STAFF REVIEW of Fable 2 (Xbox 360)

Thursday, October 23, 2008.
by Adam Dileva

Fable 2 Box art The world of Albion has had many changes in the 500 years that have passed since the first Fable and having knowledge of the first game is rewarding when small clues and stories are told about what?s happened to the previous hero and characters.

As you start the game, the mood and style are set in tone right away with the humor Fable is known for; and as soon as you pick a male or female for Albion?s savior, you are on your way of uncovering all the secrets and journeys ahead of you. Humor plays a large part in Fable 2 and it?s apparent from the very first cutscene where a bird poops on you before you even get to move around and explore anything.

After a short opening you are set free on a somewhat linear path as you are given quick tutorials of basic combat while being led along your first quest to gather 5 gold from many different characters. This is the first time that you will encounter your soon to be best friend and companion: your dog. Very early on he will start to follow you never leave your side from there on, regardless of how horrible you may treat him. You never control your dog in any manner, he will do everything on his own from finding treasure chests that you may have missed and even show you where do dig with your shovel that has been buried by someone previously. If your pet gets hurt and starts to limp slowly, he will even then still follow you regardless of how far ahead in the trail you get. Being able to name him and put different collars (that have different skills) definitely makes you warm up to your canine and as time goes on there are moments that actually make you feel for your pet want to reward him with treats. Having no control over the dog may make you forget he is there until he starts attacking a down bandit or sniffing out the nearest treasure to show you where to go, though seeing him randomly chasing his tail or playing dead while you do your own thing usually puts a smile on your face.

While your dog may lead you to treasure and riches, the glowing trail that is set to your current quest will lead you where to go next, should you choose to of course. It?s a bright yellow trail that automatically readjusts itself should you wonder off the path looking for chests or simply exploring. Some will think that this is too easy and your are just given a point A to point B linear path, but there was numerous times where I actually veered off the path to go look down another trail or searching for something else, knowing that the trail will lead me back to where I want to eventually get going. If you would rather do everything on your own without any help, you can either dim how bright the trail is for a subtle clue or completely turn it off. Generally the trail updates instantly if you take a corner or a ?wrong? turn, but there were quite a few times that I?ve had to stand in one spot for up to 10 seconds while waiting for the trail to refresh.

As you go from quest to quest and travel from town to town you will be upgrading your armor and weapons as time goes on and more foes are downed. An interesting change in Fable 2 is how the armor and clothing works compared to most other RPGs. Usually armor and clothing will have stats and you are constantly trying to upgrade better stats and always searching for that ?best? suit you can obtain. Fable 2 has done away with this system and with no stats other than ?attractiveness?, ?aggressiveness?, ?poshness? and you are encouraged to wear what you think looks good on your character and how you want to dress to express your own style and personality. The only downside to this I?ve found so far is that once you?ve completed the main quest line, you?ve seen basically every clothing item in Albion and it doesn?t vary much from when you find your own ideal outfit midgame.

Customization not only comes in your outfit, but how you eat will also affect your weight and appearance. Use too many pies to heal instead of potions or healthy food and you will find yourself packing on quite a few more pounds than you might have hoped for. Your choices will also play a role into your appearance in the way that being pure good will give you a halo above your head and sinister choices will cause you to grow horns and look evil.

Weapons are based on a base damage and vary from swords to katanas to giant two handed hammers. You upgrade these more frequently and some rare items even have empty slots that are where you can insert an augment into your weapon adding fire damage, your attractiveness, and many other options once you find these rarities as well. The same applies for your ranged weapons that can either be pistols, rifles, crossbows and others of your choosing.

This is where combat comes into play in Fable 2. It?s noted as being easy for anyone to pick up and single button smashing will work most of the time, but also being able to be much more deep and rewarding when chaining together melee with ranged and magic as well for bonus multipliers. The ?X? button is your melee attack to swing your weapon; the ?Y? button is your ranged weapon to shoot baddies from a distance. A press of ?B? will control all your magic and all of these different attacks can be chained and mixed in any way you want to play. The more you melee, the more experience for this category you will receive and the same goes for any type of attack you use.

The melee category of attacks once leveled up can increase your health bar, your strength, doing chain attacks, and even flourishes for extra damage when the button is held down and released instead of rapid presses. Ranged attacks will make you do more damage, leveling will make all types of attacks faster and then also being able to freely aim at targets and shoot any body part you wish.

