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Fable 2
Fable 2

Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing Players: 1 (2 Online)
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Classification: TBC
Fable 2

Genre: Role Playing
Players: 1 (2 Online)
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Classification: TBC
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Fable 2 Review
Review By @ 01:05pm 27/10/08
There's no real mincing of words here. No overly long intro talking about Molyneux and Lionhead's long overdue delivery on their years and years of promises. Just a very comfortable sigh of "they did it". Fable II is very much all it was promised to be, and then some. Like so many other ambitious games and concepts, it's far from perfect and has many, many issues, but what it gets right, it does so affectionately and addictively its pitfalls seem more like necessary bumps in the road, or at least bearable eye-sores in an otherwise perfectly picturesque landscape.

Right out of the box Fable II gets it right. There's nothing overly grandiose: a simple image of a forest and snowfield sitting side-by-side, juxtaposing the extremes you're going to find within, yet each representative of change, and the potential to (equally).

"And so our story begins," chimes the enchanting voice of our soon-to-be narrator as you're tasked with choosing your sex. Like the first Fable, you'll begin your virtual life as a virtual child; living in the impoverished slums of Bowerstone with your sister.

There are many immediate similarities in gameplay to the Legend of Zelda series, but it's also immediately clear the Lionhead fantasy opus wants to take things in a far more serious and mature manner. You might begin life as a child, but that doesn't mean the world isn't instantly threatening or dangerous, and it's upon hearing one of Bowerstone's shadier denizens essentially proposition your sister for some form of sexual employment, right at the game's outset, this maturity is brought home.

The first half an hour or so of gameplay is based around collecting bits and pieces for hapless citizens in order to earn five gold pieces. You need five gold pieces so you and your sister can buy an ancient music box to make a wish. This is all pretty easy, but also initially introduces you to the game's dynamic decision-making element. It's not entirely prevalent throughout as you may have first thought (or hoped), but the decisions with consequence found are major enough (and wide-spreading) that I can see why they [Lionhead] opted for only a handful of these as opposed to too much. Besides with a game-world as big and lush as this, there would just be too much work in creating the dynamism needed to justify far-reaching decisiveness.

Once you've completed your early quest and made the first of your seemingly harmless decisions, the music box is yours and it's time to make a wish. I'm not spoiling anything here, but wish made you end up in the grand halls of the castle to meet the lonely king, Lucien. Clearly not everything is as dreamy as your sister wants it to be and a terrible turn of events turns time forward and soon enough you're beginning the game proper, as a young adult.

Wiping the Fable slate clean (so to speak), has allowed Lionhead to re-invision their vision of the game-world. It has also allowed for plenty of throwback elements to the original in the form of setting and narrative.

For the uninitiated, Fable 2 is set some 500 years after the first game. The Guild of Heroes is but a distant memory, relived now as mere bed-time stories for children. What this means is stature plays a very important role throughout. You are most definitely one of the fabled Heroes of old, but for the average citizen in the world of Albion, calling yourself thus is not really enough. With this in mind you need to raise your Renown which is done by completing specific quests; be it rescuing slaves from bandit camps, killing certain bandits, winning the Crucible (a gladiator-style event), or completing main story arcs, you'll be rewarded with specific Renown points. You can, however, trounce about town and simply show off your trophies to anyone who will pay attention, and doing so will give you a small dose, but a dose nonetheless.

Your fame is also dictated very heavily by your actions. There are two synergetic gameplay parts to Fable 2. On the one-hand you have a reasonably solid third-person adventure title with role-playing elements, and on the other you have a Sims-like fantasy life simulator. Both feed off each other (though awkwardly at times), but equally remain separate enough neither needs to constantly rely on the other to exist. It's a precarious balance, and one that at times seems incredible in vision and execution and others clumsy and unwarranted. But overall the game - without one or the other - would be lost and pointless and it's in this required synergy Fable 2 manages to sweep you off your feet, despite at times not *quite* feeling right.

The Voices of Fable 2

There are some very famous voices floating around the Fable 2 game-world, including the likes of the pictured Stephen Fry (Blackadder, Fry and Laurie), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club, Sweeney Todd), Ron Glass (Serenity, Firefly) and Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).

