tylea002's Fable II (Xbox 360) review

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Despite its flaws, a Ticket to Albion is worth the asking price.

Fable II is an extremely ambitious game. Its scope is rather enormous, and with a quick glance, Fable II looks like a grand palace of a video game. However, when you get a little closer, as with any grand construction, the cracks begin to show.

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The Game begins with you choosing to be either a Male or Female orphan and you are thrown straight into a brief exposition/tutorial sequence. In this, as in the Childhood sequence from the original Fable, you need to do odd jobs to get some gold. The starting missions introduce you to the moral choices you'll have to make in the game, the combat mechanics, and the interesting cast of unique and wacky characters that the game has.

The two main characters that you get to know in the games intro are Theresa and Lucien, the former being a blind seeress who leads you through the game, and the Latter another mysterious being who is in mourning of his family. At the end of the childhood phase, things don't go too well, and as one of the four Heroes in the world, you set out to get revenge. Under the guide of Theresa, you set out to gather the other heroes, and stop the evil threatening Albion.

The plot itself is suitably epic, but overall it is not very interesting, and extremely predictable. However, the way it is strung together, and the little touches give it a unique personality and style, with characters having so much more depth to them (Theresa has a lot of hidden depth that is not explored, many hints that leave us, the audience, to work out things for ourselves) and the whole world being a very clever, dark, twist on the normal fantasy world. Prostitutes walk the streets, Evil temples have poker nights, and Transvestites are killed for the good of Albion, the world is full of sheer minute details which enrich the experience greatly. These quirks separate Fable from the Orc bearing fantasy worlds which populate MMOs and Dungeon Crawlers of yore.

The other story related "innovation" which Fable uses is that of choices and consequences. From your gender, to whether you want to have protected sex or not, to even the rent you want to charge on the Property you own. All of these seemingly small choices will have consequences, such as STDs. However, Fable II employs many huge moral choices throughout the game. You get to choose how your home town of Bowerstone develops in childhood, and the game does a very good job of showing you the consequences of that choice, and many others, through time. You'll see how I'm avoiding the specifics, for there are many choices that will have their impacts and consequences made redundant if you know the outcome. Making a decision without preparing can have significant effects on your character, and the moments when these decisions do are extremely rewarding. As you become more Good or more Evil, and more famous for your deeds the citizens of Albion will react in the appropriate way, with well known Evil characters sending villagers running for cover and Celebrity Good characters having a posse of people following you around everywhere, falling in love and demanding to get married.

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As you go through the main quest, and make these big, set piece decisions, the game goes in an extremely strange direction. First off, Fable uses two systems in place of a Map, which for some strange reason, it feels the need to not have. However, these alternatives work extremely well. The "Trail of Breadcrums" gives a glowing line to whichever sale/family/quest you have selected, and prevents you from getting lost, mostly. Then, to counter balance this limiting system, there is the Dog.

2 Things about the dog. If you do not love your dog: You are a bad person. And the dog is extremely useful. In pure gameplay terms, it serves to alert you to any thing of interest which lays off the beaten path. The dog barks and leads you to both Treasure and Dig spots, which can contain sweet gear and other bonuses which will help you along the way. The dog, however, is more than that. It is the main emotional connection to the game, and is pretty damn effective. The way it whimpers when it gets hit, and cries out for help breaks a game boundary that should be broken more often.

Obviously, the time will come when you have to fight, and the combat mechanics are extremely fun, if rather shallow. One button attacks in either Strength, Skill or Will. Strength = Swinging your sword, Skill = Shooting, and Will = Magic. With one button, of course, there isn't much room for sword combos, but it feels worth it as you can hit a guy, blast him with lighting and shoot him in the face with ease. The will meter has been removed, but the cost for spells is normally most of your health bar now, as they need to be charged to be effective, as you level up your abilities. However, the one problem with the combat, is that it is way too easy. While it might be awesome to zoom in with a levelled up skill rating, and pop off weapons out of peoples hands, the satisfaction is lost when they die within two hits. There is not much depth to the combat beside a few levelled up counters and zoomed in gunshots, and waves enemies die often with one levelled up spell, of a few swings of the sword. Its all rather disappointing, yet it still manages to be fun and rewarding, but without the challenge. You loose experience if you die, and respawn on the spot, but you probably won't die. For a game where you do a lot of fighting, its a shame it isn't more memorable.

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As you plough through the main quest, you will realise that it is not very long at all. You'll spend more time doing sideqeusts, and more importantly, interacting with villagers. A simple expression system makes communicating a breeze, and soon you'll be pissing people off or making them fall in love with you with ease. All this time you'll be buying houses which earn you money, to buy more houses, to earn more money. Its a cycle that goes round in your mind, and hours potentially will be lost just interacting, buying a house, making money off it, buying more, more interacting and more money.

The amount of money you make every five minutes depends on the economy of the area, and how much rent you charge. Doing (very boring) jobs, and spending some gold will improve the economy, and murdering everyone lowers it. You can charge more than average and less than average to become more corrupt and pure, and...well...there is a lot of depth to the system. I certainly spent a lot of time investing in it. Its very deep, but also very superficial to the experience.

And that is the main flaw of Fable, its fun, but its not focused. Its extremely accessible, with its Breadcrums, Dog and Easy combat, and there is a lot of depth to the Sims-Style social aspect. The story is predictable, but it has a charm, and you can't help but like it for it. Just playing it gives you a feeling of enjoyment, but breaking it down you seem to find that there is something missing. An enigma of a game it may be, but for all its worth, a ticket to Albion is still worth the asking price.

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