Fable II

By: Tristan Clark    On: Xbox 360
Published: Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 1:25 PM
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Fable II is one of the biggest titles of 2008, and has been anticipated by many eager 360 owners for years. As such, a lot of hype has been built up, as feature after feature was unveiled and sounded more awesome than the last. You could get married and have children; you could buy any building in the game; you’d care so much about your dog that you’d cry if anything bad happened to it. All this – and so much more – was promised on top of what the original Fable already delivered, which was a fun, if perhaps flawed, adventure experience that shaped itself around your actions.

But let’s try and place all that hype to one side for a moment. After playing until my eyeballs fell out of their sockets, I’ve reached a few conclusions of my own, unaided by press releases or trailers. So what’s my verdict? Well, if you’re after a good RPG on the 360, then Fable II is definitely up there with the best of what the console offers. It even attains greatness in some places – while in others it falls down a bit. Taken as an overall experience, however, this is one of those games that is more than the sum of its parts – and is the real reason you should consider getting it.

Fable II is set hundreds of years after the original game, so while there are references to it, it’s not essential to play. Life in the world of Albion has moved on somewhat, and while it’s still largely a medieval setting, there are a few hints of progression in there too – mainly in the fact that you can buy pistols.

It can be hard to sum a game up like this, so let’s start with generalizations. Fable II is an action RPG set in a world where a villain (more complicated than many villains! Hooray!) is intent on causing mischief – and it’s your destiny, of course, to thwart him. Thankfully, the actual presentation of the story and the world is unique enough to avoid becoming stale. Maybe it’s because of the wonderful dark humour that runs through everything, or simply because the voice actors are actually mainly English rather than American, but it all comes together as a refreshing kind of fantasy world.

The staggering amount of features listed at the start of this review are all in there – this is a game where you can be good, evil, poor, rich, renowned, unknown, and so much more. The story itself is fairly short for an RPG, falling more in line with the length of a typical FPS narrative – but if you just rush through the plot, you’re really missing the point. All of the features in the game are meant to add up to give you a feeling of being in the world, and affecting its direction.

So how does all this actually play out? In many ways, the mechanics of these features are fairly straightforward. You can interact with anyone in the game, and they all have their own likes, dislikes, personality traits, and sexual preferences. When they’re nearby, you can perform actions like farting, dancing, playing a lute, whistling, flirting, and much more. Depending on the person, their standing with you will increase or decrease. It all happens surprisingly quickly – you can potentially pick up a husband or wife in the space of five minutes if you so desire. In all, I found this interaction system to be a bit too mechanical, but it certainly does the job.

Beyond interacting with your fellow humans, you also have a loyal dog – and this is one of the high points of the game. You can tell a lot of care went into this faithful companion – their animations and actions are really well done. You might be running along a road, and then your dog will come scampering up from behind, overtake you, and zoom off down a wrong path, before looking back and finding you again. He can also find buried treasure, attack your opponents, and generally reflects your own personality. I challenge anyone with a beating heart to not be affected when your dog is injured, and limps so pathetically towards you.

There’s so, so much more to talk about, but perhaps it’s better to get back to what Fable II pulls off, what it doesn’t. As I mentioned above, some of its features are brilliant, whereas others feel a bit underdone or forced. This good/bad (sorry) tension is seen in other areas as well. The graphics, for example, can look wonderfully stunning at times, as you run alongside a lush cliff top looking out over the sea as the sun sets. But character animations can sometimes feel a bit off – just little things like when you walk up or down stairs, but they do detract slightly from the overall feeling of immersion.

One thing that the developers did get right is the combat. It starts off very simple: X is used for melee attacks, Y for ranged weapons, and B for magic. If you’re a confused button masher, you’ll actually be able to perform serviceable combat moves. But they’ve also eked out a surprising amount of depth from this setup. As you level up your melee, for example, you can unlock moves that involve holding down the button to block, using the analog stick to help perform flourishes, and much more. If you’re a clever chap, you can also start stringing combos together that use your sword, pistol, and spells in sequence. Basically, the combat seems designed to make you look and feel cool – and once you get the hang of it, it succeeds at that.

Another welcome feature is co-op. During my review time, my flat mates would come along, hop on board as a henchman, and help me beat up some baddies, before dropping out again. It’s much better than simply sitting there watching someone play through an RPG. Online co-op with other peoples’ real characters will be discussed at a later date, once the game hits retail.

The story itself is entertaining, well written, and – shockingly – most of the voice actors do a great job. However, the presentation of much of the narrative leaves a bit to be desired – while the idea of holding the left trigger to zoom into a cinematic camera angle is great, it could have been used in more situations. I understand the need to balance an exciting plot with player freedom, but it did make some of the more dramatic scenes fall kind of flat at times. Still, it does a good job in terms of pacing, and builds up to some pretty damn neat stuff later on, so it’s well worth playing through – even if you think you only want the game to have unprotected sex with prostitutes.