It's an all-English cast, too which makes the game's setting just that much easier to swallow.
All of this means there's a deeply open game-world here to explore. Whether it's seeking out the hidden corners of the immediate environment for that next treasure chest or hidden cave, or planting the seeds of life through marriage and its subsequent consummation - there's always something to do in Fable 2. And as with the first game, you can make good-hearted decisions and wickedly evil ones.

Your appearance will change based on elements like this, as well as other factors such as food (eat too much fatty food or drink too much booze and you'll gain weight). Moreover, in keeping with the dynamic nature of the game, being too fat will likely make you less attractive to the opposite (or same, if that's how you swing) sex (though there are definitely those out there in the land of Albion who don't mind a bit of meat on the bones).

While it might sound complicated, the social element of the game is fairly easy to manage. You can pretty much please everyone by performing a few gestures, and finding out what each person wants you to do is as simple as bringing up a quick manifest of their likes and dislikes (you also learn their sexual orientation and can even rename them if you like). Of course the potential to be an absolute ass to everyone is also there, and while I find it hard to be a "Nobhead" personally (you'll actually gain that title if you act accordingly), I have watched some people run about town killing, maiming and being rude to everyone they come across.

Ultimately though, the dynamic nature of the game-world has no real adverse effect on the one true story you need to play through in order to 'finish' the game. There are benefits and downsides to the sort of person you can become, to be sure, but you can't strictly change the main arc based on your decisions. Gaming is a long way off before that can happen (Fallout 3 comes close, though), and until that day, Fable 2's social dynamism will have to suffice.

Beyond the social gameplay, the action/RPG constituent of Fable 2 is also fairly ambitious in its attempt to become utterly accessible. Upon receiving my review copy of the game I was also given a cover-letter from Mr Molyneux himself, asking above all else to "find somebody who doesn't play games, watch them play and see how their world turns out". He asks this because of the dynamic world you can shape (clearly), but also because everything has been simplified so just about anyone can play. However, the simple stuff has a steep edge to it that rewards experienced players. We've talked about this stuff in the past, but I'll refresh quickly here, because for the most part it is good, but I think does lack overall as a result of Lionhead biting of more than they can chew so we don't have to chew too much.

There are three forms of attack in Fable 2; melee, ranged and magic. Each of these is respectively assigned to X, Y and B for ease of use (with the exception of magic, which has a slightly deeper control element). And equally, you can assign spells or enhance each one through accrued experience points.

You gain XP through direct combat, and depending what facet you use at your disposal will dispel the most in value. So, if you prefer to get up close and personal, you're going to gain more melee/strength XP. If you'd rather pick off enemies from afar with your ranged weapon, you'll gain more ranged XP, and of course the same applies to magic.

It's an interesting idea that works quite well, especially when you learn that the game rewards you for stringing them all together in combat with percentage bonuses based on your use of them individually and in combination.

There's also a deliberate rhythm strewn into combat. So button mashers aren't going to earn as much as someone who utilises a gained flourish through well-timed button taps, and it's in this simple concept the game is supposed to separate the gamers from the non. Unfortunately I just don't think this has ultimately created a truly rewarding system for the experienced out there.

It's incredibly easy to understand the rhythm and three skill combat strings, and once you've nailed it, combat throughout is really only challenging by overwhelming numbers (though all you need then is to cast a level four Raise the Dead spell alongside a Slow Time spell and you're all set).

The system is definitely true to one promise: it is completely accessible for the non-gamer types out there. But in saying that I can see how someone who really has no idea what they're doing becoming really, really bored with it (especially because it could also seem overwhelming if they have no grasp on purchasing and using the myriad of spells available).

There are other gripes, too. While the promise of being able to go anywhere you can see is pretty true, there are still annoying invisible walls and ridiculous fences and barricades you can't cross, even though just a bit further up the road there's another fence about the same size you can totally Vault. Throughout the massive game-world this element rears its inconsistent and annoying head, and can actually lead you to begin to ignore the otherwise very rewarding exploratory aspect of the game.

Though, speaking of exploration, another major issue I have with Fable 2 is its otherwise useless map system.

