Fable II is one the years most anticipated releases in all of gaming. Following the highly successful and scrutinized Xbox original, Fable II sets its standards high above the realm of the common game. Blending storytelling, real-time action and impressive artificial intelligence, Fable II introduces a world of wonder and amazement.
Lionhead Studio’s Fable II is one of the big hitters when it comes to Xbox 360 exclusive titles. Aside from Gears of War 2, Fable II is a game that Xbox 360 fanboys can be proud to call their own. Showcasing the versitility of the hardware and the talent from associated developer Lionhead Studios, Fable II is poised to make an impact on the world of gaming. The original Fable was hit on the original Xbox; however it came with a lot of scrutiny wiith the amount of unkept promises from Lionhead's creative designer, Peter Molyneux. Peter has toned down the PR when talking about Fable this time around, but that hasn't stop gamers from going wild when thinking about what Fable II is, or could be. Well, the wondering is over as Fable II has been released across North America. Like the original Fable, the reception has garnered a wide spectrum of responses from all over-the-map. From high praise, to complaints, it seems people have a strong opinion when discussing Fable II. So let’s see, how Fable II rates up against this Fable fan.
Your first choice
Loading up Fable II prompts the player to pick their gender, a welcomed change, or should I say choice, that wasn't an option in the original Fable. Lionhead has introduced the female gender as a playable lead character which takes on all the same responsibilities as the male hero. Picking a female, or male character doesn’t change in any major ways besides the game besides the obvious cosmetics. For this review, I have started two characters one Male character which I’ve kept as the “good” character, and a Female vixen that has taken on the role of the “evil-doer” After your gender preference has been selected you are transported into the world of Fable II, the fictional world of Albion.
Life as a pauper
The introduction to Fable II sets your player in the young shoes of a young homeless child nicknamed Sparrow who lives with his, or her older sister. As children you explore a small section of Bowerstone, a town within Albion, dreaming of escaping the life of a poverty-stricken pauper. Without spoiling the plot, you manage to escape the dulling life of the streets, but not without a price. Fable II lets you explore life and make dynamic game altering choices before you whisked way and return as an adult ready to take on an epic challenge and becomes the hero of the Fable II universe. Fable II is an epic tale that has bounces back and forth between being dull and predictable, to fantastically entertaining and endearing.
This introduction to your hero is set up as a simple tutorial and an important tool to show you the impact of choices in Fable II. Like the original game, this sequence doesn’t last overly long or let you grow into being a full grown adult. In the begging of the game this section felt a little forced in order to show the full range of dynamics in the storytelling, however in retrospect I appreciate the glimpse and extra touch that went into developing the plot. It’s all part of the Fable charm that seems to hit you a little after the action in the game has passed you by. Numerous times I would think about event long after it happened. For a game to provoke any thoughts that lasts longer then actually event is a minor accomplishment on its own.
In the world of Fable II as an adult you are free to explore the world and follow any plot developments you wish. Along with the main quest, side mission open up along with a new focus on real estate of all things and working at jobs. This brings Fable II down from an action RPG into Sim like world which might be too much for gamers who are only looking to bash heads. Personally I enjoyed playing the job mini-games like woodcutting and bartending as I built my empire on purchase at a time. Fable II has its own miniature economic infrastructure that runs own it own, without or without your contribution. The world of Albion feels alive with real people working jobs and living their individual’s lives.
Fable II might not dig as deep as Bethesda’s Oblivion, but it does an excellent job giving the illusion of a real working world. In a domino effect your actions will affect the general public from small actions like playing the lute for a group of children, or committing a major crime against another member in the town. This marks another achievement in Fable II which might be the main reasons to praise the game. In Fable II it feels like your existence means something in the games artifical world. As your progress through the game your stories reach each end of the map and your likeness is a talked about amongst the inhabitants of the world. It's really interesting to watch the game develop and to see how people interact with you after the diffrent stages in the game.
A certian shade of gray
Fable II also addresses the complaint that the original was to obvious in its decisions to be good or evil by making more shades of gray. Your characters personality development is ranked between good and evil, and corruption and purity. Every decisions has an outcome that will start to show in your outward appearance along with how people interact with you in the game world. These choices aren't only limited to the big moments in the game, even the most miniscule detail like eating meat instead of farm grown produce all have effect on your characters personality. If you’re evil then people will make negative comments towards you, cowl away from you in city streets. Good characters share a different reaction with an over abundance of love and respect from others with your character been mauled in the streets. Both sides have their plus sides which make testing the boundaries more fun. Like my own personal game(s), I suggest you experiment and try out each extreme. The results are interesting and unlike any other game on the market.
Dialog interaction is handled by an iconic tree called the expression wheel, or more quickly with a limited selection of choices on the d-pad. The expression wheel brings up five different choices (rude, scary, social, fun, and flirty) that you can interact with. Each choice brings up a sub-menu of choices that can garner different reactions depending on the NPCs personality. New expressions are learnt through books or through general playing of the game. Each choice gets a different reaction from different NPCs depending on their personality. To find out what other characters like you can highlight them and pull up their personality by pressing “Y”. There are slider bars for the impression on your character along with their personality type and sexual orientation.
It’s good habit to pull this up when trying to get something out an NPCs so you can use the appropriate expression. Beyond annoying the public or making them love you, you can also have some sexual encounters with whichever sex you want, and play around with reactions with the various character types in the game. Compared to the original Fable, Fable II has progressed by leaps and bounds, but it still doesn’t feel completely natural. At times it feels like you’re not interacting you are only working to move sliders around on their characters. Thankfully, there is so much to play around with you might not notice you’re not totally connecting with others in the world. It all seems a little shallow and self absorbed which could be said for real life as well. All in all, the expression wheel is a good innovation that is seems to be on the right path.
The combat in Fable II has been dumbed down to make it accessible for all levels of gamers. This leads Fable II to use a one button mechanic for battling. This isn’t reduced to a single button, but three buttons mapped out for your main options, melee combat, ranged combat and magic. Later on in the game you can develop each area in more depth which opens up the game to more advanced moves like paring, improved aiming and more powerful magic. At first I didn’t totally agree with Lionhead’s choice to make a little less in-depth, however by the end of the game it was such a minor detail that it didn’t matter. I think this choice was a good one in the end and might grant Fable II a few more gamers who don’t like being overwhelmed with controls. Fable 1 wasn’t too deep in the first place, so it’s not a huge step. The spells are the real gem in Fable II which have an expanded list of powers that come off like a half-baked Jedi. I mainly played as a brutal warrior, or a sniper, but a good balance is needed to make the most out of the many combat situations that arise.
Those orbs are purdy
Experience points are handled by defeating enemies or using certain foods and potions. The experience actually falls out of enemies and objects like little orbs (someone’s been playing Crackdown). These orbs which falls in four areas of the characters development need to be collected by holding down the right trigger. The orbs are separated in correspondence with the combat, melee, ranged, will (magic) and green orbs act as a general points that be used with any other point. Improving your melee can strengthen your character and give bonus to combat and health. Ranged improves you prowess with a gun including your reload speed and damage. Which quickens your magic casting time, damage and level of skill. This system is interesting and a little light compared to other role-playing games. I didn’t mind the orb idea, as it presented a new orb collecting challenge during combat. In the future Fable II could use a little more depth in other generalized area like speed, strength, charisma... but until then this weight watchers RPG works fine.