I Wasn’t Supposed to Like Fable II

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!

Fable II

The Basics

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.

Decisions, Decisions

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.

Fable II

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!

Rating: 4/5

Fable 2

18 Responses to “I Wasn’t Supposed to Like Fable II”

  1. I played the first Fable on the original Xbox and while it was enjoyable it never gripped me. This time I found myself even less impressed. Trying to play co-op on the same console is a joke, I thought Lego Batman had bad camera angles but this makes combat nigh on impossible. And that's saying something seeing as how every fight is simply a matter of pressing one of three buttons repeatedly while moving slowly around.

    The ability to be good or evil, to make the good or bad decisions is brilliant and is one of the reasons RPGs have such good replayability. But Fable 2 is just flawed in too many ways to make it truly enjoyable in my opinion.

    • I didn't think local co-op was even possible. Says only 1 player on the back of the box, 2 player co-op via Xbox LIVE. Regardless, the horrid camera angles are present even in online co-op, which I didn't understand at all. I get that they're trying to keep both heroes in the scene at all times, but it clearly doesn't work. Ends up feeling like you're working against each other, instead of together.

  2. Absolutely agree with you Matt. I'm loving Fable 2. Finding it very addictive.

    Speaking of making it accessible, I really like how they handled the health system…

    When you reach zero health, your character passes out, you may (or may not) lose some experience points and then he leaps back to life with full health – so you can continue playing.

    Good stuff.

    • Ah, forgot to mention how death is handled. Thanks for bringing that up! I likely wouldn't have finished the game if I had to re-do parts when dying. Depending on where the checkpoints were, though. There weren't too many areas where I died more than once in a single battle.

  3. Fable 2 <3 I loved it, and I had never played the original Fable so wasn't quite sure whether I would.

    I ran into the same problem as you; becoming so popular you were often locked into a room because of your legions of fans suffocating you. To fix that I would just fast travel elsewhere. A pain sure, but at least I wouldn't lose any progress. I never experienced any of the major bugs you spoke about, however.

    The co-op was a huge let down, but apparently with the new downloadable content, this will be improved. Speaking of which, I'll definitely be purchasing the DLC, not just for the extra 100 GamerPoints, but because I really loved this game!

    Anyway, what did you say your address was? I have a copy of Lost Odyssey with your name on it :p

    • I fast traveled my way out of a couple spots when I got stuck, but some times where I was going was just down the street to a vendor or something. Which was just super annoying.

      I'll be picking up Knothole Island as well, and am quite looking forward to it! I will admit, the second play through hasn't grasped me as much as the first. Some quests seem really tedious and I've been straying off to play other games more than Fable 2 lately. So some fresh DLC and new Achievements are definitely welcome.

      You can keep your JRPGs to yourself. They're an entirely different breed, and I've given up on trying to comprehend the uber Japanese titles.

  4. I was on the opposite end as you were. I was completely stoked about the game with pretty high expectations. That typically leads to a let down, but surprisingly Fable 2 didn't really let me down at all.

    Outside of multi-player, my major complaint involved the marriage system. Other than the immersion factor I saw no reason to get married, there's no benefit to this at all. You have to pay for your family regularly and make visits to your spouse to keep her happy. My second go through I'm skipping it altogether.

    • Getting married is only worth it for the achievement. Once you got that, they just get annoying. Your kid is the worst. Whiny little brat. At least you can name him 'Whiny Little Brat' that's one thing at least.

  5. Fable 2's on my Top Games of 2008 list for sure, but I found a few flaws. Really short, a little buggy, certain things weren't really clear.

    For example, I went into the crucible a thin, trim, powerhouse. By the end of it because I was "healthing up" so quickly, I was a big fat tub of lard…from eating too many pies!

    I still don't understand why there isn't some sort of photo studio in the game where you could take pictures of your character and retrieve them on a web page. To me that is one of the most compelling features of the game, "look at the bad @ss I created!".

  6. I'm a huge Fable fan, I played the Original on the Xbox, then the Lost Chapters and then the Lost Chapters on the PC.

    Fable 2 was actually one of the key reasons for buying the Xbox 360. I bought it on release day and played it through (being the uber Hero that I am). I have completed the main quest and I'm now in the happily ever after stage and a big time property expert.

    I have to say though after playing it through I'm quite disappointed. The reasons are simple ones too.

    Where are the really decent and rare weapons? There are a few, but they seem a bit crappy.

    Where is the awesome Armour? The clothes are crap in the game.

    Not being funny, but the game is big time homosexual? WTF?