Magic is also mapped to one button, but is much more robust due to there being many choices of spells at your disposal. The way of overcoming this hurdle is that as you level up a specific spell and make it stronger, you can either quickly press ?B? to cast the level one version of the spell, or hold it for a few seconds to unleash a much more powerful level 5 version. Obviously as you charge up for the higher level spells, you are left vulnerable and open to attacks so you must balance wisely and think on your feet during combat. If you are a heavy magic user and have multiple spells, you can change whatever spell you want mapped at one time very quickly and easily without having to pause the game, though this is also an option should you not want to be rushed while fighting.

Experience is gained from combat and each type of combat fighting has its own colored orb that falls to the ground once an enemy is defeated. Kill the horde of zombies with your sword and a pile of blue experience orbs will be waiting for you to soak up; the same goes for ranged attacks and yellow orbs. Green experience orbs will also drop each fight and is general experience that can be used in conjunction with each type of specific experience to purchase new skills and abilities.

Should you not be quick enough to use a potion or eat before your hit points reach 0, normally you would die and have to restart from a checkpoint of some sort. A change that was decided on for Fable 2 was that instead of having to restart and redoing something you?ve already done is that should you ?die? you fall unconscious for a few moments and all your experience that you?ve not ?sucked up? yet disappears. It may not seem like much of a consequence so you will also become more scarred up the more you fall unconscious. There is a fine line between too easy and too difficult, and with a non threatening form of ?dying? one would assume that the difficulty would be turned up a little higher to make up for it. This is not the case and only having died once during my whole play through I was reminded of Bioshock?s death penalty which basically was the lack of one.

The other type of experience in Fable 2 is called renown. This is basically how famous you are, regardless of how pure or evil; it?s your celebrity rating in all of Albion. This will affect how people in towns react and interact with you and if someone doesn?t like you, you can alter their feelings with gifts and many different expressions to sway it in your favor (hopefully). These few dozen of different expressions can be done with a single press on the D-Pad or held down for a moving meter to appear that takes skill to perform a much more ?potent? execution of your choice. Much like the real world, every person in Albion has their own personalities, likes, and dislikes that can be examined at anytime you lock onto a citizen. This is how you can see what a person enjoys and you can tailor your interactions with that person to go in your favor. This is the heart of the game, choosing and making your own decisions that will shape your hero?s fate and possibly change all of Albion?s. Since your hero has not even a single line of dialogue in the game, expressions and emotions play the large part of bringing your point across during play. Will you be the serious hero that will save anyone that needs it or laugh, fart, or run around in Albion dressed in a chicken suit to make people laugh at you? All of these are choices you can make anytime you wish and people will remember your doings whether they be noble or evil.

There is much you can do with people?s feelings one you make them completely love or hate you. Marriage is an option if you give the desired person a ring and choose a marital home for yourself. You can choose to marry a woman or a man regardless of what sex you chose in the beginning. From here you can also choose to have sex or not with your significant other and even if you want to use a sheep skin condom to prevent a pregnancy and STDs. Should multiple people favor you and follow you home, an orgy is also completely an option and is even an achievement to aspire for should you wish. Choose not to use a condom and you will find yourself with a child in the home in 9 months. This happens instantly after a cutscene even if you are playing the female in the relationship. While it?s not necessary to have a child, having one waiting for you at home that will praise you running to your arms is rewarding as well. Make sure to keep your spouse happy or you can also find yourself divorced very quickly should they become unhappy.

Completing quests reward you with renown, so obtaining gold can be done in two different ways. The most common that will happen as you explore is finding treasure chests and digging up spots your pet tells you to. Should you want to make some real cash, you can always take up a job in different cities as a blacksmith, woodworker, bartender, assassin and other odd jobs that people may need done. It can be redundant to do the small mini games for quite some time so you can always come back to it later if you find yourself short on cash. As you get better in the jobs, they become more difficult and require more skill, but the reward is much larger the longer you don?t mess up. It?s not very exciting, but then again what jobs are? Get bored of these and you can still make money being in the real-estate business. With every building being for sale, you could own very place in a town or that single home with the view for your husband or wife. Things can be very interesting should you own many buildings and businesses. You can then set prices on rent and sale prices for the businesses. If you feel like an easy laugh, buy the local tavern and have the beer prices set to zero. You gather rent from all your buildings every few minutes, so once you have a few properties it?s easy to have a constant cash flow. Fable?s renown system even comes into play into this part, since people will hate you if you are the evil landlord that raises rent that people can barely afford or the best landlord ever that has cheap rent for easy living.

