on 24 October 2008
Before getting hold of Fable 2 I'd seen a few interviews with Peter Molyneux hyping up this game and I was a little concerned that it wasn't going to live up to his hype, but IMO, it does. After just a few minutes of gameplay I was hooked.
Graphically Fable 2 looks great and the story is superb. What surprised me is the depth of the game. For example, you can purchase a house and rent it out, raise the rent, redecorate, evict the tenants, get engaged and move in with your partner, get married and have kids, get divorced. You get the picture!
Despite the depth, it is very easy to pick up and play. A sparkly trail leads you to your current destination (which can be switched off in the options I believe), but you have the option of switching missions at any time, or ignoring the sparkly trail altogether and wandering off to do your own thing. The missions I've played so far have all been good fun and there's plenty of humour thrown in there which is nice to see. The difficulty curve isn't too steep either, ramping up at a reasonable pace.
Combat is fun, with a number of close combat weapons to purchase, along with ranged weapons such as crossbows, pistols and shotguns, and a number of spells. You can earn money by taking various jobs, by renting properties out, completing missions, or by finding treasure chests or digging up bags of gold pieces, all of which enables you to purchase new weapons, clothing, food, properties and so on.
Throughout the game your dog joins you on the missions. He'll sniff out buried treasure which you can then dig up, or attack enemies that you've knocked to the ground. You can teach him new tricks and upgrade his treasure seeking and fighting skills, plus you can pet him, punish him, throw him a ball to go and fetch and so on, which leads me on to.......
Moral choices. This game allows you to play as either a man or a woman. You can customise your character in several ways, including purchasing different outfits that suit the particular kind of persona you want to portray. You will constantly be faced with situations where you can be good or evil and the choices you make impact what happens in the game.
The main negative with Fable 2 is the online co-op. As you wander around the world, you will see orbs that represent other online players. You can set it so that everyone is shown, or only people on your friends list. When you walk into an orb you can enter the other person's world and this is where it gets a little disappointing as you cannot use your own character in your friend's world. You play as a henchman, and the screen and camera are locked so you can't wander very far from each other.
Despite the slightly disappointing co-op mode, the single player campaign makes makes this game well worth the money. If you are a fan of action RPG games, then don't hesitate, buy it now!
on 26 October 2008
Having read the other reviews for this game on here, I would agree with most of them as they share the positive views I have about Fable II and are right to do so. This game is brilliant, almost flawless in its many aspects: the graphics are stunning, the gameplay is addictive, the voice acting is genuine, the plot is deep and engrossing and the absolute freedom of the game is enthralling.
I could go on for many, many words explaining the multitude of options available to the player, but I'm more concerned with the user who decided to give this game a mere one star rating.
I STRONGLY ADVISE YOU not to pay that review heed, as it contains false information. It states that you cannot change character name (there were no character names in the original Fable, only titles that you earned or bought, and Fable II has plenty of them); it states that you cannot change hair colour (barbers sell different coloured dye which you can change hair and clothing colours with); it states that there are no weapon enhancements (a new augment system allows you to buy various additional skills/effects for weapons with augment slots, causing differing enhancements).
Perhaps the biggest falseness in the one star review is the statement that Fable II removed hundreds of freedoms that the first game had. This could not be further from the truth. Think of the original, times it by ten, mix it with elements of The Sims, GTA and an originality that Xbox RPGs have lacked so far and you have this pure gem of a game.
It might not have the longevity of Oblivion (but what else does?), but there are many replay factors involved, the least of which is the ability to play as a male or a female, so if you enjoyed the first game or want an addictive, fun and truly enjoyable gaming experience then buy it right now.
And if you're still reluctant and torn between the views of the positive and negative reviews here, check out the official reviews that the magazines gave it. You won't be disappointed.
on 31 October 2008
The reason I have not gifted this title with the full 5 star treatment falls down to the fact that I am pretty much through my second outing. The first time I played this game I would have awarded it full marks, indeed it is utterly charming and a true sequel in every sense of the word, but it just falls short of the mark and here is why...
