Fable is one of my favorite original Xbox games. Lionhead Studios presents an excellent action RPG that fuses together the gameplay of Zelda and the interactions of The Sims. Naturally when Fable II was announced I was excited. The hype machine of Peter Molyneux promised improvements to the original formula and awesome new features like coop. The end result was a game almost totally different from the first. Were the changes for the better?
-The combat system is simplistic yet fun. Melee, range, and a multitude of magic attacks could be combined and executed with ease. There are over a dozen magic spells, and the legendary weapons are spectacular.
-The appearance and growth of your character is unique to Fable. As the player grows old from the use of magic they will acquire scars, tattoos, haircuts, and a host of outfits. The moral choices you make also effect your appearance. Good boys will look like darling angels, and naughty lads will resemble horned devils.
-Interacting with non-playable characters (NPCs) is a real hoot. Go on a murdering rampage in a local town, and future inhabitants will run in fear. Slay the bandits and save the day to be praised by the masses. Pass out booze, be the life of the party, and stop by the local brothel. Find a girl, or guy, and get married. It’s like a stripped down awesome version of the Sims in a fantasy setting.
-The ability to buy, upgrade, and/or sell property was a blast. Yes real estate in Albion is fun.
-The music and graphical presentation is top notch. Fable is one of the most beautiful games available for the Xbox.
-The targeting system has a real nasty habit of highlighting friendly targets during combat. This is especially annoying for escort quests.
-The overall game is short, and the story is bland. Jack of Blades is boring, and saving Albion never seems that important—especially when I spend most the game ravaging the country side.
-Completing the main story practically ends the game. Sure you can go around and collect everything, or buy every single piece of property, but that’s boring. A handful of repeatable quests would have gone a long way.
-The menu system is cumbersome, and it is a little too easy to accidentally use items.
-The multitude of slow load screens, and generally small areas, break up the pace of the game.
-Interaction with NPC’s is brought to new heights. Dozens of enhanced expressions denote your intentions to the world. Unprotected sex will lead to children, and an unhealthy diet will result in an unfit appearance. There is also a safety mode that will guarantee no fatal accidents occur while entertaining the local populace. Fable II improves the already solid NPC interaction from Fable I.
-Fable II introduces the dog. This faithful companion will help you in combat, dig up secrets, and add another layer of NPC interaction. The dog mainly acts as a quasi HUD, and is a great addition to this franchise.
-Range combat gets an upgrade. Players can upgrade their skill to the point where they can target individual body parts. This adds another layer of depth to the old range system.
-The villain is more effective in Fable II. Players will likely feel resentful towards the antagonist straight from the get go. This enhances the main story significantly.
-Loading times are improved. Travel time is cut town with a teleportation system, and quests objectives are easy to find with the golden trail. In addition, each area is generally larger adding to the epic scope of Fable II.
-Unlike Fable I, the sequel packs in plenty of repeatable quests. Jobs and secondary quests will keep people playing once the main story is completed.
-The real estate system is bigger and better then ever. Castles, rent control, and an automatic rent collection system make buying property fun.
-Melee and magic are strikingly different from Fable I. Less then a dozen spells are available, and stringing together range, melee, and magic combos is considerably harder. The magic charge up/cast system in Fable II is vastly limited in comparison to Fable I. Melee is restricted because of the numerous range encounters, and feels underpowered in comparison to the original.
-There is no epic boss fight in Fable II. The story is a tad bit better then Fable I, but that doesn’t excuse the absence of an action packed finale.
-There is no Hook Coast or Knothold Glade in Fable II. This dramatically shrinks the size of Albion. It also leaves an empty feeling inside for fans of the original game. Sure the dlc adds Knothold Glade, but that adds another ten bucks to the overall cost. To be fair, readers should know that I have not played the dlc. For all I know Knothold Glade is worth the price of admission.
-Fable II’s menu system is still a pain in the butt. Hours will go buy navigating the many menus in order to take potions, change clothes, or do just about anything.
-Co-op is a travesty. Players are forced to share a camera, and clients cannot bring their unique hero to a host’s world. Any time the menu system is accessed the game is paused. Co-op in Fable II is simply not fun, and will be mostly utilized for achievements.
-Items in general are less impressive in Fable II. Legendary weapons are weaker then weapons purchased from a blacksmith. There are only a handful of unique guns, and the amount of clothes is surprisingly limited. Tattoos are not as vivid. Only celery makes you thin…etc. etc. etc.
I really enjoy both Fable I and II. Each game provides an entertaining experience that any action RPG fan can enjoy. The first game did many amazing things, but had some significant issues. Initially Fable II appeared to deliver some improvements and new features. In reality the sequel enhanced some of the older features, butchered others, and introduced a dog. Both games suffer from poor menu systems and uneventful stories or finales. The change to melee and magic in Fable II fails in comparison to Fable I. Conversely the range combat, repeatable quests, and NPC interaction is top notch in Fable II. In the end, each game is fun but for different reasons.
Many sequels, like Gears of War 2 or Halo 3, attempt to solidify the existing formula. They may add some new bells and whistles, but nothing radically different. The Fable franchise appears to reinvent the wheel with each release. This results in brilliant new features, but can hurt the games overall quality. Hopefully by Fable III, Peter Molyneux will figure out what he wants to do and focus on a solid execution.