Fable II Review for Xbox 360

Fable II Review for Xbox 360

A World at your Fingertips

Fable II takes everything players loved about its predecessor and enhances it. The game is definitely one of the best role-playing experiences to be had away from the tabletop. It is extraordinarily accessible to a wide array of gaming skill sets, packed with interesting creatures and stories, has a lush and vibrant world full of secrets, and offers local and online co-op play for sharing the wonderment with friends and family both near and far.

Fable II screenshot

Fable II’s Albion is a very different place from that experienced in the original title. Set a few hundred years later, human populations have exploded, technology has evolved, and true heroes have become rather rare. The world is rife with banditry, the misuse of black powder weapons is widespread, and the ancient mystical arts of magic (Will) is quite unusual indeed. In other words, Albion is ripe for a hero or villain of great renown to mold it to their ideals or whims, whatever the case may be.

At the beginning of the game, players will be introduced to their character and the overarching storyline in the tutorial-like childhood phase. Though this is reminiscent to what was offered in Fable, this time around players should be able to move through their childhood in little more than twenty minutes, including the cutscene that sets the stage for the rest of the game. There’s no need to spoil what will happen here, but suffice it to say that you will be cared for and raised by a mysterious woman that rescues you from certain death. Upon reaching adulthood, you will embark on your very first quest, which will further familiarize you with more advanced gameplay mechanics and have you uncover the beginnings of your untapped, heroic potential.

Of course, as is the case with nearly every title, there are a couple shortcomings that blemish the otherwise fair complexion of this outstanding title: the visuals and its somewhat narrow appeal. While utilizing a very attractive style, the graphics seem fairly unpolished. The world of Albion is a very charming place. The towns, woodlands, dungeons, rivers, people, and weapons are all very attractive and highly detailed. However, the visual appeal is hampered by technical issues such as constant foreground vegetation pop-in, poor collision detection, and the lack of crisp definition. These are unfortunate turnoffs that serve as a jarring reminder of reality. It seems as though the game could have used significantly more attention in this area.

Fable II screenshot

Furthermore, while telling a nice story and rewarding players with riches and unique experiences, Fable II is made for patient players who are more interested in story progression and participating in a world rather than delivering a quick fix of non-stop action. It is a game that becomes more gratifying the longer you play and the more involved you become. Without question, Fable II is a great game that deserves high marks for its originality and successful implementation of ambitious gameplay mechanics, but it won’t appeal to everyone. In fact, the immense variety of gameplay options may overwhelm those who are quick to weary.

The developers, writers, and voice actors have all done a wonderful job of injecting a lot of humor and flavor into the world of Albion through sound. Townsfolk, bards, urchins, aristocracy, brigands, tradesmen, merchants, housewives, and bandits all have their own personalities and help to make the world a living breathing place. Walking through the streets, players will giggle their way from shop to shop as the people around them chitchat and play out their lives. There is a lot of commentary that repeats itself, but the overall experience is that of a vibrant world of people with varying motivations and concerns. All these comments are expertly delivered by professional actors in myriad accents and dialects. In addition to the excellent voice acting, the descriptions and scraps of text players will find are also quite amusing; the writing is fantastic. Every object you find, even the most mundane of items, has a humorous story or funny name like “Kidney and ‘Friends’ pie” that hints at a larger world.

Fable II screenshot

Perhaps Fable II’s greatest strength is that it takes role-playing very seriously. Unlike other games in the genre that claim to be RPGs but are really little more than fantasy adventures that rely on a power-leveling mechanic, Fable II actually allows you shape a character anyway you see fit. I love heroic characters, so my favorite creation was a rather wholesome chap, concerned with the welfare of the weak and poor, quick to give gifts and share a dance, a family man that remained faithful and looked out for his children and spouse, and, of course, pure enough of mind, body, and spirit to quickly dish out the hurt to the wicked. However, the path of the paragon is just one of many ways to travel through Albion.

One could just as easily create an evil assassin keenly interested in greed and chaos or make a drunken slob that’s more concerned with meat pies, warm ale, and paying for a rub and a tug than cultivating any kind of respectable life within the community. The options don’t just end there, either. You can gamble like an addict, deface property like a hooligan, become a skilled Renaissance man through varied trades, or even become a real estate tycoon by acquiring property, sitting back, and watching the rents roll in. The possibilities are limitless! As such, there are literally tens (maybe hundreds) of hours of enjoyment to be squeezed out of Fable II without even touching any of the quests. This true role-playing mechanic is what separates Fable II from every other game in the genre.

Because of this incredibly flexible character development, customization in Fable II is also extremely deep. Players can outfit their heroes not only with the best armor and equipment, but also the latest fashions of Albion. As you can imagine, clothes for adventuring may not be the most appropriate for courting. Likewise, tattoos and Mohawks, while intimidating during battle, may close doors of opportunity while interacting with folk in the many urban centers. Throughout the game, players will be able to find and purchase dyes, jewelry, and fashions that will affect their outward appearance. The sheer amount of customization options is virtually limitless, so players will find it easy to create a character that is completely distinct from those of their friends and family.

