Fable II

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 90/100

Fable 2 Review
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Format Reviewed: Xbox360
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

Set 500 years after the original, Fable II has been released to experience a new epic story and innovative real-time gameplay, including a massive amount of freedom and choice to explore a vast collection of dungeons, catacombs and caves in the world of Albion. And this time it's not just a question if you're going to be evil or good but more important for us female gamers, if you're going to play with a female or male leading character. Choices, choices and lots of guaranteed fun, read on to find out more!

And so our story begins … and this time with a female character selected, yeah! Two sisters are obsessed by a magic box which can be bought from a suspicious trader for a couple of golden coins. Of course they're broke and need to earn them with little jobs like finding some lost warrants, fighting little beasts and delivering that special letter full of love to a lady. But with all activities, you'll get the choice to either perform the job as assigned or being tempted to perform a bad deed. It's a step in the direction if you'll turn into a little devil or an angel in terms of behavior! When they finally can buy the magic box, something strange happens with big consequences for both girls. I'm not going too much into detail as I don't want to spoil too much, but it's obvious that the leading character should become a heroine, and you're going to be responsible for her (in my case as I preferred a female character to rule with power in Albion), but what kind of heroine?

Each choice or mistake has an impact on your character and world. How? For example in one of the first quests to earn a golden coin you need to help out a guard who needs his lost warrants back. When you found a couple, a criminal gives you the choice to give him the warrants instead of the guard. When given to the guard as originally planned you'll become a sheriff, the town stays peacefully and "good behavior points" are added to your account. Of course when you give the warrants to the criminal, your character performed a bad deed and "bad behavior points" are added. By being good and investing in certain towns, the economy will bloom along with your status, but what happens if you're behaving badly? Those poor villagers ... and don't forget to check your looks as your appearance / looks changes along with your behavior!

From one quest to another, whether the main and/ or side quests, you'll unravel the story bit by bit, and have fun at the same time. Although fun, it can be stressful to beat some tricky monsters which seem to be a little bit too high leveled WHEN you're not equipped correctly. But at least you won't see any Game Over screen, only experience points will be deducted from your account and you receive a couple of "beautiful" new scars. Albion has a lot of traders willing to sell the right weapons (melee or ranged) for the right purpose, but it's gonna cost money. And how do we get that? Either by stealing, working as a woodcutter (one of six available jobs), or investing your money in one of the pub / gamble games. (Gamer Girls Unite can't be held responsible for any loss in gambling games, just that you know!)

A couple of quests refer to the original Fable, and certainly brings a smile to those who've enjoyed playing it (who hasn't?). What to think about digging up Lady Gray's body, original Bowerstone's mayor, for a person who can bring her back to life and marry her. But it's not just the several quests but most certainly the gameplay, the design, the pub games and the process of becoming a good or bad hero which makes the game recognizable. There's one big difference and I'm not pointing out to the character's gender this time, but the credit goes to …. Ratatataaa : a dog. A brave, cheerful and loving dog which stands by your side in good times and bad times. You can play with the dog, heal him / her after being injured by helping you fighting enemies, follow his trail to a treasure and learn new or improve tricks. Definitely one of the best virtual pets ever! It's fun to play with a dog and see the improvements over time, but on the other hand it's almost heartbreaking seeing him / her being hurt and humping with a leg and making those terrible sounds. As a good owner you always have some cookies and healing potion in your inventory. Remember that the dog is almost equal to its owner, i.e. if you follow a righteous path, your dog will be noble as well. If you prey on the innocent, the dog grows fearsome-looking.

It's a magical, powerful world with beautiful designed environments with detailed visuals and with a funny and somewhat cartoon like stylish vibe regarding the characters. Combined with "pimped" tunes from the original Fable it's a truly wonderful experience, except for the nights, when it's dark, creepy and you expect to find bad monsters standing behind trees to scare you. Although some enemies look quite funny and it's a shame that you need to knock them down, if you're good at heart that is. If you make some excellent battle moves, it will be shown in slow motion to give it the deserved extra attention. Let's talk a little bit more about battles, which weapons can be used and what impact the outcome of battles has on your character.

There are two types of weapons, melee and ranged. Melee weapons include axes, maces, swords, cleavers, katanas and warhammers. Ranged weapons include pistols, rifles, blunderbusses and crossbows, all of which come in several varieties and each being better than the last (from rusty, iron, steel to master). Weapons can produce extra effects when their augmented with special magical stones. Equip your character as if your life depends on it, as you'll get involved in a lot of fights. These are going to be worthwhile as with each hit or kill, XP orbs are going to be released. Catch them to get more Strength experience, to develop your melee abilities, Skill experience for more advanced shooting techniques, or Will experience to learn additional and more powerful magical spells. While XP is gained in combat, by killing enemies, you increase your renown by completing quests. It's a measure of your reputation and effects the way people treat you, and the availability of quests as some require a certain level of renown. And besides, you don't want to be called a chicken chaser, do you? Other ways to increase the renown is for example to get your own statue in town, with a pose of choice (for example dancing or laughing). Quite funny to see your statue later on in the game!

From a female point of view, we are more than content with Fable 2! First of all having the choice of playing with a female character is one of the major improvements, and there's more female power on the way as for example Hannah is helping you out with a couple of quests (phoeee she's one strong looking bad lady, with a hell of a hammer, respect! ) after you helped her in her personal quest, but hey there are sisters for right? Your female character doesn't back away for any tough job, has no problems hacking and slashing into her enemies, and even has some bad manors your mother taught you not to do in public. On the other side, there's love to give, having the choice to have sex with or without protection (pregnancy can be a choice) and starting a relationship / marriage with a man or woman (or both, if you want to commit bigamy). There's also a rumor going around that the game includes a “gender-switch” potion, but I would be careful with that, we all know the story of Alice in Wonderland and that potions can do crazy things to someone. One thing for all girls who normally take good care of their body. No matter how many miles you walk (for hours) and no matter how hard you fight, it's impossible to burn away those calories from a couple of pies you ate to get some energy, and phoeeei my character certainly gained a lot of weight! Perhaps there's a "slim fast" potion ... somewhere ...

Fable 2, a fable which doesn't seem to have a “and they lived happily ever after” ending, as it can go on and on. Maybe the main quests can be done, but there are so many side activities to do and even go Live with an xbox friend! There's so much to do that I lost a little bit of focus on the main quest, not only due to the several activities such as gambling, taking jobs and starting a family, but the world is a lot bigger than in the original Fable. The most positive impression is based on the graphics / design and the humor of characters. But there are also negative points regarding the loading between environments which was acceptable perhaps for the Xbox but certainly not for the Xbox360. Another minus is not being able to zoom in the map to get a better overview of what is where located. On the other hand there's the golden trail which was my virtual navigator to places I needed to go. Switched it off, but that was a disaster. Compared to all the possibilities of what the game has to offer, I find it a good sequel to the successful original. If you're still haven't figured out if this is a suitable game for you, I can't recommend it as it all about making decisions. Ok, and fighting, and socializing, and helping out villagers, and walking the dog and, and ....