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Fable 2 Review

Genres: Action RPG All
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Review Date: 15-10-2009
Review Platform: XBOX360
Review Region: AU Available In Australia
Est Playtime: 12+ hrs
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

You are Sparrow, a street urchin surviving with your sister in the world of Albion. You can only dream of the riches of Lord Lucianís castle, which dominates the town of Bowerstone. However a simple music box, and a strange blind women will change your fate and that of your sister, and propel you into becoming a hero of legend.

fable2005Fable 2 is an ambitious title, seeking to create a world driven by the playerís morality. A world which replicates everyday life, such as getting married and having children. Thatís the kind of thing you can expect from the famous/infamous Peter Molyneux, lead designer of the Fable series and Black & White. I havenít played the first Fable or its expansion pack but this game is independent of them, only sharing the same world and even then not the same time period.

fable2009The game begins with the choice of a male or female character but other than that there is no character creation. This is usually a major aspect of western RPGs. The characterís class and appearance are instead customized during the game, by the playerís actions. Performing evil actions or dying changes the playerís avatar; being evil makes the character grow darker and dying creates scars. The dozen or so classes and stats which are found in Dungeon and Dragons based games has been distilled and simplified down into Strength, Skill and Will. Strength takes the place of a melee fighter, with the three attributes of Brutal Styles, Physique and Toughness. Placing Experience Points into Brutal Styles unlocks moves while Physique increases melee damage. Skill is for ranged fighters Ė guns and crossbows - and Will is for magic, of which there are 8 spells. Any of the attributes of these broad class types can be increased - the player isnít locked into a particular class or weapon. The system works but I canít help but feel itís lacking depth and thereís no consequence to going down a particular route. Thereís also no detailed skill tree, such as in the Diablo series, to really set one character apart from another. The character differences instead come from the playerís choices but these have no glaring consequence aside from the aforementioned avatar changes.

fable2030The combat is another factor in the lack of depth because itís just hack and slash action. Thereís no strategy involved, thanks to the lack of a wide skill set. The player either uses a melee weapon, a ranged weapon or magic, and while they can change between them at any time it doesnít lead to complex tactics. Nor do the enemies use any tactics; they just assault the player on mass sometimes attacking right at the same time. Only having a single character is another part of the lack of tactical and strategic depth, although the player is always accompanied by his faithful dog. I should also mention the game can be played in CO-OP but itís quite bolted on as both players share the same camera and one of them is a henchman who canít speak to merchants or buy real estate. The playerís dog can attack enemies if itís trained, but itís really there to create an emotional connection with the game. It getís injured, finds treasure, plays fetch, can be patted and reflects the playerís moral alignment. I did somewhat care for my doggy pal so it did its job.

fable2025The first part of the game begins with the playerís character, called Sparrow, as a child living as an urchin with his sister. This is a tutorial section of the game, teaching you about the Expression Wheel and doing trivial quests to earn money. The Expression Wheel is exactly as it sounds - a menu with various actions/expressions you can perform. This allows you to react to what people are doing and is used to woo potential partners. The playerís character never speaks so it also replaces dialogues, which in my opinion is a poor substitution. Thereís nothing like having an actual interactive conversation with an NPC. This child section ends in dramatic fashion, and the story then skips forward several years to when Sparrow is a young adult. Now the player is free to roam the world while trying to find three heroes. The three heroes are needed to summon some ancient power or other to stop the gameís villain. Hannah the Hammer is the first and best of these heroes because sheís the most detailed and has the most game time. The heroes come with you on some missions and comment a lot on whatís happening, which is a point in the gameís favour. This main storyline has one of the most anticlimactic endings Iíve seen because thereís no boss fight. It just ends with another moral choice, presented as three cards.

fable2028The side quests play a major role in determining the playerís alignment, offering moral choices. Such as whether to let slaves go free or accept money from slave traders. The quality of these quests is average with most of them being not that interesting. One exception to this is the jilted lover/ghost who wants you to take revenge on the woman who jilted him. By pretending to be in love with the woman and then handing her a note from the ghost saying it was all a lie. I took this route instead of being genuinely in love with her/marrying her and was surprised when the woman then killed herself. Thatís the kind of moral/consequential storyline the other quests such have emulated. The side quests are located via a bread crumb/glowing trail that stretches out in front of the player. A now common technique to prevent players from getting lost and frustrated Ė a shift towards the casual market.

fable2019The world in Fable 2 is beautiful and idyllic but runs poorly with noticeably low frame rates. The game has other technical issues and stopped working on a few occasions. Directional controls feel imprecise, which may be due to the low frame rates, although I got used to them. Menus also have a distinct lag to them, appearing with a sudden judder. The music is simple, orchestrated, and has a celtic theme to it. Itís quite restrained and never overplays whatís happening on screen. I didnít like the menu music but itís otherwise decent with the track that plays in Oakfield being a favourite.

Fable 2 is an ambitious title with technical problems. It has poor frame rates and noticeable lag but these donít hugely impinge the game. The moral choices, a core aspect of the game, donít reach their potential due to a lack of interesting quests/consequences. Although the open world nature of the game provides ample freedom to create a life, allowing you to buy real estate and start families in mature fashion (protected sex or unprotected). The combat is hack and slash that while entertaining is simplistic providing little in the way of strategic or tactical depth. There are a lot of things that Fable 2 doesnít do as well as it could or should have but even with all my criticisms I still found the game to be quite enjoyable.