Fable II screenshot

What’s more, like in Fable, your hero will always be affected by the decisions they make. If you are evil, your darkness will manifest. If you are lazy or have a propensity toward gluttony, you will become a portly mess. Conversely, traveling long distances, swinging a heavy axe to chop wood, hammering metal into swords at the smithy, dropping experience points into your physique, etc. will make your hero ripple with muscles. If you’re unfortunate enough to lose fights in the dangerous wilds, you will wear the battle scars from your blundering. Additionally, using more skillful techniques will not only make you lithe, but also physically long and tall. Finally, constantly using Will causes your character to be marked by the arcane energy that flows through their veins, bringing about a whole other set of reactions from people and opportunities in the world of Albion. These changes to your character overtime truly help to reinforce the decisions you have made in the past, and greatly influence the choices you will make in the future.

Combat in Fable II is both highly accessible and rewarding. Virtually anyone can get through fights by tapping or holding the simple three button controls that govern melee, ranged, and Will attacks. However, as players advance, deeper mechanics are made available by unlocking them through power-leveling your character with Experience Orbs. These orbs are divided into four different colors. Orbs of varying colors and amounts are dropped by your foes depending upon the speed, manner, and style with which you dispatched them. Green, blue, yellow, and red orbs represent General, Strength, Skill, and Will experience, respectively. Any orb of a specific color can be combined with the green General orbs to augment your character’s abilities and skills. I really enjoyed the fact that the orbs are awarded to your character according to merit and style. Unfortunately, orbs aren’t automatically absorbed by your hero. Players have to hold RT before they will be accumulated. I found this to be unnecessary and, frankly, cut-worthy. All in all, combat is generally engaging and rich. The only caveat being, it is perhaps too easy for very skilled gamers.

Fable II also introduces gamers to a very interesting A.I. sidekick: the dog. Your dog is your buddy, minion-at-arms, and treasure-hunting sleuth. Your dog is very useful throughout and never becomes bothersome. Moreover, your canine companion will learn new skills, perfect what it already knows, help to further express your character’s personality, and will grow similarly to its master. It’s easy to tell who’s naughty and who’s nice by the rabid or tranquil appearance of their pet. Players should enjoy that their dogs alert them to danger, take advantage of prone foes, and find dig spots and secret caches of loot and treasure. The dog in Fable II is definitely a welcome addition to the series.

Doubtless, players will get lost in their own versions of Albion, having statues commissioned in their likeness, and getting that noble bird to accept their character’s advances. But, playing with a friend or family member is a real treat that should not be ignored, as sharing your world and its unique experiences with someone else is even more rewarding. At home, having someone jump into your game is as easy as powering up a second controller. The additional player becomes your henchman and will be quite useful in dealing with your adversaries. The online co-op experience, supposedly, will be very similar to local co-op. Players will be able to bring in their unique hero as a guest, define the gold and experience point percentages as the host, and trade items between each other’s inventories. However, we have been warned that bringing an unruly player into your world can be dangerous; you never know what kinds of trouble they can get into.

Fable II screenshot

Unfortunately, as you probably already know, online co-op is not available out of the box. According to a letter sent to editors by Peter Molyneux, the team at Lionhead is diligently working on developing a patch for the game to make the online components of Fable II as compelling and smooth as those of local co-op. This patch could be ready as early as the first day of release, but we’ll have to wait and see. Even so, the co-op aspect of Fable II makes the game much more interesting at home, and should go a long way toward creating a sense of community among Fable II players when online capabilities go live.

Fable II is a worthy successor to the noble effort released on the Xbox. I could go on and on about the many varied bits there are to see and do. The role-playing possibilities are endless, and the world is amazingly well fleshed out. Unfortunately, technical issues with the visuals and the fact that non-role-playing gamers will likely be bored by the sheer size and scope of play limit the title’s appeal. As such, know that this game is not for everyone, but rather for those looking for a living world within which to explore, live, and act.

The world of Albion is charming. I loved the art style. Unfortunately, technical issues such as foreground pop-in, collision detection, and a lack of crisp definition make the title look unpolished visually. 4.3 Control
The control scheme is very user-friendly. Consequently, it’s highly accessible but also limits some of the challenge. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The cinematic background music captures the story and settings with just the right amount of inflection. Despite being somewhat repetitive, the voice work in Fable II is outstanding! 4.6 Play Value
There is so much content jam-packed into this title, you’ll be playing it for hundreds of hours. The simple combat may drive off the wholly action oriented gamer. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A land far, far away. Gamers will revisit the newly expanded world of Albion more than 500 years after the events of the original “Fable,” where they are free to explore the landscape and openly roam the countryside. For the right price, every house, hut, dungeon and castle is for sale. Players can witness how the world grows and changes in response to their decisions in incredible and unique ways as they rediscover Albion as if for the first time.
  • Fight with ease. “Fable II” pioneers a new combat system designed to allow players to truly master hand weapons such as swords and maces, ranged combat weapons such as crossbows and guns, and an entirely new magic system. These three disciplines, while very accessible, are also amazingly deep, and allow players to mix combat styles and become everything from master swordsman to skilled ranger to evil magic wielder, each using a different single button on the Xbox 360 Controller.
  • A hero’s best friend. This groundbreaking addition to the game is integral to the theme of unconditional love in “Fable II.” A player’s canine companion will act as friend, compass and protector. Players must merely feed their pooch and he will love unconditionally, creating a bond that sets up emotion-filled journeys throughout this magical world.
  • Experience the world together. For the first time in the “Fable” series, gamers can experience the expansive and immersive world of “Fable II” with friends, either on the same couch or over Xbox LIVE together in co-operative mode. “Fable II” embodies the new Xbox experience and will extend the Xbox LIVE service further with the introduction of orbs. Orbs allow for seamless LIVE co-op play and interaction with other “Fable II” players.
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 1080p (Full HDTV).

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