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Monday, June 1, 2009

Albion Saved, Weather Fixed, and the Future Seen (Fable II)

I finished Fable II over the weekend. I never took a look at my stats to see how long the game took me to complete. If I had to guess, I'd say that I spent upwards of 40 hours total playing through Fable II, the Knothole Island DLC, and the See The Future DLC. And to be honest, I didn't even finish off all the quests in the game.

You can read my final thoughts on Fable II after the jump.

Fable II was an incredible game. The game was extremely ambitious and easily lived up to the hype. There are many things that Fable II did right. Of course, the game did have its fair share of missteps and annoyances as well.

I'm going to start with the things that Fable II did poorly. I'd like to get these minor complaints out of the way now so that I can end this post on a high note. I want to make sure that anyone who's undecided about playing Fable II leaves with an intense desire to run out, buy the game, and settle in for some great gaming. Without further ado, here are my gripes:

  • The loading screens get really annoying in the latter stages of the game when you find yourself traveling from place to place. This only started to affect my gaming experience after I'd finished Fable II's main storyline. There are many side-quests that take the form of fetch quests. Ten to twenty second load screens can make fetch-quests unbearable at times.

  • Fable II's morality system is simple window-dressing. Although you must live with the consequences of your actions, it's far too easy to counteract the results of your earlier decisions by spending a little gold or by performing other simple tasks. For example, it only takes 200,000 gold to go from being the most evil prick Albion's ever seen to Albion's greatest superhero. As for corruption, simply dropping rent prices to -100% will turn the most corrupt characters into shining examples of chaste virtue in no time flat.

  • A couple of the quests seemed a little buggy. One quest in particular, The Rescue, basically forced the death of my eldest in-game son. As silly as it sounds, I was upset by this particular turn of fate. My choice at the end of Fable II's story was made to avoid just such a fate from occurring to any of my in-game children or in-game wife. All it took was one simple glitch to break my happy virtual family apart. I should note, however, that my in-game wife didn't seem to care about the loss of our son...which seems a little odd, right?

  • I didn't really care about my dog in the game. I'm not a dog person in real life nor am I in the digital world either. Don't get me wrong: I cared for my dog, gave him treats and praise constantly, and even appreciated "Barky's" ability to locate important items and treasure. But I still didn't truly care for the dog the way that dog-lovers do. Thanks to the See The Future DLC, I was able to change my dog from mutt to huskie to dalmation. But I was holding out hope for a potion that would change him into a chihuahua. That would have been hilarious! I could have carried him around in a knapsack or something.

  • There wasn't enough variety to the creatures encountered in the game. Even towards the end of the game, I was still fighting the same old beetles, bandits, and balverines that I'd fought since the beginning of the game.

  • Fable II provided little incentive to continue fighting once I'd finished the story and maxed out my skills and experience. Without the need for fame, money, items, or experience, why continue with the various side-quests that continued to pop-up even after finishing up Fable II's main storyline?
Keep in mind that my gripes are biased towards the final five hours of play over the course of a 40+ hour adventure. The real question is: why did I spend 40+ hours playing Fable II? Why did I give up so many hours of sleep over a simple video game?
  • Fable II looks and sounds incredible. Forget the gritty realism of games like Gears of War 2. I'll take Fable II's bright colours, animated characters, and brilliant atmosphere any day! Absolutely stunning and incredible!

  • Voice acting is absolutely top-notch throughout. Characters are all believably acted which makes it quite easy to lose yourself in the game. As always, Stephen Fry delivers a great performance as Reaver. And Zoe Wannamaker is unforgettable in the role of Theresa - though she sounds so very much like Judi Dench.

  • Fable II's writing is excellent and laugh-out-loud funny at parts. How many truly funny games have you played in your life? And of these, how many did not involve Tim Schafer? Kudos to Fable II for showing up in the humour category!

  • Although most quests follow the typical "Go here, kill things, find item, and return" format, the game's writing and design gives every quest it's own charm.

  • The World of Albion is a well-realized backdrop for Fable II that feels both large yet alive. There is not a single place on the map that feels overlooked or added as filler. There are people, quests, jobs, and creatures everywhere you go. For better or worse, you'll never feel alone traveling from place to place.

  • Fable II's combat system is both simple and ingenuous. It's not quite rock-paper-scissors since your Hero will be able to dispatch anyone or anything however he/she sees fit. But on the whole, combat is fun, intuitive, easy, and quite satisfying - especially when decapitating enemies with a single shot from your gun or clearing an entire room of creatures with a single fireball.

  • The game's NPCs seem alive. They know you and, if you take the time to start a family, you'll know them as well. I actually found myself caring for my Fable II family in a strange way. While I'll admit that this "care" does not even touch upon what I feel towards my real-life wife and kids, it's a nice (and wholly unrealistic) in-game approximation for those without real-life spouses and children.

  • Fable II's story is simple. Everything's laid out plainly and the story is easy to follow. That's not to say that there are not more than a few "WTF?!" moments - both good and bad. But I enjoyed everything about Fable II's storyline including the ending that many bitched about. I'm a real sucker for a nice easy ending to a game. The end game should put a nice bow on the game and not try to define (or redefine) my gaming experience.
Fable II is more than just the sum of its parts. There is so much love, care, and polish put into the game that it's very difficult to come away from Fable II without a smile. I think Peter Molyneux and the rest of Lionhead Studios did an incredible job with Fable II.

As a video game or role-playing game, I can't recommend it highly enough.