By Atlas 1 Comments
As you may have been able to surmise from its presence on my top 20 list of my favourite games ever, even after only had it for just over a week, Fable II has completely captured my heart. Now allow me to explain why.
I've always been a massive RPG fan at heart, and the original Fable, which I completed earlier this year after acquiring it through Xbox Live Arcade's Xbox Originals serive, left a big impression on me. I'm fairly certain that Fable holds my record for most consecutive hours spent playing a video game at 10 hours, which I'm sure i a miniscule number compared to many others, but the fact that this game beat Oblivion in terms of consecutive hours played is amazing. While there were certain aspects of Fable I found irritating, especially how short the game is, it did achieve one massive goal decisively; it serves as perhaps the best possible endorsement/advertisement for Fable II, which quickly jumped to the top of my most anticipated list.
Early information about the game seemed promising. Bigger more interactive world - awesome. One button combat - alrighty. Better storyline - nice one. Bread crumb trail - fair enough. Inability to die effectively - fine. Online and local co-op - whatever. It was this sense of anticipation that led me to pre-order the collector's edition, which was disappointingly altered, removing some of the best content. No matter; still got it at a good price. First impressions were interesting; it clearly had the charm and humour of the original Fable, and it looked awesome, but it still felt maybe a little clunky. It was after more time with the game that I understood just what Lionhead had done with Fable 2.
I reckon I spent about half of the first six or so hours with the game doing sidequests, talking with villagers, gambling and doing one of the many menial jobs around. It's amazing that I could spend so much time with the work mini-games, which basically just involved hitting the A button at a certain time and is about as simple a game mechanic as possible. But Fable 2 makes it fun, and the reason it's fun is the prospect of making more money so you can buy better equipment, buy some real estate and start a family. It's an extraordinary feature, but it really adds something to the game, especially at the start, and it's one of the most bizarrely rewarding game features I've come across.
Of course this wouldn't be a Molyneux game without absurd British accents, toilet humour and whimsical characters, and Fable 2 brings all this and more. But it presents itself better than the original, partly because the graphics have been improved greatly, as has the amount of exploration you can do and the size of the map has increased. The combat is still basic but satisfying. It's rather button-mashy, at least to start, but there are interesting things you can do to mix it up. It feels to me a bit like the combat in Assassin's Creed, which loads of people hated but I found rather satisfying and simple fun. It also helps a games presentation when you have such a good voice cast; Stephen Fry's performance in particular is legendary.
It took almost exactly a week - and about 25 hours or so of game-time - for me to finish the story mode. I quite liked the ending. I know a lot of people didn't, but I really liked the drama of it. I chose the needs of the few, not because I wanted to save my family, although I did, but because I wanted to keep my dog, and felt it was a nice middle ground decision. So Albion is safe from the tyranny of Lord Lucien thanks to me, and having now amassed a real estate empire of around 3 million gold, I am the king of Albion. Kickass.
Fable 2 has its flaws, but as an experience it is totally breathtaking. There was a point at one time when I found out from my wife that my daughter had gone adventuring into a Hobbe cave, and so I went off to rescue her. And once I found the Hobbes who had her caged, I genuinely felt like tearing their fucking bollocks off for daring to touch my sweet little girl. It's rare that a game can get that kind of emotional reaction from me, but I care for that little pile of pixels, and I wanted to keep her safe. That's what makes Fable 2 so special. It has heart. It has depths that so few other games have. It's so much about the actual experience, rather than being bombarded with relentless combat.
I've only used one character so far, who I decided was going to be completely righteous and holy. I've had a halo over my head for virtually the entire game. I have made some bad decisions (I chose to sacrifice the girl in the Reaver quest for some reason, probably because I didn't want to spoil my immaculate looks), but I've pretty much played through the game as a model citizen. I think that reflects my personality. I have a ruthless streak, but I think I'm quite a nice person, and I like it when people like me. And everyone in Albion loves me. And I mean EVERYONE. I can be quite annoying walking through Bowerstone having to wade my way through a massive crowd of kids begging for my autograph and women begging for my hot dick several inches within them, and there are times when one considers just killing them all. But I quite enjoy it in a way.
