Fable II is a game I never saw myself playing. As we approached the release date, and with every bit of gameplay footage that was released, I found that I was distancing myself further and further. For starters, I’m not a big RPG gamer. I really enjoyed Mass Effect, but I believed that to be a fluke. The fantasy genre isn’t at the top of my list, either. And here we are, with a fantasy RPG. Naturally, it had little appeal from the get-go. But I found myself in a spot where every new game I wanted to play was on my Christmas list (which means I can’t rent or buy them until after the holidays), so I decided to give it a rent… and I’m glad I did!
The great thing about RPGs, is that you can sit back with your feet up and spend your time playing fully relaxed. When I play shooters or racing games, I’m pulling a “gamer squat” on the edge of the couch. While Fable II is pretty combat heavy, it’s simple enough that it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought and precision, but is sitll quite satisfying and fun. There are 3 main attacks you can unleash, each mapped to a single button on the controller. X is your melee weapon, which ranges from long swords, to large hammers and maces. Y is your ranged weapons – crossbows, pistols, and rifles. And B is will, or better known as magic. At any given time, you have a melee and ranged weapon equipped, but you an carry an unlimited amount. However, you can equip a pair of magic and cycle through the rest while in combat. It’s a very nice system which allows you to easily switch things up without bringing the action to a hault.
As you perform tasks and kill enemies, you earn experience in the form of coloured orbs. Experience can be spent on skills which improve your character’s overall performance. At the start, your character has very little skill. He or she can basically swing a sword and shoot an arrow. No aiming, no blocking, no dodging, etc. Everything has to be purchased with experience. It’s not a bad system, but it definitely limits your fun from the get-go, when you basically have to keep hacking away at dudes until you have enough experience to crank up your skills.
Fable II is all about choice. Every decision is left in your hands, both big and small. The moral choices which shape the world and its inhabitants are really something! I played the hero my first time through. Saving the world from the big bad guy, and ridding villages of Hobbes (goblin-type creatures) and Bandits along the way. Sure, I kicked the odd chicken and shot a few helpless bunnies, but I generally kept up appearances. I found that as I became more renowned for my good deeds, citizens would start handing me gifts or following me around complimenting me. It got to the point where I was actually blocked in a couple rooms by the amount of people who had flocked to greet their saviour – at which point I pulled out my sword and slayed a few of them so the rest would run in fear. But how else was I supposed to get by?
My second time through, I have reprised the role of the evil bastard. Bump into me in the street – dead. Ask me to find your son in the Hobbe infested cave – dead. Digusted by my flatulence – dead. Instead of being under my feet, citizens are fleeing at the very sight of me. It’s quite hilarious, but hard to find a mate. I suppose I’ll have to wait until I reach Bloodstone – a dark and dingy town filled with pirates and prostitutes. That’s where I met Abby the Whore during my first play-through. We ended up getting married and buying a nice little place right in Bloodstone. She just loved my farts!
The main quest isn’t extremely long, but it’s a decent length. But most importantly, it’s interesting and easy to folllow – that’s one thing I noticed as being a consistent theme in Fable II. It’s very accessible. After a few hours with it, I was confident that my 10 year-old daughter Hannah would enjoy it, and be able to pick it up and play. Sure enough, the girl is hooked! We’ve actually had to restrict her gaming time lately, as she’s been sinking mad amounts of hours into Fable II. She’s likely played more than I have, but has spent a great deal on side quests and tending to her home life. While I basically blasted through the main question with little regard to what everyone else was up to. That said, there’s still a great deal to do now that I’ve saved the world.
Look at All the Pretty Things!
It should be no surprise that it’s a very nice looking game. The art style is somewhat unique, in that it is intentionally unrealistic and leans more toward artistic caricatures than realism. Because of this, much of the gameplay and animations are more easily accepted. The one aspect of the presentation that really stands out is the lighting. Your journey spans years from beginning to end, and you see many passing moons. When the sun is out and shining through the trees, it can be absolutely gorgeous. Yet the same area can easily turn foreboding during the night time hours.
Since Everyone Else is Doing it…
How about some co-op, eh? Yes, playing through the campaigns with your friends over Xbox LIVE has become a bit of a fad. And Fable II is a pretty good example of that. It’s very rough around the edges, and not very enjoyable at all. Still, I believe this is the first time you can pull a friend into an RPG to journey along side you. So here’s hoping this trend continues, but improves drastically.
Bugs, and I’m Not Talking About Beetles
Fable II is right up there with the biggest releases of the year, and as such, I was astounded to find some major bugs weeks after its release. I’m not just talking texture pop-in, or the odd enemy getting stuck on an object. I fell victim to 3 major bugs which forced me to reload my last save and do the section over. It seemed I was too quick to end a conversation, or didn’t look at something long enough, which triggered, or didn’t trigger certain events. In every case, I found myself unable to move forward and it was exceptionally frustrating each and every time.
Another One for My Collection
At the end of the journey, I had a pretty big smile on my face and was ready to jump right back in and do it again. Re-playability is a huge factor in my gaming purchases these days, but when a game gives you the ability to play it again and have a completely different experience… well, now, that’s just special!