This review mostly covers things for people already familiar with the Fable universe. For more specific information on gameplay and how the game world works, please see our review of the orginal Fable as not too terribly much is different in the sequel.
- Title: Fable II
- Publisher: Microsoft
- Developer: Lionhead Studios
- ESRB Rating: “M” For Mature
- Genre: RPG
- Pros: Great graphics and sound; your dog; very funny; fun combat
- Cons: Technical problems abound; stupid townspeople; useless map
The story in Fable II takes place hundreds of years after the first game and the Heroes Guild has been all but forgotten by the people of Albion. Your character (your choice of a male or female) is the last descendant of the Heroes lineage, and when something terrible happens to you during your youth it sets you on the path towards not only revenge but a quest to restore the good name of Heroes in Albion.
Just like the first game, how you play affects how your character looks. Focusing on melee attacks, skill attacks, or magic attacks all have drastic effects on your body. What you eat also has an effect. There are also Good/Evil, Love/Hate, and Corruption/Purity meters that affect how the townspeople think of you. How you play also affects how you level up. Whenever you kill an enemy, you get orbs that let you level up the attack you just used. Collect enough orbs and you can buy new magic spells or beef up your character’s strength and health bar.
Beyond just fighting and playing through the main story, there are other things to do in Fable II. You can take jobs as a blacksmith or bartender. You can get married and even have kids. You can buy any and every piece of property. And you can do a number of side quests. The story only takes 8 hours or so, but do finish everything else in the game takes more like 20.
Another issue is how the game world is presented. Just like the first game, rather than exploring the whole world it is split up into little bite sized chunks. This isn’t a big problem since each area is huge compared to the first game, but the same stupid system where the game has to load up each section separately remains. You spend as much time looking at loading screens as you do playing.
But enough negativity, lets talk about what Fable II does well. The combat is simple, but surprisingly fun and satisfying. I also have to say the glowing map line that leads you to your objectives is a nice touch and very welcome since the in-game maps are absolutely worthless. I also really love the dog, and you really do get attached to him. The game is also very funny with some hilarious dialogue with NPCs as well as some funny quotes on the loading screens. Of course, what you do also leads to plenty of funny moments such as posing for a statue of you farting or when you’re leading a parade of men and women back to your house from some hot 10-way action. These type of moments are what really make Fable II stand out.
Graphically, Fable II is a gorgeous game. The towns are very detailed and home interiors look great. Your character changes dynamically as you play the game. NPC characters look nice. Your dog looks great and is nicely animated. And the environments range from lush green beautiful forests to dark and dangerous swamps and everything looks great. The framerate isn’t terribly stable, however, and occasionally the game will chug along and struggle to load textures and game items even during cinematics. It all sure looks pretty, though.
The sound is also top notch in Fable II. The music is stellar, the enemy sound effects are very good, and combat sounds just like it should. The dialogue is also generally very good, but the NPCs tend to repeat themselves a lot.
In the end, Fable II is a flawed but still very enjoyable game that is worth a look. The combat is a blast and very satisfying. The world is detailed and gorgeous. And it will have you laughing out loud at several points. But some of its most hyped features, such as moral choices and NPC interaction, fall kind of flat. Technical glitches and issues also mar the experience. Also worth noting is that the co-op does not feature your hero playing in your friend’s world, but rather you play as their generic henchman, which isn’t nearly as interesting. Even with these issues, the core gameplay and overall enjoyable experience of Fable II are good enough that it is still absolutely worth playing. Give it a rental at the very least.