However thenI made a slightly less pious and holy decision; I decided to get a second family. I married Kate the Stylist in Bowerstone and we have two kids, Will (named by the game) and Miranda (original name Daisy; renamed in honour of the Mars Volta song "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", and just because I love the name), and we live in Bowerstone Market, just by my wife's shop. However I recently acquired Giles's Farm and decided that since I like Brightwood I really would like to have an excuse to come back often, so I wanted a family there. I didn't want to move my family because my wife and son both love Bowerstone and my wife works there, so I decided to get a second wife, Hannah the Housewife, whom I then relocated to Giles's Farm, and we have a daughter, named Natalie, who was named by the game, which is totally badass because I love the name, partly because it brings to mind the divine goddess known as Natalie Portman. To make matters even more interesting, I completed the Lady Grey quest today, and decided to keep her as my own. We moved into Fairfax Castle and we have another daughter, Rachel. That's right; Iz got ho's in different area codes. Iz totally pimpin'. Respec.
I know I care far more about this stuff than I should, but I genuinely love this aspect of the game. I wish Oblivion had a similar feature; it would make it so much less sterile and generic. Perhaps I only say that because I've spent about 1,000 hours with Oblivion, but aside from technical issues, the sterile nature of Oblivion is still my biggest criticism of the game. I genuinely believe that if you took Fable 2 and TES4: Oblivion and somehow smashed them together to make one game, the result would be, in my opinion, the greatest game ever made. Anyway, I'm pretty much all done with Fable 2 now. I've done all the quests and most of the smaller stuff, but at some point I definitely intend to come back to the game; I'd really like to play as a totally evil fucker and make everyone fear me, but I'd also like to mix things up and create a female character who is both good and cruel.
However there is one particular feature of the game which still has me somewhat addicted. I know a lot of people hated the Fable 2 Pub Games - its 1-star review from Giant Bomb is clear evidence of this - and I agree that charging 1,200 MS points was completely ridiculous, which is why I didn't buy it. That being said, I have really enjoyed playing the pub games in-game. Spinnerbox is a pain in the bloody ass because you have to play for ages to get anything right. Keystone is quite fun, but I never feel that compelled to play much of it. But easily the best pub game is Fortune's Tower. It sort of reminds me of Deal or No Deal, which I was at one point a huge fan of (for the record, the British DonD is way better than the dumb American version), and it's incredibly addictive. I've reacher 4-star gambler status all from playing Fortune's Tower, and I think I've probably spent about 5 hours of game-time just playing Fortune's Tower. It's strange, but it really is one of the game's best features. One of the things you also need to understand is that being someone who loves video games and love music, games which give me the opportunity of combining the two are often some of my favourites - Oblivion comes to mind. After one or two playthroughs with the sound on I hardly ever kept the sound off from then on, because it was so much fun to listen to music and play the game at the same time - and although I don't find I can do that with Fable II (at least not yet), I can definitely play Fortune's Tower with music. It's amazing how addictive Fortune's Tower. Speaking as someone who's played a lot of computer chess, solitaire and hearts, I would love to have this on my laptop, although without the added bonus of earning in-game gold would perhaps diminish the appeal. Anyway, I'll think I'll play more Fortune's Tower until I reach 5-star gambler rating, then I may well put the game to bed for now.
So those in a rather large nutshell are my thoughts on why Fable II is such a special game. I love almost everything about it; the combat is hella fun, the visuals and art design are gorgeous, I really enjoyed the story mode, and it has incredible charm and a great sense of humour. Yes, I wish it was a bit more intuitive, and yes, I wish that there weren't bugs in the game, including one which caused one of my daughter's to become fixed in one spot forever and she never reacted to anything, and yes, I wish maybe that it had more than 25-30 hours of gameplay, and yes, I wish it wasn't quite so easy to make ludicrous amount of money. But none of this matters, because Fable II has something that not a huge amount of games have; heart. Some may disagree, especially in light of the failed collector's edition and the extortionate cost of the Pub Games XBLA game, but Lionhead have clearly displayed a passion and love for their art with this game, and they have created a game that I shall certainly treasure for a long time. Fable II is gaming at its finest - an amazingly absorbing experience full of heart, charm and adventure.