    Also, the boss fight WTF!!!!!!?!??!?!? One damn shot? You kidding me? In Fable the Lost Chapters you have the original boss then later Jack of Blades comes back as a big arse dragon!

    Another problem I had is that it didn't really end. Threasa claims the Spire like she is going to use it for something, but what? Basically the game stinks of extra downloadable content (that we will probably have to pay a large sum for).

    I love it, but I hate it. It's basically a fantasy estate agent game now.

    • Good points, there.

      Where is the awesome Armour? The clothes are crap in the game.

      Did you play as a female at all? I did my first time through, and she looked horrendous! Especially after eating a bunch of pies and getting all fat. The closed sat really funny on her, even after losing the weight due to being all muscular. Looked like a dude in drag. But yeah, not much variety in the clothing – basically one outfit for each style. Also wreaks of DLC, doesn't it?

      The Knothole Island DLC has a new armor set, which looks pretty cool. But still not nearly as heavy as most people would like, I'm sure. It's still not a full coat of arms or anything.

      Not being funny, but the game is big time homosexual? WTF?

      Indeed it is! I noticed this as well. Playing as both male and female, the ratio of gay to hetero is about 50/50.

      Also, the boss fight WTF!!!!!!?!??!?!? One damn shot? You kidding me? In Fable the Lost Chapters you have the original boss then later Jack of Blades comes back as a big arse dragon!

      I've been noticing this more and more in recent games. Gears 2 is a great example. The first game had a big boss fight at the end that was super hard compared to the rest of the game. Gears 2 has a boss fight about 3/4 of the way through, that spans a couple chapters. You could do the end fight with your eyes closed.

  7. Good to see someone stepping outside their usual zone to find fun.

    I agree that Fable 2 does a lot of things right which other RPGs — especially fantasy RPGs — have done wrong.

    Meanwhile, the bugs seem to have been stomped into something less powerful with the XBL patch download, and the infamous lock-ups some people were getting (myself included) went away completely for me as soon as I elected to play the game off my 360's hard drive.

    But back to you 🙂

    I wonder if one of the reasons Fable 2 worked for you is that, like a number of games lately, the "genre lines" are starting to blur.

    Yeah, F2 is an RPG, but it's also got other elements in there also — same with Mass Effect.

    Likewise Bioshock is more than "just another shooter" by a long sight, if you choose to fully engage the game content and story.

    Even Grand Theft Auto IV defied the old genre categories. Shooter? Yeah, kinda. Driving game, sure but … RPG? Not really, but still …

    You see where I'm going with this, I'm sure. The best games are starting to use anything and everything which works well. Screw genre expectations, if it's fun and interesting and immersive, no one will care ten minutes into the game.

    Maybe you liked Fable 2 partly because the old walls, they're coming down …

    • Definitely. Games are branching genres at every turn these days, and doing a much better job of appealing to a wider audience in turn.

      More traditional RPGs still don't really appeal to me. Fallout 3 is a good example. I can appreciate that game, as I did with Oblivion, but I can't play games like that. I started playing Fallout 3 the other night, and after sinking 7 hours into it over the course of a couple days, I knew I had to put it down. When I completed a 3 hour side quest, I immediately started feeling guilty – like I had just wasted a huge chunk of time on this quest that really didn't do anything to progress the story. I was no closer to finishing the game, so why did I do it? But that's the nature of traditional RPGs where leveling is a huge focus. You usually have to take care of those side quests to level up your character's skills, or you'll find it nearly impossible to progress along the main story line. I had that happen with Oblivion when I thought I could stay on the main quest. Didn't even make it a quarter of the way through.

      The best thing to happen to RPGs recently is full on voice-overs. I think Oblivion was the first to go the extra mile and do away with dialogue boxes all together. And that was the main reason I picked it up. I was glad to see that Fable 2 followed the same path, as stopping to read really breaks the immersion.

      • I can tell you didn't play Fable 1. It had full voice overs and not a single dialog box. The battle system was spot on and the combat multiplier system was perfect. It also had a ton of little helpful features that were, for some reason, all removed from Fable 2.

        It didn't bother you at all that you couldn't buy more than one of each item? You were OK with not being able to see whether you already had an item before you bought it? Didn't it seem weird that there was no easy or quick way to bring up a map of the current area? All of these things and a million other annoyances were non-existent in Fable 1.

        I just finished Fable 2 the other night and couldn't be more disappointed. There were far too many bugs and glitches that took me out of the experience. It was the exact opposite feeling I had after playing Fable 1… which I've finished 6 times now.