Reviews: Zero to Hero in no time flat. Unless of course you feel like taking a sword and plowing it through a bunch of innocent rabbits you dirty evil man!
If you were able to choose to live your life anyway you wanted to, would you take the opportunity to become a notorious criminal slaying away at helpless innocents? Perhaps the appeal of being a working family man would be more along the lines of what you would want out of life? While it may seem more of the same that you experienced in the original Fable, Fable II brings additional depth into showing the actual consequences of a player's actions; delivering on the original promise of the first game. For example, giving a certain criminal a number of arrest warrants in the beginning of the game affects the town later on, as it becomes a slum rather than a middle-class neighborhood.
It's this new little attention to the details that brings the world of Albion much more to life than its previous iteration. Whether you decide to marry and have a child or spend the rest of your life with your dog, the game almost feels as though you can really choose the story and play any way you want. I'll be the first to admit that I was very disappointed with this in the first game, and believed that it was extremely over-hyped. It felt linear and there wasn't much to do after finishing up the main quests; Fable 2 redeemed this. This time around, the side quests play a vital role in helping the game's replay value. While the central storyline consists of only about eight to ten hours of gameplay, along with your typical medieval revenge plot, more side quests open up for the player to complete after you finish it up, as well as the goal to unlock achievements. A number of multiple endings helps as well.
Storyline aside, the main point of the game is exploration and living in the game's ever-changing environment. Exploring every corner of the world will take a great deal of time as dungeons won't reveal themselves to the player unless you get a specific key from a line of chained quests. Want to buy every house in the game? You can do that too, it'll just take a long time to gather enough gold to do it. Although they're expensive at first, buying stores and stalls in the game gives you a specific allowance to play with. You'll be receiving gold in increments according to the value of your store even when you're not playing the game, making it just a tad bit easier to buy that mansion you've set your eyes on. The game also allows the player to live their relationships any way they want. Whether you want to marry a fellow member of the same gender or have massive "sleepy fun time" with every prostitute in site, the title will let you do that. Freedom is the key word this time, and freedom is what we get.
Unfortunately, every social interaction still feels exactly the same as the first game. All of the NPCs have the same stiff dialogue and if it weren't for several texture and slight model changes, they would all look the same. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, I would love to see future iterations integrate some sort of personality behind them. I mean, would you marry someone after they use the same expressions on you for just a mere five minutes? Although that's part of the whimsical charm of the game, I'd love to see more in depth character development with at least some of the female/male NPCs that you can marry.
Gameplay wise, the action flows extremely smoothly except for the occasional lag when a large number of enemies are present on-screen.
Unlike the first game, where you had a certain amount of mana to cast spells, mana is non-existent in Fable 2. While this may seem a bit unchallenging at first, the game's new charging mechanic causes stronger spells to take a bit of time to cast, leading to your character being vulnerable at any given time. Add the fact that you'll be constantly surrounded by monsters and you have a fairly challenging difficulty, even if the player just keeps on reviving and never dies. It would have been a great idea to allow players to turn this option off, (Fable 3?) as it loses the sense of danger.
The game may seem like a bit of a simplistic generic button masher at times when you're just swinging your sword and spamming spells, but strategy comes into play when leveling up your character. The three main categories of strength, will, and skill are back and it usually takes a bunch of saved up experience points to earn the stronger skills later on in end-game. Abilities such as being able to zoom in with your gun/bow have to be purchased and are not given like they were in the first game.
Another new addition to the game is your ever-faithful dog. While it may seem like a chore at first to micro-manage it, eventually it gets to the point where you won't be healing it all too often and you'll only be using it to help you scope out treasure and dig spots. Not only that, but you can also teach it new tricks and it will occasionally attack enemies that are on the ground, providing a bit of distraction to help you cast that level 5 magic spell. Purchasing/finding new books will help you teach it new abilities, as your dog does not gain experience points unlike the main character.
Of all the new features though, nothing has gamers salivating more than the game-breaking co-op mode. Although it wasn't present in the release of the physical retail copy, Microsoft's patch came on the first full-day of release. While you won't be able to go and bring your own hero into your friend's world, you play as a generic male/female henchman to your friend's character and they allocate how much gold and experience they want to give you. From there you can bring the gold and xp to your character(s) and give it to them in-game for single player. For a first effort to create a multi-player RPG, it's not a bad effort. It could certainly use improvements such as actually allowing you to import your character as another full-blown hero, but it does its job. Hopefully other companies will take notice of this and integrate more of this into future titles. I mean, who wouldn't want to play a multiplayer co-op Final Fantasy or Shin Megami game?
Presentation-wise, Fable 2 looks great. From the dungeons to the art design, everything works to bring the cartoon-style world to life. Every town has their own unique atmosphere and no dungeon looks the same. While the player is unable to customize the main character beyond choosing male or female, just like in the first game, they'll change their appearance depending on whether they align themselves with good or evil. In the audio department, the game is just as strong. Almost every NPC has their own unique voice, which is comparable to the voice acting that you would find in a game like World of Warcraft. They're perfect enough just to set the ambiance right.
Soundtrack wise, every tune has been quality made. Returning from Fable 1, is composer Robert Shaw. A lot of the tunes will sound very familiar, and that's because they are. The Danny Elfman-composed main theme from the first game returns as a musical motif that will appease a lot of veteran players and soundtrack buffs.