Fable II Review (Xbox360)

Fable II has been a long time coming. Despite the fact that the sequel was only announced in 2006, people been have wanting this since the first Fable, as despite its critical acclaim, it left most people with a sense of disappointment, or at very least, an “oh, that was short”. Molyneux assures us that it is not the case this time, and despite a main quest that allegedly can be done in 8 – 10 hours, he assures us that there's plenty in the game to keep us occupied for a long, long time. And he's not far wrong.

The basics you already know: Fable II is set 500 years after Fable, in an Albion that more or less resembles Briton during the Enlightenment era. Guns have replaced bows, industry for farming, and Heroes haven't been seen since the Guild was burnt down sometime between now and then. A rendered CVG sequence greets you as you first start the game, and in a short prologue section that reminds you of how the original started, you begin what will truly be a worthwhile experience. The fact that the game resembles 17/18th Century Briton is no mere bias on the reviewers part, Fable II does feel extremely British. Perhaps it's the accents which tend to be either predominantly cockney or west country, (as, naturally, that's all there is to Briton), or maybe it's the attitudes which are full of British humour, maybe it's the architecture. No matter how you look at it, this is a very British game, almost to the point where it wouldn't surprise me if our American cousins simply didn't pick up on any of the subtleties. Still, this isn't an analysis on Game Culture, it's a critical appraisal of what has certainly been a highly anticipated game.

Unfortunately, this game isn't perfect, unlike what some of the hype suggests. Depending on your individual tastes, there are several niggles like loading times or glitches that may annoy you, but those are down to you. There are some more meaningful things not quite right to the game, where just like the first game Fable II doesn't quite go far enough, but that's not an adequate reason to damn it completely. Just don't get carried away.

As before, the main theme centres around one choice: Who do you want to be? The customization options have been extended in this game in terms of clothing, hair styles, tattoos etc... and there's more deep choices when it comes to your alignment. The alignment system has been extended slightly from simply being good or evil, to include corruption and purity. The attraction metre has also been extended to include a separate funny/scary metre. Along with renown, the whole package is meant to allow the player to alter their character in quite subtle ways that the people of Albion will react to. It is more in-depth then its predecessor, but one of Molyneux's main talking points was that this was meant to be more challenging then before, with the choices being less clear cut. That bit is certainly true, but the challenging point doesn't quite work out as you'd expect.

While there are more then a few key moments that you really have to think about, there's a danger that they may be perceived as a bit hollow like GTA IV's handful of life/death choices. This would be a harsh assessment however, as Fable's choices have more significant and far reaching consequences, which is one of the games strong points. Still, you'd think that if this game was going to morally challenge you as much as Molyneux said it would, then the player would be faced with more realistic and more personal dilemmas. Take the new job system for example – it's set up to be just the right amount of tedious for anyone who doesn't like levelling up, yet still provides some tempting financial benefits. This would be partnered perfectly with a situation that required you to need a lot of money fast, thus forcing the player to either steal or earn a honest living. But the job of the reviewer is not to muse on how the game should have been made, it is to comment on how it has been made, and to be honest it's been made brilliantly.

As you play through the game, you realise that it really isn't about you on a personal level. The whole point of Fable is how you want to shape the world through your actions, how you want your story to play out, not how well you can cope with moral dilemmas. So while the game my fail to challenge you on the one level, you are at the end of the day trying to save the fate of the world (even if you're bad, to some degree), so most of the really hard choices you have to make are on a much grander scale. For instance, there is one simple choice, which initially may seem a bit clichéd, but the ramifications of that choice can make or break an entire area of Albion.

There's plenty more that's new in Fable too. Not necessarily new in a 'brand new' sense, but the original idea of fable has been re-vamped, re-defined, and made into a game that maybe is what the first game should have been all along, although the verdict is still out on that one.

Combat is one of these areas that has changed. Like before, it is divided into Strength, Skill and Will (aka 'magic'). Each time you kill enemies, you gain experience orbs based on how you killed, which goes towards a central reserve that you use to level up, in a sense. This time round however, everything has been streamlined in order to give it, like the entire game, a more intuitive feel. For example, Mana has completely been eliminated, so you can charge up and use your various spells as you like - you can even choose whether to use your spell as an area affect, or target it on a single enemy (although some spells do the same no matter what you chose). Similarly, instead of combos or fancy attacks, you simply have the one button that controls either ranged or melee combat. If you want to do the basic attack, you tap, but if you want to do more advanced moves, you press and hold. This simplistic system does work quite well, to the extent that you can chop and change between the three specialities pretty easily, giving combat a more cinematic feel. Then again, it can be hard to get to grips with this new style to begin with, and even then it's not also easy to pull off some of the fancier moves. As such, you sometimes just find yourself mashing the attack button repeatedly, which is not what you want to do with such a game.

You also will have heard about your canine companion. Part of Molyneux's streamlining process, the Dog, or 'Chip' as he was known in this particular play through, is your faithful companion on your adventures through Albion. The presence of your companion pretty much eliminates the need for a mini-map, thus having one less thing taking up your screen. He actually works quite well, as he can find both chests and dig spots, spot enemies, and even help you fight them. It's surprising that Lionhead didn't go the same way as the new Prince of Persia game, where the female lead NPC is basically immortal. but unfortunately, your dog can get injured. The elixir that heals him is available from the start, and never runs out, so it may seem a bit redundant at first – but what you don't realise is that how you treat your dog can also affect how the people of Albion view you.