There's a map to check out, but no option to zoom or anything - a single map page ala The Legend of Zelda (and so many other titles of this nature) - especially given the size of the game-world - would have definitely been a welcome inclusion. Moreover, managing your dog, social responses and quests through the D-pad might have seemed like a good idea to Lionhead, but I found it can actually be really annoying when it doesn't correspond to what you'd prefer to do. Being able to manually create your own social shortcuts (because you'll invariably have favourites), dog action or the like with a far more responsive context-sensitive use of the A-button (for digging, etc) makes a lot more sense.

Beyond these annoying nuances, there's also the problem with a technology that falls somewhat short of a clear goal. The game-world, in art-direction and scope, is stunningly crafted, but there's a hell of a lot of pop-up, and I've encountered my fair share of glitches and crashes (at one point my dog was just floating aimlessly around and I couldn't interact with anyone). I've also found the overall animations of most of the game's characters (me, included), just really simple and archaic. I realise there are many, many NPCs filling a pretty huge game-world, but beyond personalities, I would have preferred to see a bit more love injected into character movements and actions.

All that said though, there's an intense amount of freedom available to players with all the world of Albion has to offer. You could spend hours attempting to decode all the Demon doors or hunt down all the Gargoyle heads. You could equally spend hours wooing all the ladies in the land; working towards that ever-rewarding goal of taking more than one to bed with you ("The Swinger", I believe, is the name of the 5G Achievement you'll unlock).

You can set a wife at each end of every town and just work towards keeping them happy (and apart from each other), or you could forget the family component altogether and just roam the land in search of Silver Keys to open the Silver Key chests (each with a number of Silver Keys required to open them).

There's also plenty of digging to be done once you've taught your dog to hunt for buried treasures, as well as countless generic chests with hidden goodies strewn about the land, if treasure-hunting is your thing. But if none of that tickles your fancy why not join a cult, invest in property or take up gainful employment (I hear Bowerstone is looking for able blacksmiths and bartenders)?

There really is just so much to check out and do here you're bound to find something that will keep you glued to the screen, and at the time of writing this review I've logged close to 20 hours, with almost half of all Achievements unlocked and still feel like there's so much more in store for me.

At its core, Fable 2 delivers on its promise of freedom and dynamically-shifting gameplay. You'll find various decisions with long-term effects throughout your journey as well as a fairly straight-forward but well managed story to sink your teeth into. And if you're tired of following the ever-present glowing breadcrumb trail (actually, you can turn it off), Fable 2 offers countless options of a social, near simulation spin on life as an Albion Hero among the people.

It's by no means a perfect game, but it comes pretty close in terms of living up to its original vision, and you'll definitely find it hard to put down.

What we liked
  • A rich and diverse game-world to truly live in
  • Dymanically changing social element based on various in-game decisions
  • Huge world to explore
  • You can become a swinger!
  • Certain gameplay decisions have definitive consequences once made
What we didn't like
  • Technology seems short of the original vision for the game
  • A dedicated map page is desperately needed
  • Context sensitive actions aren't used to their fullest
  • No manual use of the D-Pad for social, dog or quest interactions
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 06:49pm 27/10/08
Did you come accross many bugs? It seems very unpolished and rushed to me. Theres the annoying little things like my dog getting stuck somewhere and not following me anywhere, and my family randomly and spontaneously deciding they hate me and want to get divorced, through to the gamestopper when I got to the temple of light and the Abbot's quest bugged out on me, essentially killing my game and preventing me from progressing any furthur. I restarted, but I don't know if I can be bothered playing through and redoing all the stuff I'd already done, just to get potentially struck down by another showstopping bug and have it all count for nothing.

Another one I haven't personally experienced, but someone at work did, if your friend starts a new game and you jump into his game while hes still in the childhood phase to help out, your character will lose all its experience, all its abilities, and all your money.
Posted 08:36pm 27/10/08
I remember the days when bugs in console games was sacrilege and would be banished, or at least slammed in reviews for it.
I heard from a few people about minor bugs but not to the extent Khel experienced (though I think his family hating him might not be a bug) :P

I'm still bitter because they haven't released it on PC and my 360 was stolen ><
Posted 08:59pm 27/10/08
It doesn't look like my type of game but the trailer on the 360 looks pretty damn good.
Posted 02:01am 28/10/08
(though I think his family hating him might not be a bug)

Well I didn't treat them particularly well :P But yeah theres a bug that sets the budget you've put aside to give your family down to zero and makes them hate you, even if you realise whats happening and go and put the budget back up, it reverts to zero.

