Left or right? Laugh or sneer? Lazy or active? Greedy or generous? Thief or hard worker? Peace maker or fear monger? Good or Evil?
Choice is a part of our everyday life, but rarely do we see choices in our entertainment. Many games over the last two decades have tried to break free from a linear story, allowing choice and freedom for the player to express themselves. Plenty have succeeded, but majority still just offer a very similar story, no matter what choices you make. Lionhead Studios’ latest offering, Fable II is a choice-orientated RPG (Role Playing Game) adventure game, exclusively for the Xbox 360.
Everything is hazy? Was it something I ate? Oh, bloom-lighting.
Beginning as a humble street urchin, scraping a living with your older sister, you stumble across a magic box, which holds the secrets to an ancient society which crumbled five hundred years ago. The choices you make begin even as this young child. At a very early stage someone very close to your ‘Hero’ is taken from you and you find yourself almost a decade later, as a young man (or woman). From this point on, the world of Albion is at your mercy, as you begin your journey to vengeance.
With your ever-obedient dog by your side, the entire world that your character lives in thrives or suffers around you. Depending on your actions your ‘Hero’s appearance will change, reflecting the good or evil that you commit. Along with your appearance the opinion of you in the minds of the citizens of Albion will also change depending on your actions. To make an income in Albion’s economy, one option is to work for your gold, but another is to steal. If you are caught, committing an act of theft, extortion of a citizen, murder, attempted murder or vandalism it may result in a fine which is enforced by the local guards if you are caught, one could pay that fine or one could resist arrest. Every man, women and child in the world of Albion is killable, each property is purchasable and every citizen’s sexuality is questionable. Your ‘Hero’ can marry any citizen regardless if the citizen is a man or woman, and if possible, you can bring children into the world.
The combat system in Fable II is a very simple, yet deep experience. Using three buttons on the Xbox 360 controller, one can control their Sword (or other weapon) with the (X) button, their Gun or Crossbow with the (Y) and their Magic with the (B). The straightforward control scheme makes fighting easy for beginners who may never played a video game before, yet to master the system a challenge.
To complete the main story line, it would take most around 10 hours, but that would involve ignoring all the interaction that can be had with this world. It is quiet common for a player to feel detached from the world in most RPG’s, as there are not many options when it comes to choosing what your exact appearance is and how your character is to interact with the world, but Fable II is an exception. If your ‘Hero’ was to wear no clothes or you decide that wearing a corset will increase his manliness, it will have no impact on how he is to fight; it will only change people’s opinion of you. You interaction with the world of Albion is very unique, not only with the people around you, but your family. For example, if you were to leave them and not return for a very long time, without giving them money or food then you would return to a very hungry and unhappy family. The level of emotion that a citizen can express is also very impressive. Let’s say you return to your family and our son comes running out, ‘Daddy, Daddy where have you been? I’m really hungry!’ You could give him something to eat or you could take out a pie and wolf it down in front of him, the expression is priceless.
Fable II’s breath-taking environments have been lovingly crafted, along with it’s cinematic music. Quirky dialog adds a comical approach to most of the citizen and famous British actors have been used for the voice of a few of the main character such as Zoe Wannamaker and Stephen Fry. While the loading time between areas is bearable, what cannot be overlooked is the Co-Op mode. The player may invite a second player to join their world as a ‘Henchman’. If the second player has their own character in Fable II, they cannot import it into their friend’s world; they can only extract the Gold and Experience they earned as a ‘Henchman’. This second player can be either playing on the same console, or over Xbox Live. While having two players in a completely interactive world sounds overwhelmingly entertaining, though the camera has a nasty habit of locking of at inconvenient angles and this can create quiet a load of frustration. While it is nice to invite another player into your world so that they can compare the difference between their Albion and yours, it is normally not worth the effort.
This is solid title, worthy of recognition and respect. While some aspects of this game are disappointing, it holds true to what a Fable is, a story with a moral message. Every little choice has a long and short term affect on you and your surroundings. Who will you become?
Speed review/Summary: If you enjoyed its predecessor then you will be enthralled by its sequel. With every action having a consequence, you will have complete control over who your character will become. While its story length is a little short and Co-Op didn't live up to its expectations, it holds its own through its beautiful environment and characters.
4 / 5 Stars