This idea of streamlining, of intuitiveness, of making everything more realistic and interactive, is a very common thread in Fable II. The HUD has been stripped bare, so that the only things you ever see is health and expressions – and that's only when then game thinks you need to see them. And for all the game's imperfections, it works. Your Dog's ability to sniff out treasure makes it a hell of a lot more easier to find stuff then in the first Fable – cutting out the tedium that is the treasure hunt.

It's one of the odd things about Fable II, on the one hand, it doesn't force you to walk everywhere if you don't want to, and if there's plenty of other things that are just there for you to make playing the game easy, yet on the other hand things like managing a family or the choices you have made, even some of the quests, are quite hard. Speaking of relationships, another area that has been expanded is that of family. Like before you can get married, and with the added option of being able to play a girl, you can experience things from both ends. On top of that, you're able to have children – this is where some of the more subtle game play elements really come into their element. Your actions, whatever they are, are reflected through your children's eyes, and they will make comments and react to what you've done, not always in the ways you think. It actually makes you want to put effort into being a parent, as spending too much time away from home can have a serious negative impact on your 'personal' life. At times it can seem like the system is a bit too harsh, as there are bits of the game that you simply have to do, and to end up losing a spouse at the end of it seems a little bit unfair. But then again, at a certain point it becomes almost too easy simply to pick up another wife or two. If only reality could be like that.

But this is only part of what makes Fable II a good game. Other things like the in-game economy, which has been extensively thought out, just adds that extra dimension to the game, that extra toy to play with. The potential for the economy element is vast, if ultimately pointless to the wider game (although it can help with alignment). If one had the patience, they could single-handedly lower the value of properties in a an area, buy them all up, and then improve the situation and raise prices so that they can make huge profits when they sell. The fact that you can do that, to be quite honest, shows a depth and a way of thinking seldom seen in a video game. It's definitely a step in the right direction. And then of course there are Quests, the Main Story, Jobs like was mentioned before... so much that makes the game what it is. It's one of those things you just have to experience for yourself. As with the nature of such games, everyone's game will be different, personalised. It's a shame that no comment can be made about the multiplayer, as unfortunately that is still not coming until release day. You're just going to have to figure that out for yourself.

But if there is one crucial lesson that comes out of Fable, it would be watch what you do. This message wasn't was powerful in the first game, but in this game it's practically in neon lights. Most things that you do have tangible consequences. Kill someone and any witnesses will remember even after tens of hours of game play, spare someone and they will be indebted to you for life. It's really easy to do little things that will smear the image you've been working on. Almost too easy you could say. No doubt about it, this is one finely crafted game. It's not perfect, but it's doing new things, addressing issues rarely done before, and presenting you with an interactive experience that, to be honest, makes all it's faults seem negligible. It's better to have tried and nearly-but-not-quite failed, then to have not tried at all. Bring on the next sequel.

Top Game Moment:
Getting the 'Having Sex With More Then One Person At The Same Time' achievement.



By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2008
Yeah, yeah... Cool review!:D
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2008
Oh so a good game again!? Glad to see/hear that.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 20, 2008
It's actually a rubbish game. I made it all up....



I kid. It's amazing.
By Knave (SI Core) on Oct 20, 2008
That sounds like a pretty hilarious top game moment. Hopefully we'll see a PC Port at some point, for those of us lacking 360s.
By Stew (SI Member) on Oct 20, 2008
And the case builds for my purchyasing a 360...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 20, 2008
Sounds good, but alas no 360. I'll just have to idle my time away on that sub-standard "Fallout 3" until a PC port becomes available (wink!).
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2008
My 360 is either collecting dust or running PES. Good x360 titles such as Fable (almost non-existent) make it a bit better investment. If we are to believe Joe that is! ;) Will play it though.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Oct 24, 2008
This could be a game for the 360 for me. My wife played and liked Fable somewhat so this could be a cosy couch game. :)

The reviews so far seems to be good, but so did the last Fable game and I didn't like it that much.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 24, 2008
A matter of taste I guess with tendency that more people will like it since the game is just good. Talking about Fable 1 that I played.
By PTSnake (SI Newbie) on Oct 24, 2008
This game looks so nice... the only bad thing is that it's not a "open world" game, it's just a game with many linear paths... weeeell, who cares? Since when have "open world" games became a nice thing to have?

For example, between MGS and GTA, which would you play?... I guess being linear isn't exactly a bad thing, it depends on many other factors, and well, fable 2 nailed it.
i soooo wanna get my hands on this.
By Oropher (I just got here) on Oct 25, 2008
Only available for X Box? Molyneux, you traitor! The game looks attractive, but Molyneux ideas always end up being deceptive on the long term. Boring Bald Guy, I'll teach you.
By ScythSoulces (SI Core) on Oct 29, 2008
I have this on 360 and I......LOVE IT!!!
By Mandalorain (SI Newbie) on Nov 07, 2008
i agree with Scyth only had it for a day and its one of my favorites now.
By AceofSpades (SI Member) on Nov 26, 2008
This MUST come out on PC its not fair that its just on Xbox 360
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 06, 2008
Another medieval-like games? wizard, magic, knight, potion, sword.......kinda boring for me......
Anyway this game have some reputations. Previous Fable is a short one, so if this game could fix that storyline, it'll be hip!
By devel (SI Elite) on Dec 06, 2008
I didn't think it was short at all, except if you only did the storyline of course. But don't worry, they say this one keeps you busy for a long long time. It's worth trying it out nobuargaoda.
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
Yeah. Busy for playing the games and wait for the loading. No offense, but do you know Neverwinter Nights 2? I think, from the review of course, Fable 2 is better than NW2.
By Jamie5555 (SI Newbie) on Sep 05, 2009
Its an AMAZING game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!