Also another crazy family related bug (not that I've personally seen, but that I read about), if you move your family from one house to another, sometimes instead of moving it clones your family so you end up with two families, one in each house. If the two houses are in the same city, you end up only seeing 1 family in the menu even though you now have two, and the second one will start hating you and eventually divorce you because you're never around and never pay them any attention (even though you never even knew they existed).

Also, what is with all the 360's being stolen in melbourne? You are like the third person I know of down here who's had their 360 stolen recently. Is there some underground xbox 360 black market in melbourne or something?
Posted 09:27am 29/10/08

It is Dominos's Scam!

He asks if anyone has a new 360.. Gives them a cheapy game and tracks down their house and ROBS them!

last edited by Tollaz0r! at 09:27:14 29/Oct/08
Posted 11:06am 28/10/08
im yet to experience any of the bugs mentioned.
if anything my game experience has been quite enjoyable.
Posted 02:40pm 28/10/08

Fallout 3 > Fable 2

Its the feel, its out today, must have. Insane.
Posted 03:08pm 28/10/08
Sorry out Oct 31st - 3 days my bad
Posted 03:11pm 28/10/08
The Fallout official site says Europe and Australia on the 30th :(
Posted 04:06pm 28/10/08

Available: October 31st, 2008
This game will unlock in approximately 3 days and 12 hours - I don't think it would change for Australia ... Ok Saturday for Australia?
Posted 04:17pm 28/10/08
I remember the days when bugs in console games was sacrilege and would be banished, or at least slammed in reviews for it.
They just release patches now.
Posted 04:53pm 28/10/08
Oh well, EB are currently offering $85 to trade in Fable 2, and since I only paid $79 for it at JB when I bought it, I actually made a profit when I traded it in towards Fallout 3.
Posted 05:01pm 28/10/08
JB HIFI have Fallout 3 Advertised for $79 For sale on 31st.

So be sure to get that trade in price Khel.
Posted 06:12pm 28/10/08
They just release patches now.

i sure hope you mean on CD/DVD/BLUERAY because i sure as hell wouldnt allow some d******* proprietary company to control whats going on with my console. at least on pcs you have firewalls and can usually stop things like steam feeding off any damn server it wants.

the only update i trust is an update thats open enough for me to get instructions on how i can install it myself and it isnt a one click 'click here to update your xbox' which also disables all the great mods and homebrew i've got running etc, which it did NOT tell me it was about to do.
Posted 08:46pm 28/10/08
the only update i trust is an update thats open enough for me to get instructions on how i can install it myself and it isnt a one click 'click here to update your xbox' which also disables all the great mods and homebrew i've got running etc, which it did NOT tell me it was about to do.
so... you don't run windows and only run open source software?!
Posted 09:26pm 28/10/08
because i sure as hell wouldnt allow some d******* proprietary company to control whats going on with my console.
Heh, what the hell. That's the way it's always been on consoles and probably always will.
Posted 10:39pm 28/10/08
It is DICE's Scam!

Domino actually. Dice is the tit-hater.
Posted 11:10am 29/10/08
i found quite a few bugs aswell... i had a crash while loading into bowerstone market (had to restart) ...and another crash while i was opening a chest! (also needing a restart)
...i have also had issues not being able to "de-select" an NPC: i hit the left trigger to focus on an NPC then ran away (the game didnt take the focus off the NPC) and tried to fight some bandits... if you have someone focused you cant use your gun as the Y button will go into the details for that NPC... really friggin annoying!
i dont know how these things managed to make it into the final game but its pretty poor... (i get the lock on bug all the time) ...aside from the issues and bugs (dont get me started on the map and the inventory system) it is a good game... if you can look past these problems its really enjoyable... i have already played through it once (being a good and holy man :D) and am going through it a second time now (being a total a******! >:D)...
Posted 01:58pm 29/10/08
if you move your family from one house to another, sometimes instead of moving it clones your family so you end up with two families, one in each house.

*raises glass*
To wives and girlfriends!
May they never meet...
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