The game world of Fable is a truly unique one, and nothing can be really compared to it in terms of outlay, style and humour. Peter Molyneux himself said that this was the one game that truly summed up who he is. In that case then, Peter, you are special arent you?
And yes, Fable 2 is special. It offers the player a fantasy world and, pretty much, an open script of how they want to go about their lives. Now this has been done many times before...the whole open ended gameplay scenario is not new, although it is tried and tested more than enough. The most important thing that developers need to do is balance storyline with playtime and freedom. Fable 2 almost gets it right in one department but falls very short in the other. The storytelling, especially concerning the main quest, is very linear and it has a few holes in it. Compared against the first game ( the story in that game was a bit rugged too) the sequel has not improved itself unfortunately. The main quest story offers the player a sense of destiny but its sooooo obvious that the developers have channeled their energies and creative minds into the other areas of the game, and thus the whole story feels somewhat hollow and unsubstantial...
Negativity aside the true colours of Fable 2 come to shine in every other aspect of the game. Yippee!
The play area of Albion, this time round, is more than double that of the first game. Infact its clocked up to being ten times the size. Now that is a big improvement. Add in a dynamic weather system ( not as good as Oblivion but its there ), seasonal change to the environment (better than Oblivion) and already the atmosphere and immersion are improved.
Everything that was present within the first game is still here, well almost. All of your gestures, combat techniques and character development bits are intact. Although I was slightly dissapointed with the Will powers this time round...they could have been a tinsy winsy bit better, but not too worry as the newly added handgun is a welcome change and it is fun to use.
A friend for life? Peter Molyneux has included a pet for the player this time round and it is none other than a trust canine. He's a good lad is this dog. He'll sniff out treasure for you, alert you to danger and you can teach him tricks to impress the locals.
I dont want to go into too much detail about the dog. It is a welcome addition though and you do grow attached to him. : )
In the first game you had the choice of buying a few select properties around Albion. These places could be used as your own private refuge, a place to seduce the ladies or you could rent them out ( fully furnished ) to some local person to increase your cash supply. The sequel goes two steps better and actually allows you the opportunity to buy any property in the game world. This could be a simple caravan, a hut, a town house or a proper ye oldey world castle. And its all so very simplt to do. Approach a property, check the notice and the game will gladly tell you how much gold it wants for said property. Obviously if players want to get onto the property ladder then this side of the game becomes a game in itself. Everything from your reputation, to the house owner effects the property price. Spending gold in the town where the house/property is located will improve the town economy. This will increase your property prices but on the other hand if you are a worthy hero then you can expect a big discount. I guess it pays to be good?
Also you can invest in any business within Albion too. Thats right, you can have your own chain of merchant stalls if you want and yes of course you get a cut of the profits, aswell as a really excellent discount should you wish to splash out.
You can still get married...but watch out as you may find yourself the father of an unplanned child. Yep, this time round you can have children. It was a feature said to have been in the first game but it didnt make it. Its here now though and is somewhat interesting. Actually I wont spoil anything here...so I'll just say that it takes time and money to make it to the status of full time, commited, parent. : )
All in all, and this has been a quick review, Fable 2 is the best game I have played this year. Those familiar with the series will be extremely pleased, especially if they liked the first game. Also it feels pretty accesible...meaning that anyone could pick this game up and play it. You can never get lost, as the game always points you in the right direction, there are loadsa quests, odd jobs and secrets to uncover so it keeps the balance varied. And like I wrote earlier - the real estate part of the game is a game in itself.
Lets not forget though that this game is as British as you get. The scripting is brilliant and the humour is, for the most of it, laugh out loud. And as the player you are able to interact with anyone and everyone by any means you desire. Do you want to make people laugh? Do you want them to love you? Do you want to scare them? Rob them? You name it and it can be done. The world of Albion will react to you accordingly...and believe me if you want to be an evil assassin, whom sacrifices people to the shadow god...then dont expect a warm welcome when you encounter Albions Citizens.
