Fable II Hands-On Preview
Fable II box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Lionhead Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan.27, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Ins and Outs of the New Albion
by Jonathan Marx

July 31, 2008 - I got to see a lot of different games at E3 2008 that ran the gamut, both in terms of genre and quality. One of those titles I got a good deal of hands-on time with was Fable II. Additionally, I had a twenty-minute group chat with developer Peter Molyneux, as he walked us through the opening stages of the game. Happily, I can report that, other than the occasional bug that's still being worked out, the game marks a new and improved return to the world of Albion, 500 years in the story's future.

Fable II screenshot

Fable was a highly ambitious IP that turned out to be a fan favorite title for the original Xbox. People gushed over the ability to shape your character anyway you wanted. And that held true for more than just stats and powers. The fact that a character's visage and reputation mirrored their deeds offered gamers a true role playing experience. However, anyone who has downloaded the title from Xbox Originals or has picked it up out of the bargain bin will know that the game definitely feels a bit dated. That's why it was so encouraging to see Fable II rise to the occasion and use the 360's graphical and online capabilities to re-imagine this title that is obviously so near and dear to the creator's heart.

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Combat in Fable II has been both completely revamped and simplified. Three powers are available to you and mapped to three corresponding face buttons. Holding down on one of the keyed buttons will allow for more powerful attacks, while tapping it rapidly will unleash quick, hounding attacks. As an added bonus, this simple "one-button system" allows players to access their abilities instantly. That means it is quite possible to force enemies back with a will attack (magic), slice through the nearest baddie with a sword flourish, and then shoot another with your shotgun over a cliff. This can all be done in literally less than two seconds.

Fable II screenshot

Furthermore, the more stylish, brutal, or technical your assaults are, the more experience you will gain. Consequently, linking combinations in interesting ways will make your character more seasoned much more quickly. Also, magical attacks can be executed with an area effect centered on your character, or you can fling arcane energy at your enemies like a ranged weapon. Finally, experience can also be used to improve your arsenal, making more powerful flourish attacks possible. I found this new combat style to be very easy, though a little bit shallow. However, I expect battles to be more rewarding with my own character and when I have mastered the control techniques.

Outside of combat, Peter Molyneux and the crew at Lionhead Studios have emphasized storytelling by creating emotional moments, loading up the plot with cutscenes, creating a massive open world devoid of artificial barriers, and including tons of secrets, side quests, love interests, and even odd jobs. One non-combat mechanic in particular allows players to project their character's personality on the world around them. When talking with people, players can bring up a radial menu to express their emotions, make conversation, praise their dog, flirt with women, intimidate scoundrels, whistle, and even perform jokes and entertain passersby. Subsequently, Albion is not only massive, but players will find an interesting sandbox within which they can play for hours upon hours.

Fable II screenshot

That said, for those of you that like to skip through the details and get to the killing, Fable II has been designed to allow you to pass over everything. However, if you're not interested in the plot and character motivations, why would you ever want to play an RPG? In any case, the developers never wanted to make players feel bored or confined, so players are given the ability to blow through a conversation or cutscene at the press of a button.

Screenshots / Images
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