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Fable 2


When Fable came out for the original Xbox console, there was a ton of hype surrounding the title and the gaming media everywhere was absolutely gushing over the potential that the game had. The prospect of an open fantasy world where you control the evolution of your character was a very interesting idea, and in the end Fable was a solid experience and successful game. Despite that success many proposed that the game didnít quite meet expectations or promises from creator Peter Molyneux, who has a habit of thinking aloud. When Fable 2 was announced, there was talk of fear that the game would suffer the same fate.

If youíre one of the few who had their doubts about the quality of Fable 2 let me just say: you have nothing to worry about.

Fable 2 embodies just about everything the original was supposed to be. The world is vast, the options are many, and in so many ways this game is a perfect example of what a modern RPG should be. The brilliant sense of humor infused into the game helps add personality, and all around this is a game that more or less lives up to Molyneux's crazy promises.

The tale this time around obviously focuses on your character as he grows as a hero in the world of Albion. You start out as a child struggling to survive in the streets of Bowerstone, but all that changes when a vendor comes to town to sell a magical box. After watching the tacky show for the product you are prompted to purchase the box by a strange woman in a robe. Once you do it disappears in a flash of light and youíre ushered to a castle where the local lord puts events in motion that will forever shape your life. Fast-forward several years and your character is all grown up and ready to begin training in arts that make up a hero.

From here the story follows you as you venture around Albion looking for other heroes to help take down the main villain, who is attempting to erect a giant magical spire to rule the world with. For all intents and purposes the story in Fable 2 is fairly standard RPG fare with very few surprises. What pushes the game forward and compels you to play is the manner with which the story is told and the myriad of side quests that help shape your character. The construction of the game is very similar to the original Fable, and while itís not a direct sequel, it is very much the spiritual successor.

Gameplay


One of the things you'll notice in Fable 2 right off the bat is just how much livelier it all seems. The world is a thriving place with multiple towns, people, and locations to discover along your way. The back of the game's case touts that it is ten times the size of the original Fable, and after overturning every rock in the game, I have to agree. The world is a vast place this time around with places located on and off the beaten path. Everywhere you go, no matter how many times you've been through a location, there is always something new to stumble upon. It makes the game fun to explore and definitely helps with the monotony of revisiting sites and backtracking.

With Fable 2, Molyneux and Lionhead Studios instituted many changes with regards to the gameplay and how your character evolves. One of the bigger changes here is the fact that you're not really alone while you're trying to save the world. In the opening moments of the game your character is introduced to a puppy and into adulthood, this dog becomes your closest friend and ally. Walking around Albion with the dog at your side is a joy as people interact with him and he does tricks, but he also aides with gameplay as well. The dog has the ability to sniff out treasure and digging spots for you to find new items, and he even gets involved in combat. It's an interesting dynamic that was implemented well and it definitely helps stave off the feeling of isolation.

The other big area that was altered for Fable 2 was the gameplay itself. Combat has been revamped and this time around it is has much more fluidity. You still have strength in melee attacks, skill in ranged, and will in magic, but the way they all come together at the press of a button allows for some awesome combinations and quick fights. Swinging away with your sword one moment, only to whip out your pistol to shoot the bandit behind you, can be pulled off on a whim.

With the ranged weapons you also have the ability to target specific body parts and zoom in. Headshots aplenty await you, but just try disarming bandits and taunting them. There are a lot of ways to have fun with the fighting system and it keeps the numerous fights from getting stale. Magic has also been tweaked and allows for charged spells that can either affect a range or can be targeted.

As you fight you'll gain experience points which can be applied to various attributes and skills. You can improve your character's overall strength, toughness, speed, and magical abilities with your experience points. There are many ways to custom build your character and you've never capped for experience. That means by the end of the game you'll most likely be walking around like a bad ass able to take countless hits and dish out some massive damage.

Building with experience isn't the only way to tweak your character in the Fable universe. Through your actions you'll gain points for being good or evil and corrupt or pure. Do you want to run around town and slaughter innocent civilians? What about offering your wife up as a sacrifice to the lord of shadows? Maybe you want to atone for your sins by donating money to the Temple of Light? There are many ways to change your alignment for better or worse, and it's entirely up to you. Just about every moment in the game gives you the option whether you want to do the right thing or an evil deed. It's an in depth system that many should be familiar with by now and it alters the physical appearance of your character if your extreme enough one way or the other.

