What's The Deal With... Fable II?

Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
My history with the Fable franchise is a very complicated one. They've always been games that I've wanted to really enjoy, but for various reasons I just haven't been able to settle into them. My first experience with the series was back in 2005, when I bought a second-hand Xbox from a friend, along with a sizeable stack of games. In amongst the torrent of first-person shooters was a copy of Fable: The Lost Chapters. Given my lack of experience with the FPS genre at the time, I figured that Fable was probably the best place to start with this new console. Despite initially really getting into the concept and the visual style of that game, once it opened up and I found myself in the middle of Bowerstone, the seemingly endless amount of options available to me seemed too daunting and I shied away from it. Fast-forward to January 2010, and during one of my visits to a local game store I noticed a copy of the Game of the Year edition of Fable II selling fairly cheaply. Still in possession of some vouchers from Christmas, I decided to pick it up with a view to playing it later in the year. Since that purchase, I've tried going back to The Lost Chapters, only to experience some very annoying crashing issues while playing it on a 360, and I've also tried picking up Fable II twice, but been distracted early in the experience by other games (specifically Borderlands and Final Fantasy XIII). When September rolled around, though, I decided to finally give Fable II the chance to shine that it deserved. Did it shine? You bet it did...
 

What's Good About It?

Fable II is a beautiful game, and a welcome departure from the muddy greys and browns of a lot of 360 titles
The first thing I noticed about Fable II was the game's striking visual design. The entire game is filled with bright colours and busy environments, the graphics are highly stylised, and the entire realm of Albion feels cohesive thanks to the consistency of the art direction. I think my girlfriend hit the nail on the head when she off-handedly commented that the game looked like a hand-drawn Disney movie. Accompanying these visuals is some great audio work, and in particular the spectacular voice acting. Ron Glass' Garth and Stephen Fry's Reaver are two exceptionally well-acted characters, and the general populace of Albion is well-voiced on the whole, too. Another aspect of Fable II which adds to its charm is its wicked sense of humour, decidedly British and laughably dark in most cases. Pretty much every item I picked up on my journey was accompanied by some chuckle-inducing description, and most of the game world's inhabitants are armed with an arsenal of witty one-liners. Even the loading screens had me giggling from time to time. 
 
In terms of gameplay, Fable II offers a very streamlined version of the traditional RPG formula. There are quests, both compulsory and optional, there are collectibles to be found, secret weapons hidden away, social interactions aplenty, and a lot of nasties to fight. Every aspect of Fable II's gameplay is refined to the point where it feels accessible to a newcomer to the genre, while offering just enough depth to keep a seasoned player interested. The combat, for instance, revolves around three buttons - X for melee attacks, Y for ranged shots, and B for Will spells. This system is incredibly easy to pick up, and it's not too difficult to start putting some simple combinations together, but learning to string these together with the effortless finesse of a Hero does take some time. A final thing I'd like to praise it for is its implementation of the "good or evil" morality system. Arguably the selling point around which the entire franchise is based, Fable II's moral decisions strike a nice balance between superficial instances of being nice or nasty to NPCs, and weighty decisions that actually go a long way towards influencing the game world. As a simple example, deciding whether to be good or evil and taking on the relevant quests will ultimately determine which of the game's two morally-opposed temples thrives and which crumbles. It's always nice to see decisions like these have a tangible effect on the world itself, so I commend Fable II for pulling that off so well.
 

What's Not So Good About It?

Considering it's built on the concept of player choice, Fable II does feel pretty shallow at times
My biggest complaint about Fable II is that, considering it's an RPG, it lacks a lot of the depth that I've come to expect from the genre. I expect that this is due to the game trying to strike that balance between welcoming new players and appeasing the veterans, but a side effect is that the game comes off as rather shallow. The social interactions serve their purpose, but they're kinda impersonal and hollow - a Fart isn't exactly weighty or meaningful in the same way that some of the game's moral decisions can be. The game also suffered due to its highly repetitive nature. I turned the game off a couple of times during my playthrough simply because I was growing tired of walking the same roads and fighting the same bandits in the same location for the twentieth time. It emphasises the game's distinct lack of locations and ruins the illusion of the scope of the game world, as well - I think Albion has around fifteen distinct regions, all of which I ended up travelling to and through several times. Thankfully, 'Bower Lake Syndrome', as I've come to call it, isn't game-breaking, but it really does put a dampener on exploring the world, and makes fast travel seem like the more appealing option. In a game as beautiful as Fable II, that simply shouldn't be the case, but it is. 
 
