.
In not atypical fashion, your journey begins in the child-steps of the protagonist, Sparrow, whose feet and sword you will guide as he makes his very literal mark upon the world. What immediately becomes apparent is the fastidious care that Lionhead Studios has taken to ensure any of the rivets that may have come loose in the creation of Fable have not only stayed firm in the creation of this rendition of Albion, but have been utilised to fullest effect to ensure not only high-calibre production values, but a game play system that is one of the most immersive this reviewer has seen in many a year.
From earliest initiations in guiding Sparrow, the rule set of this world, with the opportunities of character development, combat, adventures, and shocks and surprises, the player is literally sucked in, dragged if you like (in a pleasant way of course), into an immersive experience that becomes valued by experienced gamer and newcomer alike. Whether it’s the classic tale, crafted here in a manner that avoids cliché, or small touches, such as a dog which soon attaches itself to Sparrow whose presence soon becomes a most integral and rewarding part of the experience. Obviously, the classic good vs. evil options which you are able to select to guide the development of your character play a large part in setting this game apart from others, but the intuitive evolution of control makes this a game that really does appeal to all.
The world of Albion as realised in Fable II is a gorgeously rendered one, and as you embark on your crusade, each corner of the world that unravels before you is as equally crafted and invocative of curiosity as that which you have played through. Revisiting these sections of the world likewise is a rewarding activity, and one which genuinely can serve up different rewards. Whether it be via a new job which is opened up to your character, a change in economic balance, a spouse with a positive mood swing, or additional quests/sub-quests which unravel even more of this rich tapestry, the world is truly immersive and drives the player to dive in further as much as you yourself will want to do so.
The number of optional, purposeful, diversions available almost make this game fully sandbox. Not that there aren’t purposeless diversions also. There are certain restrictions however, hardly worth touching upon for the sake of fault-finding, but these are barely noticeable.
There is a combat system so simple in implementation, with literally a single button to press to effect a sword-swing, and likewise for magic and ranged weaponry, with similar combinations of buttons opening up in natural and effective manner for additional abilities as the game unfolds and your character’s abilities grow. This adds to the feeling of control over a character that will likewise grow and change physically, and to the reactions of the denizens of this world as he battles for righteousness or selfish advances. The skills are accumulated following battles, in which you collect experience in the form of physical coloured baubles from your defeated opponents, each of which represents a skill tree. Over time, as you build up these points, skill options are unlocked and become available for you to train. There is a great deal of flexibility available here should someone wish to dabble. Personally, I focused on a mix of physical attributes, mixed with a heavy mix of scorching fire-based magical action. Lots of fun taking on swathes of hollow-men whilst charging up area effects, scorching fire spells, and unleashing furious waves of flame against a desiccated undead enemy: priceless.
The path down which your character chooses to walk as regards to, shall we say for lack of a better word, their karmic predispositions can and will affect how you are represented. Physical changes that will affect your character’s development can include blatantly demonic atavism, scarred skin with red ember-like eyes, or can likewise see angelic features bless your physique. Whilst no huge surprise for those familiar to this two-title series, the changes still make a pleasant addition to this title, especially as regards the gluttonous aspects of your character’s diet, and more so when such features become apparent in your canine companion. As you make progress in the game, the addition of your dog to the game really makes an interesting feature, and is implemented in a fun and relevant manner. Skills you can learn to utilise your dog to great effect include using him as a treasure detector, a vehicle to finish-off your enemies, or a trick-maker – all of which can have a genuine impact on the game. In other games, the inclusion of a pet as such would’ve likely been a hindrance, but in Fable II, it’s a well integrated tool that makes the game even more appealing.
As for how you choose to make an impact on the game world, in terms of story as well as physical impact through interactions with characters and property, this is literally up to you. In my play through this world, I chose to go to dark-side fairly early on, and with ruthless endeavour made sure that all and sundry would quake before me. Except, that is, for my lovable companion, Rex. He received many a tickle and treat, and never a bad word or action against him. And for most of my four (at current count) wives, they too received fair treatment until it became time for us to part ways, which by fair means or foul, meant that I had something to keep an eye on other than ensuring the next big-bad (or big-good) was kept from getting in my way.
