Name: Fable II
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: Xbox 360
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but games like Fable II make me wish I wasn’t a game reviewer. It makes me envious of gamers who will be able to spend time with it, finding all of the treasure, exploring every inch of the world, truly taking advantage of the game in the way it was meant to be played. Fable II has been hyped as a game that allows players to do anything, and it isn’t. There is a huge amount of content in the title, and it manages to live up to its hype much better than the original did, but it is still short of what it could have been and falls victim to its own aspirations.
Fable II’s story isn’t its strong point, taking place hundreds of years after the original story, which has become a fable itself. Players start off as a small child who is attempting to purchase a magical box to grant a wish, and needs to go around the town completing different jobs to collect gold. Each job has a good and evil option, and the choices made here show dramatic differences once the plot proceeds, moving ten years into the future.
There are several sections in the game that follow similarly, and the Hero is offered several choices for each quest. Depending on the Hero’s choices, people react differently to them, and their appearance changes depending on how good or evil they are. Good Heroes let out a holy aura and gain blue, glowing streaks on their skin. Evil Heroes grow devilish horns and their eyes glow red with hatred. Fable II doesn’t know much about subtlety, but it is fun to see the changes as the choices are made.
While the plot isn’t very impressive, the world of Albion and the journey of the Hero becomes a story within itself. Players are given the option to get married, have children, buy and sell property, and complete dozens of side quests. Not unlike The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Fable II’s side missions and subplots are more important than its actual narrative, and there is so much to do it’s easy to forget about vengeance or protecting the world. These don’t tie into the game as much as they should, and if they weren’t built so deeply into the game, most of them would feel tacked on. They don’t usually blend together with the rest of the game, and a sense of cohesion is missing.
The visuals are wonderful, bringing an entirely magical world of Albion to life. Albion is a unique fantasy world, straying away from elves, goblins and dwarves in favor of dark, crass humor. Prostitutes roam the streets telling awful jokes, dark cults proposition passerbys to eat baby chicks, and cross dressers wander around with sandbags falling out of their bustiers. The voice acting brings the characters to life, giving even the most insignificant child a unique and wonderful voice. It feels and looks like a fairy tale brought to life, with beautiful graphics and a stylized, Tim Burton feel to it.
Online and offline cooperative play isn’t exactly as expected. Players aren’t able to jump into friend’s titles and fight side by side with their own heroes. Instead, they are able to join as a henchman, and share a camera with the main character to play through the different quests. It’s complete cooperative play, so that’s true, and you’re able to retain experience and gold received during these sessions, but it isn’t as advertised. What does succeed expectations are the “Player Orbs,” which are floating visages of players or friends in their own, single player games. Heroes close to each other can chat and gift each other items, choosing to join each other’s games. It’s an extremely innovative feature that could and should be applied to a wide range of games, and should help keep the world feeling like a growing, living place.
There are three schools of combat, pulling from Strength, Skill, and Will. Strength relies on brute force and melee weapons, giving the Hero more combos and powerful attacks. Skill is ranged combat, increasing damage dealt and allowing for the Hero to target specific parts of the enemy. Will taps into the magic in the game, with eight different magical spells, which can be upgraded several times and can be cast as area of affect and targeted. They are mapped to the three face buttons, and can be quickly swapped between on the fly. Creating a character to focus on any one of them or dabbling in each can create a very fleshed out character, and each provides a unique experience.
Different gear can be found and bought, but the game really feels like it could have used more options. There are different types of weapons and clothing, but none are too varied and they only come in a few types. More types of equipment might have helped, as well as possibly adding armor to the sequel, because the different stats added from clothing and weapons are extremely limited. Characters are also stuck with certain looks that they begin the game with, and in a game like Fable II it seems pretty dumb to start with a generic looking Hero.
There are some glitches to deal with, but none really take away from the game too much. An entourage of citizens, asking for an autograph or wedding ring, will follow popular characters but they cannot be walked through, and will oftentimes block doorways or alleys. Enemies will also glitch through walls or get stuck after being knocked down, and the “Breadcrumb Trail,” which shows a golden path towards the next objective, will often take time to update, sending the Hero on the wrong path. A better map would make this a non-issue, but the game's navigation is problematic.
I’d love to be able to buy every building in every city, be named King Chickenchaser, and run around naked, reenacting The Emperor's New Clothes. I’d like to try and play through it several different times, seeing exactly how far the game’s borders can be stretched, and how much different it can really be. I can’t do that; I need to play the game as much as I can in a short amount of time, take a critical look at it and compare it to dozens of other games, and move on to the next big thing. Fable II is a game that should be enjoyed by gamers, no matter when they get a chance to play it, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. There’s plenty of content, and even though the actual story is only ten to twelve hours long, there are dozens of more hours of content in the game on each play.