I think the only aspect of Fable II that wasn't streamlined was its menus. I feel like I should stress that so far this year, I've spent fifty-five hours with Final Fantasy XIII, forty-nine hours with Borderlands, thirty-seven hours with Mass Effect and thirty-nine hours with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I honestly think I spent more of my twenty-five hours with Fable II cycling through item menus than I did with any of those other titles. Fable II's menu system is not only clunky, it's intrusive and laborious. After a while I stopped experimenting with new dyes purely because I'd have to press about five different buttons simply to switch to a new colour. Similarly, I found myself reluctant to buy experience potions, because using one would kick me out of the menu and I knew I'd have to slog through the whole process once again to use another. If there's one thing that needs to be addressed in the upcoming Fable III, it's this. A final complaint, albeit an incredibly petty and minor one, is that Fable II's Stats menu tells you the amount of time you've been playing the game in seconds. I don't know about you, but I like to be able to relate to other people how many hours I've spent with a game. If I have to actually whip out a calculator and divide a number by 3600 in order to do that, just like I had to do to reach the aforementioned twenty-five hours figure, then don't consider me amused.
 
--- 
 
 I don't know if I've mentioned, but I'm really stoked to play this
I really enjoyed my time with Fable II on the whole. It's a nice, light RPG experience that I didn't have to take too seriously, but that I was inevitably sucked into as I tried to expand my real estate empire and keep my wife happy. Given that I bought the Game of the Year edition, I still have the Knothole Island and See The Future DLC packs to play through, but I think I'm going to be leaving those unplayed for the time being. I'm heading back to my girlfriend's place on Wednesday, to spend a week with her family in order to celebrate her birthday. As a consequence, I won't have access to the 360, so I think I'll end up diving back into Fable II to polish off that DLC when I return at the end of September. Should provide me with something interesting to do before my third year of University starts, if nothing else. In the meantime, with an absence of consoles, I suspect that my PSP will be seeing a lot of action over the next couple of weeks. As well as having Final Fantasy VII to endure, I also have Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to play through. Those two should be more than enough to keep me occupied while I'm away. Thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan 
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
#1 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
My history with the Fable franchise is a very complicated one. They've always been games that I've wanted to really enjoy, but for various reasons I just haven't been able to settle into them. My first experience with the series was back in 2005, when I bought a second-hand Xbox from a friend, along with a sizeable stack of games. In amongst the torrent of first-person shooters was a copy of Fable: The Lost Chapters. Given my lack of experience with the FPS genre at the time, I figured that Fable was probably the best place to start with this new console. Despite initially really getting into the concept and the visual style of that game, once it opened up and I found myself in the middle of Bowerstone, the seemingly endless amount of options available to me seemed too daunting and I shied away from it. Fast-forward to January 2010, and during one of my visits to a local game store I noticed a copy of the Game of the Year edition of Fable II selling fairly cheaply. Still in possession of some vouchers from Christmas, I decided to pick it up with a view to playing it later in the year. Since that purchase, I've tried going back to The Lost Chapters, only to experience some very annoying crashing issues while playing it on a 360, and I've also tried picking up Fable II twice, but been distracted early in the experience by other games (specifically Borderlands and Final Fantasy XIII). When September rolled around, though, I decided to finally give Fable II the chance to shine that it deserved. Did it shine? You bet it did...
 

What's Good About It?

Fable II is a beautiful game, and a welcome departure from the muddy greys and browns of a lot of 360 titles
The first thing I noticed about Fable II was the game's striking visual design. The entire game is filled with bright colours and busy environments, the graphics are highly stylised, and the entire realm of Albion feels cohesive thanks to the consistency of the art direction. I think my girlfriend hit the nail on the head when she off-handedly commented that the game looked like a hand-drawn Disney movie. Accompanying these visuals is some great audio work, and in particular the spectacular voice acting. Ron Glass' Garth and Stephen Fry's Reaver are two exceptionally well-acted characters, and the general populace of Albion is well-voiced on the whole, too. Another aspect of Fable II which adds to its charm is its wicked sense of humour, decidedly British and laughably dark in most cases. Pretty much every item I picked up on my journey was accompanied by some chuckle-inducing description, and most of the game world's inhabitants are armed with an arsenal of witty one-liners. Even the loading screens had me giggling from time to time. 
 