Fable II isn’t perfect, and some of its features don’t live up to the hype. But taken as a whole, as an experience rather than a series of discrete mechanics, this is a game that – if you let it – will draw you into its world…and then let you run loose in it. It feels refreshing enough to breathe new life into this crowded genre, and if you’re an RPG fan – even a casual one – then this should definitely be on your ‘must play’ list.

The Score

Fable II
"Return to the world of Albion."
Rating: M   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments (30)

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On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 1:41 PM Posted by Insanctity
Hype unfortunately can ruin some games, you end up expecting too much, and when the game doesn't deliver...
Still I'm gonna have to shrug off the hype and play it for what it is to fully enjoy it

Can't wait to get my copy!!!!!
Wozza NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 1:41 PM Posted by Wozza
Picking up mine tomorrow - are you?
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 1:57 PM Posted by Ruptunex
Looks good. Pity i have no 360....
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 2:19 PM Posted by Insanctity
Yer getting my copy tomorrow... contemplating pulling a sickie off work
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 4:16 PM Posted by TheDark1
cant wait for 2moro!
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 4:47 PM Posted by Lisa3x3x3
yeeyaa! so excited now!!
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 4:50 PM Posted by alienhominid
sounds great.
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 4:55 PM Posted by Daniel1987
Getting mine tomorrow.... Will see how it fares against Fallout as I'm not really an RPG-er so I'll keep one and get rid of the other.
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 4:56 PM Posted by Naeberius
i just finished the last of my practice exam so i have a long weekend to play this.
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 6:32 PM Posted by cooljojo
I'm still hesitant about a purchase because they could re-release the game with added content like they did with Fable:Lost Chapters. But $78 from Harvey Norman sounds too good to pass up.
The Host of Chaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 7:02 PM Posted by The Host of Chaos
I've read 3 reviews today and the more I read the less entusiastic I get. Hopefully this works in a "negative-hype" kind of way and makes me like the game better. I am worried it will be another Halo 3 though. Still smelling the stink off that one, ugh.
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 7:47 PM Posted by tim705
Pre-ordered from Gamesman online store. Means I'll probably get it Friday so I'm a bit guttered.
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 9:27 PM Posted by iRonic
ill just crash at his house and play it (he prob wont mind....i think)
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 9:29 PM Posted by iRonic
whoops and by his i mean my friends house -typo- xD
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 9:58 PM Posted by dvant1
looking forward to playing this, hopefully it will last longer than the orginal fable, lol
djkicks NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 22 Oct 2008 10:38 PM Posted by djkicks
Posted by Wozza on 22 October 2008, 01:41PM
Picking up mine tomorrow - are you?

No, I think I'll wait until it's under $60
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 7:57 AM Posted by Insanctity
AHHHHHHHHHH I'm at work and it comes out in an hour.... =(
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 3:52 PM Posted by BlackRetina
The comment section isn't meant to be used for your bitching. Comment about the game, not your personal life. WE DO NOT CARE THAT YOU'RE AT WORK.
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 3:58 PM Posted by Insanctity
Take a chill pill BR, no-one cares that you're a c0ck.
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 5:37 PM Posted by myou066
LOL - someone hook me up?
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 7:13 PM Posted by jonohobs@hotmail.com
i hope they bring it out on ps3 like bio Shock but if not theres allways little big planet
On Thursday 23 Oct 2008 9:16 PM Posted by gamemastercraig
Yeah!!, Fable 2!!, awesome game, picked my copy up a few hours ago.
On Friday 24 Oct 2008 4:39 PM Posted by magnus
got mine delivered yesterday at work. home sick ten minutes later
On Friday 24 Oct 2008 9:45 PM Posted by Daniel1987
Meh, a bit underwhelming so far, camera is a bit awkward too...
On Saturday 25 Oct 2008 1:29 PM Posted by orbis1357
this is the reason i wont a xobx360
On Sunday 26 Oct 2008 6:01 PM Posted by swetsalot
I want why did I sell my xbox cant even borrow my bros his just got the RROD DAMMIT.
On Sunday 26 Oct 2008 11:02 PM Posted by Stark97
Looks awesome, if i had a 360 i would buy this. Really enjoyed the first one, great RPG
On Tuesday 28 Oct 2008 3:16 PM Posted by Yacolt
I would mostly agree to this review, and I think that we will see a lot more from Fable 2 to come. With the success of The Lost Chapters in Fable 1, they will no doubt release something tasty for us.
On Thursday 20 Nov 2008 5:57 PM Posted by cute_maori
Lol, trailer looks awesome and the gameplay fantastic.
On Thursday 9 Jul 2009 12:53 PM Posted by lol
Well i hired it out it was fun but it keep'd freezing hopefully it was just the disk...

Still it was a bad as game definitly going to TRY and play it again