The original Fable made a positive impression upon me when it was released back in 2004 and I consider it one of the best original Xbox games I ever played. Four years later we have Fable II arriving on Microsoftís Xbox 360 and with it I held high hopes that the sequel will be every bit as enjoyable, if not more so, than itís predecessor. Now, Iím a long way from finishing Fable II. This isnít a video game you can choke down in one intensive weekend. But I thought Iíd share some impressions of what Iíve enjoyed about the game so far.
It seems to me that a number of video game developers in recent years have forgotten that video games are meant to be fun. Challenging yes, but if the challenge isnít fun then whatís the point? After having my fill of recent video games that have made me want to rip my controller in half picking up and playing Fable II came as a welcome change of pace. This game is fun, I call it gamer friendly, and considering it contains about 100 hours of gameplay Iím glad Fable II has been designed to be this way.
Fable II is set 500 years after the original Fable and has no ties to itís predecessor. The setting is somewhere in and around an English 18th century in a region known as Albion. You begin the game choosing a male or female character after which you start the game in a small town as a poor little scamp of a kid roaming about with your older sister. After a few events that lay out the beginning of the gameís story your childhood ends and you find yourself as a young adult, a hero in the making, off on a quest for justice and adventure.
It didnít take long for me to fall under the particular charm of the game. The dialog and voice acting are particularly well done and I found myself actually interested in what various characters would say and felt no desire to skip through dialog to get to the point. Iím enjoying the fact that Fable II has what many RPGs seem to lack and thatís a healthy sense of humor. Though certainly youíll find the game has itís share of dark moments, overall I found the gameís lightheartedness quit amusing. As far as interacting with NPCs go I did feel they tended to come off a bit robotic when addressing you. They have a tendency to stare out blankly in your general direction as they speak their dialog and I kinda wished they spoke to me a little more directly. Even if you run away they still continue their dialog as if you were standing right in front of them. But itís a minor point. Overall interacting with characters is a delight, making the game more immersive.
Getting about your various quests is easily done as instead of a mini-map on your HUD you are given a glowing breadcrumb trail in front of you leading you in the direction you need to go. The trail can be turned on or off but I appreciated having it on as I never found myself wondering around asking myself ďWhere the hell is so and so.Ē Contrary as to what you might think the breadcrumb trail makes exploring off the beaten track more enjoyable as you know no matter how far you venture off the main quest path you can always find your way back on track. Aside from the breadcrumb trail you also have a quest map and the ability to instantly teleport to locations that you have previously visited.
Then there is the dog companion which youíll find a welcome addition to your travels. Though it tends to act a little spazztic (I actually was able to name him as ďSpazzĒ via a dog collar I picked up) the dog is none the less very helpful in sniffing out treasure, warning you of upcoming danger as well as tackling a grounded foe. You can abuse it or treat it like your best friend, I would recommend the latter as a happy healthy dog will bring you more fortune than not. You might think that the dog companion and the breadcrumb trail make the game a bit easy to play but really all it does is make the game more fun as it takes away the tedium of your adventuring.
Much like the original Fable game, but a little more advanced, you have a choice between a good or an evil path for your character. Either of which will change not only your physical appearance but how other characters will respond to you and the general world around you. Actions are judged through various scales not just as good or bad but also as pure or corrupt. It would appear to be bit of a novelty but there are many shades of grey where sometimes the seemingly ďbadĒ action is actually the better one in the long run and vis-versa. Making choices in these shades of grey is much of what makes this game so immersive and personalized for the player.
What Iím sure many will enjoy is the plethora of activities you can engage in Fable II giving you many roles to play in the game aside from your main heroic quest. For example you can buy living quarters, shops and taverns and earn income from them even when you are not playing the game. You can take odd jobs from towns folks like being a blacksmith or bartender or take on more adventurous pursuits like being a Bounty Hunter or Assassin. Owning and managing business gives you robust choices that effect the way other characters perceive you. For example as a corrupt and greedy landlord you could commit robberies around town that will lower property values and then turn around and scoop up these properties at a below value price and then raise the rents. Of course you wonít be making any friends that way but you will make a tidy profit which may help you in your overall quest. On the flip side you could own a shop and sell goods cheaply making you the town favorite, which could open up opportunities to you, but of course your subsequent profit margins will be quite low or non existent. Yet another example of just how Fable II gives you the opportunity to play the game in your own unique way.
Combat is simply executed but none the less fun. One button for short range melee, one for long range attacks with a pistol or bow, and one button to unleash magic spells. Highlight the target you want to hit and off you go dispatching enemies one after another with grace and some cool looking animations. Defeating foes gives you experience points you can use to buff up your character in various areas from being more hardy in combat to increased magic abilities. Note that Lionhead had done away with player death, get knocked out and you will be revived on the spot with only a loss of experience points. All in all I enjoyed the simplicity of combat as well as the variation of weapons and magic spells. The combat was still challenging even though you canít die and frankly with so many hours of gameplay ahead of me Iím glad to not have to redo any areas.
Graphically Fable II stays true to the original Fable in style. Characters get a slight upgrade in polygon count for the sequel but nothing to make you ohh and ahhh. Where the game looks noticeable improved is in the beautiful and expansive environments. Fable II, in itís own style, is a really beautiful game to adventure around in. Which is not to say itís all pretty vistas as some areas a quit dark and foreboding. The variety, artwork and rendering is what I really liked.
Again there is so much to do and experience in Fable II that itís probably the most robust RPG Iíve ever played. I mean how many RPGs give you the option to cohort with prostitutes (donít forget to bring a condom, and no Iím not kidding) or woo a suitable companion, get her (or yourself) pregnant, and start a family? The time and effort put into Fable II shows in spades. Iíll mention quickly that there is an option for online Co-Op but Iíve yet to try it out. Apparently the second player merely acts as a henchmen and itís not as involved as one would have hoped. Still itís an option available to you if you care to bring a friend along in your travels.
Well I got many, many more hours of this game to go play through but I feel capable of saying at this point that if you are into action-RPGs then Fable II should more than satisfy you.