Fable II

The sequel to one of the Xbox’s better games, Fable II will bring more pow, pizazz, plot, and even some pregnancy.

While only in its second game, master game designer Peter Molyneux has built up a huge fan base with an incredible amount of hype & expectation for the newest entry in this series. Gamers are expecting pow, pizazz, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that probably have the letter “P” starting it all off that I can’t be bothered looking in a thesaurus for at the moment.

One word I can think of right now that starts with the letter “P” and has a lot in common with Fable II is the word “plot”.

In Fable II, “plot” can mean a lot of things. It can refer to the depth of the story that takes an evolution from the original Fable. A hero starting from dreams of grandeur with your sister, you’ll find that you’re one of the heroes left in the land to undertake what is a mission of your destiny. I won’t give away the story sufficed to say that Lionhead have spent a fair amount of time with this one creating a funny story that has enough in it to keep you entertained for a while.

“Plot” can also mean a plot of land, a new element that really shifts the focus of Fable II from being just an adventure game to a title that is so now obviously more than just an adventure game.

This new element brought to the Fable series is the sort of choice you make for taking a mission. While you could take jobs at will in the original, there was usually nothing to do if you decided you didn’t want to play the actual quest. Fable II changes all this by letting you make the decision of playing the game story or setting up a shop and living your life as a character in one of the various towns set out in Fable II.

Basically, you could be a blacksmith that after putting the kids and wife to bed runs out and takes vengeance against all who cross you.

The downside of this – and one of the downsides of Fable II – is that this will force you to play a mini-game.

Ah yes, the dreaded mini-game, life’s answer to what you do when you need to fill a small amount of space and reward the player with some prize for playing along. Fable II uses mini-games to get you to earn money as an actual career. If only real life were that easy!

Fable’s II mini-games are all pretty much the same: watch the timed meter and hit press a button when your little moving dot is in the green. Hit the right area and your character swings his tool – say an axe for a lumberjack – otherwise if you swing out, your character loses his concentration and the swing works but you lose your build-up of multipliers.

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This makes for an easy way to get gold – a method & role which some could say is too easy – but also enables you to play through the game at your own pace. The missions tend to wait for you so you can grow in your own capacity and work your way up grabbing more gold and higher weapons a lot more readily than many other role-playing games would allow.

By now you’ve probably already heard about your paw-tastic sidekick, a dog which you befriend early on and who grows with you. Your moral choices affect it as well as the addition of teaching it tricks, a feature that helps to really cement the desire to keep playing on.

There’s also the word “pregnancy”, a word which describes an act you can accomplish in the world of Fable II. Playing as either a guy or girl, you can get someone pregnant (as a guy) or fall pregnant yourself (as a girl). Peter Molyneux was even nice enough to include the option of safe sex provided you were intelligent enough to buy some pig-intestine condoms from a market stall (seriously, you’re glad latex was invented, aren’t you?).

Once a character is pregnant, the child bearing is more or less instantaneous, something else which would be nice if it related to real-life. How you treat your child will also become a factor so be sure to keep that in mind as you’re playing.

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Graphically, the game is pretty and the sound is borders on perfect with your typical professional voice acting and sound effects bringing together a world that pops off of the page.

Sadly another “P” word is “problems”, but luckily for Lionhead, this is something Fable II largely goes without. There are some bugs and Lionhead are already on the case for fixing them with releases of updates, but short of these the problems in Fable II aren’t all that large. Rather, they tend to relate solely to some of the quirks found in the game as well as how you choose to play.

If you decide to be a good guy (or girl), you’ll play through Fable II looking all pretty and happy until you die. When you die, it’s not a “start from your old checkpoint” like it is in most games but rather a “start from where you died” system but now you’ve got a scar to accompany you throughout your travels. Obviously, Fable II is telling you to not die otherwise your looks go down hill (which stands to reason in real life what with the whole dying issue as it is). The flawed logic in this is that if you play as a bad girl (or guy), you’re evil deeds are likely to make you disfigured anyway and so this whole scarring business becomes sort of like an irrelevant penalty system.

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While the controls have been tweaked to be as easy as they possibly can, some of the time they don’t feel as responsive as you might otherwise like. This will probably only be a problem for gamers who adored the first Fable as it feels like Fable II has been adapted more for the first-time crowd. This doesn’t harm Fable II in the slightest but you might feel as though you’re missing that extra level of responsiveness other role-playing games give you.

The last “P” word that springs to mind is “player” and it is with this word that we work out what sort of player is being targeted by Fable II.

The answer is simple: anyone.

Anyone and everyone is the target of Peter Molyneux’s masterpiece, or anyone who loves a good story anyway. The missions are somewhat challenging, the story is filled with fun & games, the way you make decisions will change the game even more than the last Fable, and the whole general feel of Fable II is that it is a story book for everyone to sink their teeth into.

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Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Classification: M
Formats: Xbox 360
URL: Fable II

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark