|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|
by Jonathan Marx
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'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.
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.
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.