+ Improves over the original
+ More content and varied scope
+ Charming British humor and dialogue
+ In depth interaction which is unrivalled for a game of its genre
- Storyline is...not up to Molyneux's normal standard
- Player has his/her hand held too much
- Massive game world but still a little linear
A must buy. The game features a Co-Op online mode but I havent bothered with that...as its the single player experience that makes this game what it is.
on 29 October 2008
I played the original Fable more times than I can remember and loved it so I was eagerly awaiting the release of Fable 2. The reviews in various gaming magazines, coupled with various teasers were hyping this to be the game of the year.
When I first put the game on, I was reminded of the first Fable, where as a child you complete various easy tasks to earn a bit of gold before you can progress the game. This is where you're introduced to your dog. It's also here, like in the first Fable, you'll get your first taste of the various choices of morality you can make.
After a few events which I don't want to spoil, you're suddenly a man or woman, out to save Albion. There is no actual combat tutorial, although it's fairly straight forward. Melee, ranged and magic attacks are controlled by their own buttons. The magic is meant to have been simplified. On one hand it has - they've taken away most of the spells. You're left with (if I remember correctly) about 8 or 10 base spells which you can upgrade through the usual accumulating XP orbs. On the other, I found the magic more difficult to get the hang of in this one. Too much fiddling about with stupid little icons trying to work out which icon is which spell. It doesn't help that they're all a blue colour. At least in Fable 1 you knew the wee orange blob was probably fire and that the white jagged thing was lightning. Here you have a blue jaggy thing, a blue line, a blue wobbly thing.... You'll also maybe find like we did that even on an HD TV, the icons and instructions on screen are too small to read.
Combat (especially melee) is much more violent and your flourish movements will show bandits having their guts ripped open. In terms of violent content, it's not GTA, but it's not a cute kiddie game either. I found the combat much more satisfying in Fable 2, mainly because you'll get additional bonuses for good fights and the melee combat is a bit more strategic than in the first game where you just button bashed.
Side quests are fun and these really are the key to making this game last. You can complete the basic game in very little time but if you truly want to experience the world of Albion, take your time. Do the side quests, buy books, train your dog and most importantly, get a job and earn gold!
You won't get gold generally from your quests in Fable 2, only renown. You can blacksmith, chop wood, serve in a bar, assassinate or become a bounty hunter. Each are unlocked at various stages of the game. Blacksmithing and wood cutting start out earning pitiful amounts of gold but as you imporove, you'll be raking in the money. With the money you'll also be able to buy goods and more importantly, property, which takes me onto the next aspect of the game.
Buying property and renting it in will guarantee you a continual source of income if you don't want to work frequently (but blacksmithing is addictive...so like me you might work every chance you get!). The higher value property you buy, the more your income. This will be added every 5 minutes even when the 360 is switched off, although this doesn't work on mine. Must check the time and date settings on my console.
You won't have maps in this game so there is nowhere to check for bandit ambushes. Instead you rely on the senses of your dog. The dog in my opinion is a great addition. Keep upgrading him by buying books and he will find more treaure. I can't emphasise enough that you don't rush through this game. Earn money and spend it and the world of Albion will open right up. Initially your dog will find the occassional bit of treasure or dig spot. My dog is now a 5 star treasure hunter and he is finding a huge amount of dig spots in areas I had previous covered when he found nothing. Don't take it for granted if he doesn't find it when his star rating is low that there's nothing there.
Your dog will also fight for you (mainly attacking ememies you've knocked to the ground) although keep an eye out for him (or an ear out for his whimpering) as he will occassionally sustain injuries. You'll get dog elixer at the start of the game to heal him though. Keeping your dog happy will affect how other people around you view you. If you treat him poorly they will not like you. Even if you're intending to play evil, it's worth looking out for your dog. His alignement will change with yours, but he will love you unconditionally and even if you're satan in disguise, he'll still find you very useful items so look after him.