In terms of gameplay, Fable II offers a very streamlined version of the traditional RPG formula. There are quests, both compulsory and optional, there are collectibles to be found, secret weapons hidden away, social interactions aplenty, and a lot of nasties to fight. Every aspect of Fable II's gameplay is refined to the point where it feels accessible to a newcomer to the genre, while offering just enough depth to keep a seasoned player interested. The combat, for instance, revolves around three buttons - X for melee attacks, Y for ranged shots, and B for Will spells. This system is incredibly easy to pick up, and it's not too difficult to start putting some simple combinations together, but learning to string these together with the effortless finesse of a Hero does take some time. A final thing I'd like to praise it for is its implementation of the "good or evil" morality system. Arguably the selling point around which the entire franchise is based, Fable II's moral decisions strike a nice balance between superficial instances of being nice or nasty to NPCs, and weighty decisions that actually go a long way towards influencing the game world. As a simple example, deciding whether to be good or evil and taking on the relevant quests will ultimately determine which of the game's two morally-opposed temples thrives and which crumbles. It's always nice to see decisions like these have a tangible effect on the world itself, so I commend Fable II for pulling that off so well.
 

What's Not So Good About It?

Considering it's built on the concept of player choice, Fable II does feel pretty shallow at times
My biggest complaint about Fable II is that, considering it's an RPG, it lacks a lot of the depth that I've come to expect from the genre. I expect that this is due to the game trying to strike that balance between welcoming new players and appeasing the veterans, but a side effect is that the game comes off as rather shallow. The social interactions serve their purpose, but they're kinda impersonal and hollow - a Fart isn't exactly weighty or meaningful in the same way that some of the game's moral decisions can be. The game also suffered due to its highly repetitive nature. I turned the game off a couple of times during my playthrough simply because I was growing tired of walking the same roads and fighting the same bandits in the same location for the twentieth time. It emphasises the game's distinct lack of locations and ruins the illusion of the scope of the game world, as well - I think Albion has around fifteen distinct regions, all of which I ended up travelling to and through several times. Thankfully, 'Bower Lake Syndrome', as I've come to call it, isn't game-breaking, but it really does put a dampener on exploring the world, and makes fast travel seem like the more appealing option. In a game as beautiful as Fable II, that simply shouldn't be the case, but it is. 
 
I think the only aspect of Fable II that wasn't streamlined was its menus. I feel like I should stress that so far this year, I've spent fifty-five hours with Final Fantasy XIII, forty-nine hours with Borderlands, thirty-seven hours with Mass Effect and thirty-nine hours with Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I honestly think I spent more of my twenty-five hours with Fable II cycling through item menus than I did with any of those other titles. Fable II's menu system is not only clunky, it's intrusive and laborious. After a while I stopped experimenting with new dyes purely because I'd have to press about five different buttons simply to switch to a new colour. Similarly, I found myself reluctant to buy experience potions, because using one would kick me out of the menu and I knew I'd have to slog through the whole process once again to use another. If there's one thing that needs to be addressed in the upcoming Fable III, it's this. A final complaint, albeit an incredibly petty and minor one, is that Fable II's Stats menu tells you the amount of time you've been playing the game in seconds. I don't know about you, but I like to be able to relate to other people how many hours I've spent with a game. If I have to actually whip out a calculator and divide a number by 3600 in order to do that, just like I had to do to reach the aforementioned twenty-five hours figure, then don't consider me amused.
 
--- 
 
 I don't know if I've mentioned, but I'm really stoked to play this
I really enjoyed my time with Fable II on the whole. It's a nice, light RPG experience that I didn't have to take too seriously, but that I was inevitably sucked into as I tried to expand my real estate empire and keep my wife happy. Given that I bought the Game of the Year edition, I still have the Knothole Island and See The Future DLC packs to play through, but I think I'm going to be leaving those unplayed for the time being. I'm heading back to my girlfriend's place on Wednesday, to spend a week with her family in order to celebrate her birthday. As a consequence, I won't have access to the 360, so I think I'll end up diving back into Fable II to polish off that DLC when I return at the end of September. Should provide me with something interesting to do before my third year of University starts, if nothing else. In the meantime, with an absence of consoles, I suspect that my PSP will be seeing a lot of action over the next couple of weeks. As well as having Final Fantasy VII to endure, I also have Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to play through. Those two should be more than enough to keep me occupied while I'm away. Thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan 
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
#2 Posted by natetodamax (19164 posts) -

The most visually striking moment in the game for me was the scene where you find yourself in a house with your sister and when you go outside you're greeted by an immensely vivid field of flowers and grass. I'm not sure what happened before or after this scene because it's been awhile since I've played the game, but it looked absolutely incredible. Maybe you know what I'm referring to since you played it recently.

