You’ve seen a lot about Fable II on this site. Actually, I should say you’ve seen a lot about Peter Molyneux, Fable’s creator, who has Chronic Foot-In-Mouth Disease. You may have seen an article or listened to a Weinercast here and there in which his penchant for over-promising and under-delivering has been discussed.
I’m a fan of the original Fable and was ready to give Fable II a fair shake. I eagerly slipped the disc into the Xbox 360 and waited impatiently through the Microsoft and Lionhead bumpers for the actual Start screen to show.
Starting the game allows you to choose between playing a male or female Hero — a choice unavailable in the original — and is followed by a beautifully rendered cutscene that drops you into the middle of the action into the town of Bowerstone from the first game. It’s hundreds of years after the time of Fable, though, and the world has changed greatly. You’ll find early on, for instance, that no one really believes in Will (magic) anymore, and that firearms are now commonplace. Fable II represents a more rational, almost Renaissance-like world compared to the more fairytale-like medieval world of the original Fable.
Many of the elements of the new edition of the land of Albion will seem familiar. Yep, there are still Demon Doors that lead to treasure once you’ve figured out what’s needed to open them. Chests containing goods abound. The chief difference is that the Hero’s Guild is no more; it was destroyed in the time between the two games, and there are no heroes anymore until you come along. (It’s implied throughout the game that you are a descendant of the character from the first Fable, who is referred to as the Hero of Oakvale.)
Fable II is a game that I would say appeals to both “passengers and sailors”. That is, it’s very easy for even the most casual gamer to enjoy, while also offering rewards for those who wish to play deeper inside of it. Let’s take two cases to illustrate: the Dog and making money. A lot has been said about the Dog, and I find the concept and the implementation both innovative and refreshing. Honestly, what hero runs around with a minimap in his head? The dog is a much more natural way of finding your way around. There’s also a trail of “reverse breadcrumbs” wherever you go — you’ll find that following a golden, glowing trail will lead you to your quest destinations.
There’s so much going on in Fable II that it’s tempting to delay pursuing the story while interacting with the rest of the world, much as I did. You’ll find that the story itself is well-plotted and full of unexpected twists and a couple of breathless, I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened moments.
And then there’s money — it’s ridiculously easy to come by. A number of jobs have been implemented in the game. These are essentially minigames that you’re paid to play. They have different “skins” as it were, but the play is more or less the same whether you’re a blacksmith or a woodcutter. You mash the A button at the right time, you make gold. That’s it. You can rack up a few thousand gold coins in a short time. If you’re eager to upgrade your gear it’s an easy way to make some money; if you’re looking at a longer-term investment you can put your cash into real estate by buying a house or business. Your rental fees accumulate even while you’re not playing, so it can be a big moneymaker over time to invest for the long term.
The game shipped with some problems. Audio sometimes goes out of sync with the rest of the game, causing stuttering and other annoying effects. I also have to fault Lionhead, again, for releasing the game without the promised — and still MIA at the time of this writing — online multiplayer feature that so many were looking forward to.
For being worth your $60 despite Molyneux’s best attempts to the contrary, Fable II gets 4 weiners out of 5.