The expression function has been significanly increased in Fable 2. You now have an expression wheel in which you can access various expressions under flirt, rude, social, fun or evil. Some of them are really quite funny, especially if you've trained your dog to mimic expressions. I love the play dead expression when someone is talking to me. I'll clasp my chest and fall to the ground. My dog will whimper than fall to his back, legs in the air. Doesn't sound much but the villagers insulted reactions are usually amusing.
Keep an eye out for the many funny quirks Lionhead have put into the game. From the love potion perfume "use it on a date! 60% of the time it works every time!" (those who've seen Anchorman will know what I'm taking about!), to one of the bits on the load screen where a citizen of Albion was overheard taking about the legendary Guild Master of 500 years before. He was apparently found murdered with "Your health is low!" carved onto his head. Anyone who's played Fable 1 will know exactly what I found amusing about this, as I used to feel like killing him when he told me that!
Now, onto the really, really annoying aspect of this game. It doesn't feel finished. There's no way Lionhead's testers could have missed the huge amount of glitches in the game which makes me think they didn't bother as they just wanted it on release. I don't mind the occassional glitch but these ones are so unprofessional it's off putting. Most of the time when I'm chopping wood my hero will make the wood levitate to the far end of the screen, he will then chop thin air and the wood will magically split in two. The dog's swimming is just a head jerking around in the water and occassionally it will disappear and reappear. The dog will float off vault areas and end up in some random area of the screen that doesn't correspond to where he should have landed.
Another irritating aspects are the voice overs and villagers in general. Not the main cast voice overs, but the background noise. When doing your blacksmithing you'll hear a young girl going "Can't catch me, can't catch me, can't catch me, you'll never catch me!" over and over and over and over. It makes you want to smash her with your sword. Not good when you want to be a nice character.
If the villagers love you enough you'll get reduced prices (good) but you'll also have them follow you everywhere (bad). I was lead to an alley way to dig and when I tried to get out, I found five people blocking the end of the alley way. You can't push them out of the way (oh for the ability to shove people aggressively like in Assassin's Creed!). Instead I had to swing my hammer at them. They dispersed eventually, but not without it affecting my morality rating. You'll also buy homes and find random villagers and children wandering into them. I laughed when my (real) husband was about to "woo" his in game wife and had another two villagers standing beside the bed watching.
I haven't tried co-op play yet but will do so later. Heard rumours of a bug in the co-op play but not sure if this is true.
All in all, I'd give this 8/10. It's by no means perfect and I don't think anyone could claim it is. The glitches are too obvious to be ignored but with Microsoft's pressure to release, perhaps Lionhead didn't have the chance to fix them.
It's a very enjoyable game provided you give it the time is deserves. DON'T rush through Fable 2 and you'll love it.
on 12 July 2014
I'm not much of a gamer, but I do have an XBOX and I own four or five games that I really enjoy - this is one of them. You play a blossoming hero who is out to avenge his/her sister's death (you can choose whether to play a man or a woman).
You do this by completing tasks and going out on adventures - some to make money so that you can build your property empire and eventually make the money to purchase better weapons and spells/potions. You battle against weird and wonderful characters throughout several quirky towns - you can even get married and have kids - you can have one spouse in each town if you like - you just have to make sure they never meet or all hell breaks loose!
The characters you meet are absolutely hilarious - they expect you to work for the friendship and admiration and you have several options for how to please them and make them laugh - one of which is by letting off really loud farts - they love it! Although some of them do find it a bit repulsive.
There's a bit of everything in this game - action, adventure, humour, puzzles - I'd say this will be popular with men and women alike and all age groups. I can't remember there being any foul language but your character can have engage in acts of a sexual nature so it's not suitable for kids.
on 26 October 2008
All in all, Fable 2 is a pretty good game. Is it as good as the original? Hmm...