#3 Posted by xyzygy (9866 posts) -

Fable was a great game, I loved every second of it and I even went out and bought all the DLC for it. I know that some of the DLC was shallow, but I did love seeing my dog turn into a different species and such. I really do love the addition of a dog. 
 
I'm really excited for Fable 3 too. Everyhing I've seen about it just looks amazing. 

#4 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
@natetodamax: I think you're referring to the incident at the end of the game, where... 
 
 
That farm certainly was beautiful, but the game has a lot of gorgeous environments. I couldn't get over how beautiful Oakfield was the first time I visited there. That town was simply astounding to look at. I really hope that Fable III doesn't lose too much of that colourful charm when it pushes Albion into the industrial age. 
 
@xyzygy: I haven't touched any of the DLC yet, so I can't comment, but I'm definitely going to check it out when I return to my flat at the end of the month. I had no idea you could change the breed of your dog! Is that a feature of Knothole Island or See The Future, or is that a separate DLC pack? I feel bad for not mentioning the dog at all in the blog, considering how huge his role in the game is and how much of an impact it had on me personally (I chose the 'Needs Of The Few' ending). Another thing I wish I'd mentioned is the glowing trail, which made a nice change from the mini-maps that have become standard in games of this type.
#5 Posted by empfeix (774 posts) -

All in all the game was deliciously fun.  I have a hard time believing people wouldn't enjoy it unless they absolutely hate anything to do with an action rpg game.

#6 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (2999 posts) -
@empfeix:
Does it count if I liked the game at first and grew to hate it with unbridled passion after the third time in a row that I was hit with a gamebreaking glitch that required me to restart the game from scratch?
#7 Posted by EpicSteve (6470 posts) -

Since that game relies on interaction so much, I hated it. I don't like having to stand in the middle of town doing 1 of 10 gestures to make people think a certain way about me.

#8 Posted by Yummylee (21200 posts) -

I really enjoyed Fable 2 similarly to Oblivion in that I spent a great deal of time messing around with everything but it's main story. Though I did least complete Fable 2's story, which got really good as it goes on. Especially when you arrive home from that Tower to potentially see that your baby has grown up to a child.  
 
Far as complaints go; it's a little too much on the easy side and exploration of the world wasn't nearly worth the effort since it would always just give you crap. Having the best items stocked in the shops really tore down alot of the excitement to travel around and see what stuff you can find. I also was disappointed that you couldn't customise your characters face. I like that he/she will grow depending on how you play, but I still would of appreciated you be able to customise the face the Hero starts with.

#9 Posted by natetodamax (19164 posts) -

Yes, that was the mission I believe. I also agree with you on the horrible menu interface. It's especially worse due to the lag in the menus. I hated it.

#10 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6033 posts) -

Good point on the menus.  I remember my irritation with the EXP potions too.  The hotkey function for eating and drinking food and potions doesn't help much either, as there's no real indicator of what you're about to eat or drink (but that might be more a symptom of my vision and the relative size of my TV).  
 
One of the things I adore most about Fable 2 is that it really feels like a spiritual successor to one of my favorite game series, Quest for Glory.  It's not as complex or as outdated as Quest for Glory, and honestly, if I take off the rose-tinted glasses for a second, I admit that the Fable series are far superior.  Still, though, the worlds feel alike, and I wouldn't mind seeing some inspiration from that series crop up, especially in terms of its locales.  Each game drew inspiration from a different set of folk tales and mythologies - the first was fairly Germanic, second was Persian/Middle Eastern, third was African/Egyptian, fourth was eastern European (my absolute favorite in terms of folklore), and the fifth was Anglo-Saxon/Welsh.  If they took some of those lands, added them as additional regions, and made many more optional locations to travel through without all the backtracking, it would be an amazing experience.

Moderator
#11 Posted by xyzygy (9866 posts) -
@dankempster: I believe the dog species thing is from See the Future. It's very cool. 
#12 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

I still miss my family from Fable II. I felt like I barely got to know them. I was out there trying to leave my mark. I agree about the enemies being in the same place over and over was a rather dull move. By the end of the game, they were more of a bother than a challenge. With that said, loved it, looking forward to Fable III.

#13 Posted by Bruce (5264 posts) -

I love the Fable games. They're great, quirky little RPGs. I do wish they were deeper, though; I beat the first one in a week forcing myself to play slowly.

#14 Posted by KillerRabbit (60 posts) -

Nice writeup. Finally finished the game and the dlc myself. I got real obsessive with the collectables and earning af lot of money, so i ended up spending about 65 hours on Fable II. That's a lot.. 
 
Did you ever get to finish the dlc? In that case what did you think?

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