[XBox 360 Review] Fable II

Choices we make in life effect our future and the outcomes of various events in life, and we deal with the rewards and consequences of those actions. And this is no different when you enter the world of Fable II, as every decision you make will shape how you are looked at and perceived, and even how the world shifts and shapes itself according to your decisions.

Fable II begins with you living in the slums of Bowerstone with your sister Rose, homeless and hungry.  To feed yourself, you and your sister head towards the Town Market, and there is where Rose takes notice of a peddler selling ancient wares and decides she wants to buy the magic box for sale.  This is basically a tutorial for how to play the game, while at the same time moving the story alone.  Once all tasks are completed, you have enough gold to purchase the magic box. You and your sister take it back to the area of the slums you reside and she wishes to be in the castle and away from the life you guys live. Awakened during the night by guards, the two of you are escorted to the castle to meet Lord Lucien, and so it seems Rose’s wish has come true.  While meeting Lucien a tragic event occurs and you are nearly killed, and it’s at this point you are saved by a mysterious woman in a cloak named Theresa.  Years have now passed with Theresa training and teaching you until you are ready to go out and change history and the fate of the world and this is where your journey truly begins.

Fable II’s gameplay is not without typical hack and slash swordplay, ranged weapons and magic, but it’s in how you utilize it that makes it different.  Instead of using an overall level system, you decide how you want to strengthen your character. You can make a powerful warrior, a skilled mage, or maintain balance as you see fit. From the beginning, you have a very helpful and trusty sidekick as your dog. He can help you find treasure or dig spots that are off the beaten path and help you out at times with combat when enemies are knocked to the ground. You can teach him new tricks and upgrade his fighting abilities or treasure hunting skills.

As you spend your time meeting various people in the game, you can determine whether they hate or love and even find you funny or rude. As you determine whether people like or dislike you, they will give you gives and even want to marry you. Marriage in Fable II is as difficult as it is in the real world, with trying to keep your spouse happy and in love with you. You can even turn off the safety option of the game and kill them if you like, which help send you down the path of evil and take out the frustrations you can’t do in reality.

As you take on various quests, every choice you make during that quest will change how you are known throughout the world. Are you the pure hero, who wants to do right? Or are you the evil, ruthless type, killing all, good or bad, who stand in your way? People will fear you as they see you, or will run to you and rejoice, but the choice in perception is all yours. Sometimes you will see two similar quests, yet one from the side of good and one from the side of evil.  Unfortunately the larger and what you would expect to be the more definitive decisions in the game aren’t nearly as consequential as you would expect. While you may spend time deciding which way you want to take the game, you will find it really made no difference.  This is one of the few letdowns in Fable II.

Graphically, Fable II looks great. As your character makes choices, and is knockdown in combat, you can see the changes on your character. The smallest details and scars are visible as you progress through the game. Character models are well down, and while many of the NPCs look the same, there are still a variety of looks and styles. Towns, villages and camps are very well designed, and capture the feel of the game. Looking out in the background, you can see mountains, and other structures just off in the distance that doesn’t look like typical 2D backgrounds to falsify a 3D look.

The audio in the game is very well done, with terrific voiceovers and beautiful special effects as you travel throughout the landscape and experience the world of Albion. Judi Dench does a wonderful job as Theresa, never faltering in her portrayal. The team behind the voice acting did a great job capturing the accents and dialogue of medieval times, and you never get the feeling as if it’s being forced upon you. Only a few issues can be found within the audio of Fable II and mostly within the voice acting, or lack there of. First off the townspeople can get old with repeating the same dialogue, especially while performing jobs. After spending a couple hours as a blacksmith or bartending, you’ll want to mute the game in order to stop hearing the “good job” remarks. The only other real issue I had was the lack of speech from your character, as games have come a long way and not having your character speak should no longer be an issue now.  The fact that they could have added dialogue for your character and changed the tone or speech pattern depending on how you proceed through the game, was definitely a great idea they missed out on.

While the single player experience in Fable II is outstanding, the game falls flat on its face when it comes to Cooperative gameplay. It was shocking to find out as I entered a friends game that I could not take my character in with me, but instead was left to playing a henchman role with all my abilities intact from my saved character.  By doing this, Lionhead Studios have essentially take away the ability of others to show off their progression as a character in another person’s world. The other thing the co-op play suffers from is both players have to be on the same screen at all times, and it is extremely frustrating when both players want to do various tasks at once. Why it was so hard to keep both players in the same location, instead of the same screen is beyond me, and it seriously hampers the experience of playing with a friend.  The good thing about co-op is you can turn the safety on and off and allow your friend to wreak havoc as you see fit.

Overall, Fable II is a great experience and story that all should take a chance on and play.  Even with a few hang-ups in the form of slow loading times when switching between locales, and a disappointing co-op experience, you can’t help but enjoy what Fable II has to offer. You’ll love seeing how your character changes in appearance and perception in the world as you progress through the game, and after you play through as one path to your liking, you’ll definitely want to experience the other side of things. With wonderful dialogue, a beautiful world, and a game that truly showcase rewards and consequences for your actions, Fable II is a must own game for the XBox 360.

Rating: 8.9/10

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