The graphics are superb. The characters are cartoon-y, and thats the way Fable should be, but the textures, the scenery... fantastic!
Your faithful companion, the dog. You'll grow quite attached to him before the end.
Better wider-world navigation (no more "recalling")
Provisions seem to play far less of a role than in the original. Whilst still important, compared to the 1000+ items of produce I regularly kept in Fable, in Fable 2 I've yet to peak a dozen. I'd recommend the purchase of a "Ghoul" augment ASAP.
Real estate can play a more significant role in obtaining wealth.
As well as good vs evil, you can be pure or corrupt. Not sure I see the point in that.
No "will" energy, instead powerful spells take time to charge.
A lot of the depth of the original has been re-focused.
Similarities to the original:
Good fight dynamics, good combination of melee, ranged, and magical attacks.
Storyline blatantly uses the original as a plan. Very similar middle. Not a bad point since the original was so good.
High level of customisation.
The ending. So disappointing.
Main storyline is a little short.
Too easy, especially since you can't actually die.
Only one save at a time, can't have multiple characters.
Fable 2 Pub Games (XBox arcade) are a total waste of time and money.
Why did they get rid of the mini-map?
The game is rather playable, I've already started it a second time. I don't think it will have as much lasting playability as the original, though: I can't see myself picking this game up in a month or so.
on 13 January 2011
I've played other RPG's on the PC but this was my first experience with the X-Box. There's a lot to praise, the graphics are excellent, the sound is used to good effect, and there's plenty to do. However, there's also a lot to criticize. The main plot that drives the game is incredibly short, I completed it in less than a month and that was just playing a couple of hours every other day!
There are the side shows, such as owning property or raising a family, but they really don't have that much impact on the game. The whole story is based around getting revenge on Lord Lucien and the actual achievement of this is something of a damp squib, effectively scripted to exclude player participation as you sit and watch a long, drawn out cut-scene at the climax.
The combat system is divided into two parts, melee and magic. The first is quite good although the ranged weapons aren't too effective. However, with a good sword and some acquired skill you can dispatch almost any enemy that you are likely to encounter. The magic side is almost superfluous; you can complete the game without ever casting a spell.
Fable II has turned the RPG model upside down. Instead of being faced with a long and difficult main quest that is expanded with various accessory activities, such as sub-quests of the `you get me that and I'll give you this' variety, or hunting for food, etc., you get an expansive series of accessory activities pinned together by a short, easy main quest. Playability relies very much on how much you want to wander around Albion after the main quest has finished?
It states that you can conquer the kingdom but I've yet to find out how you go about this. After the fall of Lord Lucien there doesn't seem to be any central power anymore, perhaps I need to return as something less than a hero and explore this aspect?
Fable II is not a bad game, in fact it shows just how good an RPG can be in visual terms, but the strength of this genre was always in the story and that's where it falls down. It was a pleasure to hear Stephen Fry though.
on 2 January 2009
I was looking for an action/rpg game that my girlfriend would enjoy on her new 360 and came across this. Both of us enjoy games with vibrant, detailed worlds and have got many action/rpgs from the old gen consoles/pc like okami. The reviews looked decent so we ordered it for christmas and have played it on and off until it was completed at new year.
1)The graphics are just lovely. Technically they may not be the most advanced but the world is realised with great attention to detail. The countryside is lush and green (and in the autumn, ablaze with oranges and reds) while towns vary from prosperous renaissance trading cities to filthy pirate dens.
2) Gameplay is fairly intuitive, combat is simple (my girlfriend opting for the "button bashing" technique) yet slick, merging melee, ranged and magical attacks. While we understand that fable 2 isn't attempting to be a hardcore rpg game, my girlfriend complained about the lack of variety of clothing or degree of customisation of the character. She absolutely adored the dog though.