The quests vary in flavour, as to jobs and sub-quests, and even community service, should you find yourself on the wrong end of a guardsman’s sword for any number of indiscretions (including purposefully trying to put guardsmen on the end of your own blade).
The main storyline can be played through in probably 10-12 hours (a pleasant alternative given that the main story of Fable could be completed in under 4 hours). However, it is quite certain that you will find yourself far more wanting to play through and enjoy the numerous additions that the game has to offer. To give an idea of how much the game sucks you in, this reviewer found himself playing through for 18 straight hours on the second main day of owning the game (having picked it up from the store on a Friday evening and managed just a brief few hours of play). That’s 18 straight hours without really dipping a toe into the main quest sidelines offered up, or really accomplishing any great feats (as my gamer score could attest to the editor). Whilst I like to game, I really haven’t engaged in clocking that number of hours without a break on a video game since my early days of Everquest. And even then, most of those hours in EQ were probably spent on corpse retrievals before camping for the evening. Oh, what good times.
So it was in clichéd fashion that I branded my mark upon the innocents of Albion. There was the odd chance, as I moved from one town to another, to try and change my ways, which was something I tried, but in typical me fashion, it wasn’t until I was quite near the end of the game that I actually tried doing things that weren’t evil. So how was it as an evil person? It was quite cool, though obviously there were moments of guilt, especially the time when I accidentally (and I do mean accidentally) killed all three of my wives, whom I had managed to move into houses next to each other in a street off of Bowerstone market, being one of the first towns where you set foot, and regularly return to through the course of the game. Not only does Fable II let you marry, which has its own set of quaint customs and ceremonies with certain acts and influences to be made before your marriage can be consecrated, but it also lets you end that relationship should you so choose. Or should your partner so choose.
There are turning points that you reach when embarking upon the main quest – signifying marker places for decisions to be taken that affect the world in a more dramatic fashion than you may be used to. At each of such points, and there are several, you are given clear warning that you should get any affairs in order before moving on. Usually after each of these an event has occurred which does change the world and progression of the story, but never to the point that you are really removed from your world. Your properties will remain, had you invested in any, and reputation likewise may taint the world, or not, depending on how your actions have affected the attitudes of the people of Albion toward you.
Though adding a physical marker of sorts in the sandbox world in which you have set up home for what will likely be a considerable time, they don’t actually remove the element of control from the player of the game, but rather assuage your fears that things might happen that are outside of your control. And so is reinforced the feeling that Albion really is your world, and for the duration of your Fable II playing time, it is a world that this reviewer felt compelled to spend more and more time exploring and enjoying.
And that’s one of the great appeals of Fable II – it has great appeal across gamers, from casual gamer to newbie, to the hardcore completist. There’s something for all here. Fable II will prove popular to almost any gamer. This was apparent for me when my wife watched me play – curious about the game, about the four-legged tail-wagging friend who accompanied my character on his journeys – she was even astute enough to pick up on the fact that his eyes seemed to be glowing red after I’d been playing the game for a good few hours. This from someone who really doesn’t ever care about any kind of video games being played, but took an interest in Fable II because it looked (and is) so different and thus attracts attention from third parties wandering near when the game is played.
After I’d been playing Fable II for around 30 hours, having pursued numerous goals across Albion, from chopping wood in Oakfield and corrupting innocent barmaids in Bowerstone, to digging for treasure around Bower Lake and slaying a few bandits in Rookridge… well, you get the idea. After this time I returned to Bowerstone market. I had spent two-thirds of the game here being relatively evil. I genuinely lost count of the number of guards I had slain, initially to drive property prices down, and afterwards because, well, why not. However, after having committed a few more admirable deeds, and running around displaying the trophies of said deeds as proof of my reformed character, the inhabitants of the town responded positively (as is their wont when a hero does such a thing) and began to warm to me. That is, they didn’t all start running away from me as they had done previously with fear in their hearts. As the crowd cloyed around me, various comments were heard. One which stood out was one I had not heard in the game previously. It was from a small girl in the crowd and best summed up Fable II. “My big brother says that role-playing games are for children and geeks”.
Tongue-in-cheek as this comment is, thanks to Molyneaux and the team at Lionhead, this role-playing game definitely has much greater appeal. What a beautifully crafted, immersive game experience in the action/immersion-RPG ilk Fable II is. At times touching, at others amusing, but always, vaguely brilliant.
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