Fable 2 is interesting in it’s premise, customization to the extreme, not just on a personal character based format but within a consistently changing world that reacts to the players actions and will. It’s a difficult task to put into code, but those who loved the old Fable will certainly not be disappointed with it’s sequel.
It is a different breed to Fable, however, not only because it’s set 500 years into the future, but also because the developers had more freedom, and it’s obvious they decided to have a go at all those crazy ideas they’ve been throwing about. The tone has evolved, much like the style and qualities that the original Fable tried to distinguish for itself.
Of all the elements I remember from the old Fable, the juxtaposition between tremendously dark parts of the story and the tongue in cheek, or plain ludicrous comedy moments is still an odd one. At times the two are kept apart carefully to allow some emotional expansion, but then the game meshes the two together in awkward, conflicting threads. I’m not sure this wasn’t what Lionhead wanted to achieve, though, as being taken into this world as a character and forced to react to all of this is, if anything, an experiment of philosophical merit.
Not the kind of protection you were expecting to wear.
The moments of amusement alone make the game worth playing through, and they range from the both the scripted to the incidental. Exploring the expansive maps for gold and treasure only to end the day by digging up a condom and some fermented cheese has a perfect sense of counter intuitive gameplay. It almost makes the gamer question why you really are doing it in the first place. Of course, this could be conceived as a bad thing from a developers perspective, but then there is plenty of other content to be getting on with if you’re not bothered enough to dedicate yourself to get every hidden ‘treasure’.
The rest of the content ranges from the short, but rather epic storyline that I dare not despoil for fear of Chris murdering me in my sleep, to the shorter and usually more amusing quests that set you doing entertaining chores for people who are too lazy to do them themselves. What makes Fable distinctive in it’s approach to side quests is to avoid making too many, to focus the ones they have into amusing little tales that don’t make the player feel like they are merely playing them to complete them. Characterization in the side quests is often the highlight, with the men and women of Bowerstone and the respective townships displaying all manner of weird and funny reasons for needing your help.
Jobs and money in Fable are a low point. It’s a good system, and it’s entertaining enough, but it could be developed into a more interesting side quest. The jobs are repetitive and boring, and most of them are essentially the most basic of one-button QTE challenges put on a loop. Jobs like ‘Bounty Hunter’ and ‘Citizen Displacement’ are more interesting distractions, but do not turn up nearly as much as the others and are not really economical enough to rely on as income.
It seems the world of Fable has, too, been affected by the real estate slump.
The housing market is really where the money is made. A strangely quick 5 minutes of work and you’ve got enough gold to buy out one or two houses and start your empire. In fact, if you’re not inclined to blitz the main story you can build up your riches fairly quickly. The trouble with this is that long before the main story kicks off money becomes a background system, where you log on after a night off the Xbox and you’ve earned enough to buy every house in the main city. A little more challenge might have made this aspect a lot more interesting.
In fact a little more challenge overall would make Fable 2 a lot more interesting. The combat is simple, in a good way, with limited options to develop your character. There is a little bit of strategy involved, but players can discard it at their whim and not see a major negative in playing. For such a dark game, too, the penalties for death are pretty lenient. A cool scar or two and your character is back in the world of the living, because bandits these days just aren’t very efficient at making sure the glowing hero is dead and not coming back.
Oh, and while I’m on a downturn, the water effects are some of the worst I’ve ever seen on a top shelf game like this. Really Lionhead, did you think you could sneak that one past us? Seriously, whatever reason the water has been coded to look like a geletanous, dead shape, you could have used it a bit less. If you can’t be bothered to put the effort in, don’t put so many lakes, streams, coastlines and beaches all over the place. Map design 101, surely?
So Fable, in terms of theme, gameplay, presentation and… hold on, pretty much everything, is a game that manages to mesh both alarmingly inspired moments with unacceptably poor ones. You end up wondering why a company, who show such obvious skill in production and estimation have got such a bad level of consistancy. Fable 2 feels a little unfinished at times, but that is not something consumers aren’t used to in the latest generation of consoles, and.. well, let’s face it, our complacency will give developers little incentive to do anything but this – and it’s easier!
Regardless of the (insultingly) obvious flaws that Fable 2 holds, it more then makes up for it with such an involving world, top gameplay and the much wanted development of the themes and ideas from the old Fable. There are some moments in the game that players will be treasuring all the way up until Fable 3, and in that respect I think Lionhead have achieved a high score of 8.