3)The main quest is rather short so don't make the same mistake of blitzing through the first half of the game in a fit of Christmas excitement like we did.The game allows you several breaks from the main quest so ensure you thoroughly explore what else the game offers in the form of side quests and sub games.
4)This game isn't perfect (some iffy getting wedged into scenery, not being able to vault over all walls issues) but you get the sense the team behind this game has had great fun creating a cheeky fantasy world full of character. The lifestyle you lead in the game really did affect what other characters think of you, with shopkeepers refusing to serve my evil character but spewing sycophantically about how my girlfriend's heroic character is "her favourite customer" Voice acting was great (apart from the gargoyles' worst Scottish accent since shrek)and added a greatly appreciated British sense of humour.
Overall it is a very entertaining, if short action/rpg that should appeal to most gamers with any interest in fantasy/magical worlds.
on 8 December 2008
I've never played Fable before and thought I'd take a gamble. Anyone who's read reviews of mine before will know I slate developers for poor games.
Farcry 2 and Too Human almost made me sell my 360!
Well, I'm happy to say that Fable 2 has been a pleasant surprise for me. The graphics are on the cartoonish side but well detailed and lavish.
The controls are great! It takes no time to master spells/swords/muskets.
I haven't been able to put this down yet. there's an engaging storyline and some dark/tongue in cheek humour. Just try getting people to like you by farting or swaying your hips! The dog as a companion is great and he sniffs out treasure etc... You do get to rely on him.
I'm playing as a good character first... the rewrds are worthwhile and levelling up doesn't take forever.
The one small complaint I had with Fallout 3 was having to spend all my money or trade in all my loot virtually just to buy enough medkits.
Not so in Fable.
The clothing options are fun and you can just spend hours in shops or raising a family or buying property.
A real surprise in all and most welcome. It's going at £19.99 now too!
Some people haven't liked it but i'm not easy to please and I think it's great.
Combat is fast paced and visually stunning. Controls are smooth and easily mastered with small learning curve.
As for the glittering trail some people have moaned about... well, just go into the options and turn it off! Sorted!
on 25 September 2011
It's hard to review Fable II without first talking about Peter Molyneux and since it's a lot easier to get the whole thing done with now, let's get down to it: Creative Director of Lionhead Studios (and before that, Bullfrog Productions), Molyneux's overseen some of the most seminal videogames of the past two decades; from Black and White and Dungeon Keeper to Populous and Theme Park. Fantastic though his output is, he's attained a reputation in the industry for being happy to talk to journalists early in a game's gestation period and promising a huge bunch of "cool stuff" to appear in the final product (note: Not actual Peter Molyneux quote). Understandably, the time and budget constraints of developing a current-gen videogame mean that a lot of good ideas end up getting dropped, or scaled-down upon release; leading to inevitable disappointment from fans and a product that doesn't live up to the whirlwind of hype. With each new release, the promise of (r)evolution detailed by Lionhead's pre-release statements gets larger and larger, offering a mind-blowing combination of Choices, Options and Potential. There's nothing wrong with ambition, but too often, trying to be a jack of all trades with a vast array of game modes, minigames, side-quests tends to disengage from the main game itself and that sums up Fable II: A darned solid game, but nowhere near what it's trying to be.