The options in the game continue even further as you explore towns, take on odd-jobs, side missions, build a family (yes, you can have kids this time around), and buy property all over Albion. There really are so many things to do in the game that you may just well forget about the main quest for a while. By the time the game ends you'll undoubtedly have about twenty to thirty hours racked up just by goofing around, but if you ignore all that you can probably beat the game in about seven hours or so. Once you step into the world of Albion though, you'll realize that this is a game you'll want to savor, not rush.

With an Xbox Live account you can take advantage of an online community and even team up with friends. If you're connected to the internet while playing your game you'll see where friends (or other people) are in Albion. Orbs represent players and when you come across someone you can check out their stats, send them gifts, talk to them, or invite them into your game.

The online component for Fable 2 was a big draw for me and I was thrilled when I heard that you could co-op with someone. Unfortunately the system isn't implemented as well as one might hope. For starters the visitor to your world can not bring their custom character. They have to be a randomly generated character and are restricted in weaponry and abilities based upon your own inventory. You would think that the developers would want both parties to be able to use their unique characters, but such is not the case. To make matters worse with the co-op both players are restricted to a stationary camera. In the single player mode you can move the camera how you see fit, but here the screen is fixed. This makes it much more difficult to play the game and doesn't allow for any freedom of exploration on the part of your visitor. It's safe to say that while the online mode had a lot of promise, the actuality of it falls short of expectations and is more trouble than its worth.

At the end of the day Fable 2 is still an incredible experience, despite the fumbled online component. The world of Albion is yours for conquering or saving, and everything you do in between presents a rewarding experience. The combat is a blast and never gets tiring, the dog is a perfect addition, the missions are plentiful, and the manner with which the world reacts to you is fun to tinker with. If you enjoyed the original Fable, then you owe it to yourself to check out the sequel. Even if you have never stepped into Albion before though, Fable 2 is still a solid game with a lot of delivered promises. Consider it highly recommended and one of the must own titles for the 360.

Achievements


The achievements in Fable 2 vary quite a bit, but most are easy to get. Some of the simpler ones include throwing a rubber ball for your dog, getting people dance, killing multiple enemies with magic, and swinging your sword properly. The heavier scoring achievements all come at plot progression points through the main quest, so as long as you're playing through the game and beating it you'll get them automatically. Aside from those there are also some harder to get ones that will eat up much of your time. Ruler of Albion prompts you to buy just about every piece of land in the world, there's also an achievement that forces you to go online and trade for dolls and a few that force you to collect all expressions or find all of particular items. It's a good spread of achievements and the game will keep you busy for quite some time. With that being said many of these achievements can be completed without doing anything since you can witness someone else get the achievement and receive it yourself.

Graphics


Graphically Fable 2 is an impressive looking title with a lot going for it. The character designs are superb and with regards to the hero there's a lot of customization available. The people that inhabit Albion are mostly diverse as well, but don't be surprised if you find yourself circled by an army of clones who are in love with you. Enemy models are equally impressive, yet somewhat repetitive when it comes right down to it as well. Overall it's the main characters that present the most unique looks, which isn't very surprising.

Much like the first Fable, the world in the sequel is a beautiful place with rich details. There are some very subtle details at work here which help flesh things out and provide many moments where you'll want to simply walk around, look, and bask in the beauty of it all. Textures are rich, the lighting is believable in a fantasy sort of way, and all around you, the world comes to life. Unfortunately there are some glitches that pop up from time to time such as jilted and looping animation, poor collision detection, texture layering, and pop-in with NPCs and enemies. These aren't game-breaking glitches by any stretch of the imagination, but they do detract from the overall experience.

Sound


Fable 2 presents a fantastic sound direction that helps bring the game to life. Dialogue is crisp, witty, and brilliant all around with NPCs, narrator, and main characters all providing spot on voice acting. The sound effects are equally as immersive and authentic. Stroll through the woods and you'll hear birds chirping, branches crunching beneath your feet, and you may just catch the faint audible hint that you're about to be ambushed by bandits as well. Music is another high point for Fable 2 and the soundtrack presents a memorable and sweeping fantasy score that helps set the mood. Unfortunately, like the graphics, there is some repetitiveness to the sound and every once in a while bytes will cut off completely.

Conclusion


From start to finish Fable 2 is a great game that stands out as one of the better role-playing experiences on the current consoles. It presents a thriving and believable world with interesting characters, charm, and a whole lot of things to do. The world is literally your oyster and when you're not wandering around looking for hobbes to kill, you'll probably be blacksmithing, digging up treasure with your dog, or out saving people's necks. No matter how you look at it Fable 2 is a success that is everything the first game should have been and more. The game comes highly recommended.