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'Fable 2' an extraordinary tale

Nov 03, 2008

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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The holiday season for gamers is all about choices. With the amount of titles thrown at us in the span of about two-and-a-half months, it's nigh impossible to play them all due to time restraints, financial restraints, or both.

What it comes down to, then, is choosing what one thinks will get them the most bang for their buck. What game holds the most promise? What game will simply be more special than the masterpieces that seem to be coming out all the time?

Is the Xbox 360-exclusive Fable 2 worthy of being one of those games that you spend your hard-earned money on this holiday, or can it wait until a much slower time in the gaming world? Or should it be skipped altogether? We'll try to answer that right now.

Fable 2For those who took a pass on the excellent original Fable that was released for Xbox back in 2004, it was in essence an action-RPG that saw your character grow from a young boy to an old man. What made the game so special was that everything you did caused your character to change, physically and otherwise.

If you honed your magical abilities, your character would age faster and get cracked, dry skin as a result of casting powerful magic spells. If you focused on using massive melee weapons like hammers or axes, your character would gain huge muscles. Your body would become scarred after particularly intense battles, and you could change your hair and clothes constantly. You could even get tattooed.

But beyond all this was the choice you had between being good or evil. Throughout your life, you would constantly be given choices which would decide how you were seen throughout the world. If you went around town killing innocent people and stealing from houses, you would grow devil horns and get dark bags under your eyes. On the flip side, if you were constantly helping those in need, you would literally grow a halo over your head.

Fable 2 multiplies this idea of decision making and choosing between good and evil ten-fold to make for a game that really is epic in scope. It may not be perfect, but it's still an improvement on the original, which some found to be simply too short.

In Fable 2, you play as an orphaned young boy (or girl) who at a very young age sees his sister get murdered by the power-hungry Lord Lucien. Lucien also attempts to kill you and though he thinks he was successful in doing so, you actually live, and are taken under the wing of a mysterious blind woman named Theresa. Your adventure begins 10 years after your sister's death.

Fable 2Just like in the first game, you'll be tasked with several side quests throughout the land of Albion while searching for Lucien. By completing these side quests, you'll earn 'renown' throughout Albion's many towns. In Fable 2, the point is to become a hero - whether good or bad - while still tracking down Lucien to avenge your sister's death.

Along with these side quests, though, there are a ton of things to do along the way. Everything from taking odd jobs (become a master bartender!), to searching out hidden gargoyles, to betting on pub games, to growing a vast empire of homes to rent out - and that's just for starters.

Though some gamers complained that the first Fable was too short, Fable 2 has an interesting way of lengthening the overall game. As you play through the main quest and track down three other heroes who will eventually help you take on Lucien, you will have to earn their trust by having a certain amount of renown (which is accrued by accepting side quests and jobs). So, for instance, you may go straight to the second hero after meeting the first, but the second hero won't even give you the time of day if you don't have a specific amount of renown first.

To some, this may sound like a forced way of making a game seem longer than it is, but that's not the case. The world of Albion truly is huge, and even if you find some side quests lame, there are still plenty more that appear constantly. If you're into the more Sims-like aspect of games, you can raise a family. Or you can spend hours on end just playing the pub games and earning money for awesome new weapons. Quite simply, there is a staggering amount of stuff to do in Fable 2.

Being an action-RPG, there is plenty of combat as you make your way through Albion, and the combat system is just as interesting as in the original game. You can choose to focus on one of three combat styles - Strength (melee weapons), Skill (ranged weapons) and Will (magic). Every enemy you kill leaves behind several experience orbs of different colours. What colour an enemy leaves behind depends on how you killed it. So if you want to become a master at shooting a crossbow or rifle, yellow orbs are left behind. The more you enemies you kill with your ranged weapon, the more yellow orbs you get, and the more you can power up your Skill experience. It's a simple system that works wonderfully - right down to how you fight. Each of the three combat styles are mapped to a different button the Xbox 360 controller. We were worried that this fighting system would be too dumbed-down but that's not the case at all. There is still just enough tactics to take into account when battling that the whole system works for just about any gamer, no matter what his or her level of experience is.

Also by your side during battles and just about every other waking moment is your trusty dog. Each and every player in Fable 2 will be joined by a trusty canine companion that manages to add a truly emotional aspect to the game. Your dog is completely AI-controlled so you never have to worry about him or her as you play Fable 2, but you'll quickly find that he or she is almost always by your side. Your dog will take down enemies in battle, will sniff out hidden treasure, and will provide some much-needed down time when things get intense. You'd be surprised just how fun it is to play fetch with your virtual dog.

Fable 2Fable 2 isn't without its faults, of course. Much of the game actually feels downright clunky. Loading a new section of a map often takes several seconds, and considering the amount of times you'll be doing this, it definitely takes away from the idea of Albion being one large, seamless world to explore. There is a lot to go through in the menus, but going from one thing to another also tends to take an unnecessarily long time. For instance, you may have three potions you want to drink in succession, so first you have to go in the menu, go to items, go to potions, find the potion, and drink it, which automatically unpauses the game. You then have to go through the process of finding the other two potions through the menu. It may sound like a minor quibble, but doing this constantly throughout a 30-hour adventure becomes annoying fast.

The character you control, meanwhile, often moves around like a tank. It's actually not a problem while in combat as targetting is handled fairly well, but simply traversing Albion and bumping into trees, fences or other people is an all-too-common occurence.

There is a throwaway co-operative mode in Fable 2 that doesn't take away from the single-player experience, but doesn't add anything either. A player can join a friend's or stranger's game at any point and, depending on how generous the host sets sharing at, can earn money and experience. As a visitor though, you can't bring your game's character into another player's world - you can only choose from a few generic character models. In addition, the camera stays static for both players while in co-op, so no swinging the camera to any angle like you can while playing solo.

The other thing players unfortunately have to be wary of is the possibility of game-ending glitches. We experienced one very late in our adventure and were unable to progress to the end of the game. As of the writing of this review, no patch has been released, but we hope this is something Lionhead Studios will address because no game that's this good (and this long!) should be ended prematurely.

These negatives aren't even close to being strong enough to outweigh the positives in Fable 2. The game is a great achievement for Peter Molyneux and the rest of the folks at Lionhead Studios. It manages to suck you into its world and keep you enthralled from beginning to end.

With that being said, we'll let you decide if this game is worth your time. Because with a game like this, where's the fun in being told what to do?

Fable 2
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Lionhead Studios
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: http://www.fable2.com/

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.