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Fable II Review
developer: Lionhead Studios
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 21, 08 (released)
|» All About Fable II on ActionTrip|
The launch of Fable II had been marked on our calendar as one of the most anticipated events for this gaming season. Our eagerness to try the game goes way back, of course. Fable: The Lost Chapters (PC) was by far amongst the best contributions to the action RPG genre. Peter and Lionhead have a way of luring you into the game world with top-quality design, superb art direction, fine story-telling and truly amazing character animation.
It's easy to get lost in the magical realms of Fable II. You'll notice this from the very first scene in the game, when you're character is still a toddler. Starting off as a beautifully molded fairytale, the game makes a sudden, rather sharp turn, and establishes a strong central role, thus evolving into an increasingly exciting story. With each step of the way, players are able to establish an emotional connection with the main character. Vengeance is at the very heart of the narrative, except how you decide to carry it out is entirely up to you.
The best aspect of Fable II is the sheer freedom to complete quests how you see fit. You always have a choice. The same thing goes for combat. You can be an aggressive, melee-driven fighter, just waiting to slice, stab or maim or you might feel more inclined to be a long-ranged warrior, who likes to approach each battle strategically and from a distance. Combat mechanics are a bit awkward and slightly tedious at first, although as soon as you've improved your abilities, things become more entertaining. In our experience, each battle was smooth and without complications. Mark my words, combat should be engaging whatever your preference; magic (will), shooting or hand-to-hand fighting. Each style is complex enough to guarantee combat variety or, if players should so fancy, it's possible to combine all three against enemies to make for some rather exciting fight scenes. Personally, kick-ass sword combos, coupled with improved ranged combat seemed like the perfect style for me. Never hesitated to upgrade and use spells either - Inferno and Raise Dead ended up being my favorite.
Character customization is exceptionally fun. You are able to change hairstyles, beards, set the color of your clothes, add tattoos to your body, etc. What you eat and drink also affects the character's appearance, so bear that in mind the next time you chew on a big, saucy slice of meat. We mustn't forget the addition of your character's furry companion.
The dog is always by your side no matter how you treat it. While it does present a cool addition to the game, it also reduces the challenge somewhat for the more adventurous. Forget about consulting the map. There is no map for finding buried treasure; your pooch will sniff it out for you. He deserves a good kicking for that from time to time - "Woof, woof!" "Yes, I've seen the damn chest, thank you... Stupid mutt!"
Players rarely feel confused and bewildered about what they should be doing. Sure there are tough moral choices to be made, but therein lies the challenge. The game is never intrusive as to how players should go about completing tasks set before the protagonist. It's always down to you. You can cheat, lie, kill and swindle to create a truly malevolent character. Being a boring old goody-goody two shoes is an alternative, naturally. In the end, it's possible to balance things between good and evil. Meanwhile, every action has a consequence, so whatever you pull off is also going to shape your character as you go along. The image of a rich and happily married family man can easily be shattered and the next thing you know you're an ugly, contemptible loner and murderer. Through it all, people and the world around respond accordingly. Killing some annoying asshole in the street in broad daylight, triggers praise and admiration from certain people, while others may hate you for it.
The freedom to roam the countryside is greater than in the original, although don't rush into this expecting to march anywhere you like Oblivion style. Most of the areas offer a few alternative routes to your destination, which may lead to unexpected encounters and exciting side-quests. Exploring is something we advise you to do often in Fable II, 'cause you never know what you can stumble upon. In addition, to exploring, enjoying unprotected sex, having a family, fighting, buying houses, starting your own business, this game allows you to take on a variety of jobs. This denotes a few cleverly designed and extremely fun mini-games, colorfully portraying professions such the woodcutter, waiter, blacksmith and so on. WoW players, who are no strangers to grinding, are bound to devote their attention to hours of forging blades or chopping wood. Why? Well, mostly because it's a good way to earn gold.
Every abovementioned aspect of gameplay marks a significant improvement over the previous game. Even so, it wasn't an altogether flawless experience. Fable II did treat us to some unpleasant and flimsy AI behavior. Enemies sometimes attack one by one, failing to use the clear advantage of numbers. Also, technical problems weren't ironed out on time, leading to a few quirks in the game's physics. Places where your character should be able to walk normally are still blocked my invisible walls (though considerably less that in the first game). Mind you, this wasn't such a big issue and odds are most of you won't even notice it.
Fabulous art direction, charming atmosphere, great story and characterization, awesome combat system, plenty of choices to make, places to explore, excellent quest structure, superb soundtrack and voiceovers;
Occasionally weird AI behavior, relatively small choice of ranged and melee weapons, the absence of a map, I don't want the bloody dog to find all my treasures (no matter how cute it is).