If you look past all of that 'action-RPG' fare that's the core of Fable II, what lies beneath is more the 'simulation' that's at the heart of much of Molyneux's work. If there's ever a Theme (no pun intended, scoff) to run through Molyneux's efforts, it's that of freedom. The original Fable saw widespread adoption of this philosophy, with the flexibility to evolve into a world-saving hero of Good, or the oppressive Evil force dominating the land of Albion through fear and death; albeit with very little grey area in between. Continuing in the same vein, there's plenty of decisions to be made throughout Fable II: Do you stay honest and earn cash the hard way through minigames, or perfect the art of cat-burgling and pinch it from unsuspecting villagers? Do you rescue the slaves to set them free, or sell them on for profit? Do you stay faithful to your chosen partner, or make use of the ample supply prostitutes (of both sexes) that populate the seedier towns of Albion? It's all about giving the player the ultimate choice about how to pursue the game, but there's just that nagging suspicion that, whatever the decision, its impact on the player's experience is largely unnoticable. Everything's been designed so clinically that the personality of the game is so polished that you never really relate to the main character or the story's key protagonists; even if you royally shaft them over to further your own ambitions rather than the usual mission of Saving the World. So, while there's freedom, there's not that emotive feedback that real-world decisions are subject to and as a result, story-defining decisions are far too easy to make.
All across the board, Fable II is a treat for the senses. One thing the original Fable excelled at was capturing the essence of a fully-working society: Many games attempt to 'bottle' the sights, smells and atmosphere of a living social environment and end up with just a random collection of chunky NPCs who either interact either too little, or too much, and the overall effect is unconvincing. One of the key natures of the Fable universe is that everything's in motion - the world's inhabitants go about their own business, interact with each other and alter their opinions of you in real-time; not just stand still and wait for you to approach, or spout the same line of text each time you stumble across them. Of course, there's only so much you can cram onto a single game disc so there's copy-pasted villagers that pop up all across Albion, but there's so many different NPC personalities that it's hardly noticable. The respectable market town of Bowerstone is full of polite citizens who clamour around the Hero, whilst the seedy dock of Bloodstone is full of beggars, prostitutes and undesirables hassling you as you make your way across town. Whilst the range of expressions and emotions available to the player to interact with the townsfolk has been upped, it still remains a 'side dish' to the main game: There's no necessity to interact with the townsfolk, and aside from the odd gift from an adoring fan (or, indeed, a terrified pedestrian) the pitiful amount of Reknown which you can gain by interacting with NPCs pales in comparison to that which may be attained by attempting and completing quests; something that'll tempt the player a lot more than trying to gain a standing in the community, be it as a benevolent Hero or intimidating overlord.
Time in the gameworld passes at quite a lick; each 'day' in the game lasting around twenty minutes to half an hour, with shops opening and closing, and different NPCs emerging at different hours of the day. Play long enough, and you'll notice the seasons change, too. Sound quality across the game is also superb, with a whole range of British voice talent lending some superb voice acting to all of the NPCs on show (including some famous names in the form of Zoë Wanamaker, Stephen Fry, Julia Sawalha, and others), and it's by no means wasted: There's some of the most well-written dialogue ever seen in a videogame: from the main story dialogue; through comments that permeate the various loading screens; the lore contained in the numerous books you can purchase and read in-game; all the way down to throwaway comments NPCs will yell at you from time to time. There are many instances of pure laugh-out-loud hilarity, and there's a huge dollop of some classic British-style humour that's interweaved with the characture style displayed across the whole of Albion. Everything's kept light-hearted at all times (except for notable points in the story where the game very clearly puts on its serious face), and it's this fact that continues to make Fable II a very easy way to lose much of a weekend without input from the brain.
One thing that instantly hooks is the gorgeous visual style that's present across everything from character design to the flawlessly cartoonish scenery. The style nestles gently between realism and characature, making it a game that rarely fails to draw the eye and often lubricates the desire to simply explore. The time-shift from the medieval fantasy setting of Fable means that now everything has a Middle Ages steampunk-ish feel to it, and this is no more evident than the re-invigoration of the cityscapes, turning the archaic villages and hamlets into bustling centres of commerce filled with Olde Worlde shopfronts and houses permeated with that realistic cartoon style. The game's weaponry has also gained a new lease of life and the technology now permits ranged weapons such as clockwork rifles, spring-loaded crossbows and hulking blunderbusses (blunderbii?) which you can opt to lock onto enemies in 3rd-person view to riddle them with bullets or aim in first-person to snipe from a distance. The extension and evolution of the stylings carried over from Fable show clear signs of growth and maturity, yet retaining enough of the character. If you're new to the series (heck, maybe even the genre) the don't fret; it's just as straightforward to break into, and it's this accommodation of varying levels of interest and experience that is to Fable II 's credit.
Something the original Fable excelled at was the ease, pace and structure of the adventure, and there's no doubting that the same philosophy has been plugged expertly into its sequel: There's no stress of character micro-management as you try and set up your party to be effective against every possible eventuality, and the story is never so unforgiving that if you get to a place you shouldn't, you don't immediately get ripped apart by some higher-level goon. The main gameplay sees few changes from the original Fable: The combo of a main sword weapon accompanied by a long-range bow and array of magical spells continues, with experience in each class earned through combat which may then be re-spent on the class in upgrading features like physical toughness, long-range accuracy or the power/abilities of various spells available to the magic user. It's a simple design that doesn't alienate either the novice or expert, and it's never subject to unnecessary level-grinding to get your Hero up to speed. That being said, Lionhead's drive to make everything 'accessible' means that you'll never, ever, see a 'Game Over' screen; despite the amount of 'death' you'll experience: Getting wiped out by a monster simply sees you resurrected a few seconds later with a message about everything being prophesised, hence the Hero must survive; recalling Altair's de-synching with history when he dies in Assassin's Creed). With only a small loss of experience, there's no real 'penalty' for going into battle head-first since the worst that can happen is you lose a few EXP orbs which you'll soon get back once you defeat the baddies in question. It's a fine premise, but it does mean that it's far too easy to Tank the whole game with a strong, sword-wielding character with mastery of one magical attack skill with little necessity to give other combat styles a chance.
Despite the praise and criticism detailed above, Fable II is crippled primarily by its disappointingly-short main game. Since true 'death' is never an issue, there's little challenge to be found on the combat side, and there's a glowing breadcrumb trail which directs you exactly to your next quest or task (which can be switched off, granted) which means most players will rip through pretty much everything there is to see in less than 25 hours or so bar clearing up some of the side-missions or scrounging those last achievements. There's some DLC to be had, but with it the rather sore feeling that it should have been included on the original release anyway and a lack of motivation to throw money at recycled content. Given the level of writing and production that's invested in the Fable series, the main story is disappointingly weak. Even in the context of the very relaxed pace set by Molyneux's vision of Freedom, it's so abominably stunted that just when it seems like it's getting going, the credits roll and the curtains close. There's rarely a sense of drama or real danger, and relationships between the Hero and the main pro- and antagonists just aren't explored to a large enough an extent that such an epic tale deserves.
Still, at least you haven't got to do it all alone; and the major surprise is that it's taken this far in this review to mention anything canine. Yes, in Fable II, you have a dog. Yet, far from being just a simple Molyneux gimmick to say "Hey! Look! You can have a dog now!", it's actually a remarkably refreshing device that re-defines the 'adventure' aspect of the game's wide pigeonhole. Señor Pooch (yes, you can name it whatever you want) follows by your side as companion throughout the game; sniffing out treasure, locating dig spots that yield useful items and helping to attack ambushing enemies. Books are littered across Albion which can be used to improve Fido's skills and, unlike the human companions that may accompany you during the game, it'll soon become largely the only character in the game that you build up any respect for during the adventure. Ultimately though, its presence is merely yet another diversion from the disappointing main story; another distraction in a gameworld that's seemingly built on 'distraction' yet possessing no solid foundation of core gameplay beneath. Perhaps that's the problem with Fable II in general - there's so much focus on covering every base and offering something for everyone that, perhaps, it ends up not catering any single demographic with any mastery. It's neither a disappointment nor a triumph; instead of an epic quest across Albion's beautifully-rendered countryside filled with excitement, danger and intrigue, it feels more like a walk in the park.