When you aren?t in a town making a name for yourself or visiting your family, you will be out adventuring and fighting different kinds of monsters. Unfortunately there isn?t much variety of types of monsters that will try and kill you with under a dozen different types coming to mind. Some are just cannon fodder (literally) and some require more than just button spamming to defeat. Trolls make a return in this sequel but once you figure out how to defeat them, the difficulty is gone from these beasts as well.

Arguably the largest newest feature to be added into Fable 2 is the co-op play offline and on Xbox Live. Taking a note at how successful and easy the drop-in drop-out co-op has worked in the Lego series of games, Lionhead has also added the ability to have a second player play with you instantly at anytime during play without having to start a specific point in the game or load it from a menu. There are some major flaws in the way co-op has been implemented though and is quite disappointing. For one, the world is played in the host?s game save and the other person playing is their henchman to aid them. The second flaw in this design is that because of this, the henchman must choose from a preset of only a few different looks instead of their character model that they?ve been working on for many hours to be outfitted and dressed just right. The redeeming factor to this downer is that you do get to keep all your skills and spells and can fight just like normal, just with different weapons that you are used to since armor and weapons don?t import.

Co-op is not done split screen either. You share the screen and because of this you have an invisible tether between the two players so that one person cant wonder off and get lost. This makes it quite frustrating when travelling down a corridor or down winding paths as the camera will quite often get stuck or whip around to disorientate you and become more of a nuisance than it should be.

The best feature though of co-op that I feel many other games should take notice of is that the host can decide who gets what percentage of all experience and money gained while playing easily on a slider bar just before starting to play together. All this money and experience gained will save to both characters and even the henchman?s ?main character?. The host can also decide to turn off the defaulted ?safety? that will allow either person to attack anyone from guards to wives to children. This opens up many possibilities for people?s wives and husbands to be killed by someone else and whole towns to be exterminated in record times.

Online co-op is also available and plays the exact same way as local co-op does. As you and everyone on your friends list are playing Fable 2, your position is being uploaded and you are able to see where your friends are while you play single player. So as I?m in town wondering around doing anything, if you are also in the same town while playing your game, we will see each other as these floating glowing orbs with our names above them. From here you can invite anyone?s orb directly and instantly into your game to help you out, converse and talk with them, or even send gifts. The default is set to see everyone?s orbs though I highly suggest turning this to friends only. The reason for this is that as you enter a city and if orbs are set to everyone on LIVE, since you can hear everyone talking in the vicinity around you, it becomes quite noisy very quickly and there?s no easy way to see who is talking without going up to their orb, then in the menu, then muting them. It?s a very cool feature the first time you see it, but entering a town with screaming people or mics that have heavy static makes it quite annoying quickly, though now that the groundwork is there, I would love to see this in other games.

Should you want to shell out $10 more for the collector edition, you will be given a few more goodies in download form. You are given access to a dungeon only for collector edition owners that once completed nets you a decent sword that would be ideal mid storyline. In your guild hall you are also given a suit of armor that may resemble a certain Spartan from a well known game called Halo, though with a renaissance twist on the look. The last in game bonus is a replica energy sword from Halo as well and although the stats are only good for a new player, it?s definitely a cool weapon to be wielding while strolling around town as it really sticks out from your regular choices of swords. The last item included is the standard ?making of? DVD that shows you behind the scene footage of Fable 2?s making.

Fable is all about choices and all these consequences will come into play down the road, some for the better and some for worse. Are you going to try and be the role model for all of Albion to look up to and strive to be, or will you be the demonic ruler that brings terror everywhere they go making people worship you out of fear. Take your time exploring every corner of Albion and taking your time to effect everyone?s lives that crosses your path or simply follow your glowing trail from objective to objective to complete a world altering plot. Again, every decision you make will change the outcome of your heroes story and the lives of everyone else as well, so who will you be?

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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