Review: Fable II

Role-playing games fly in the face of today’s on-the-go thinking. They require a lot of time to fully enjoy, demanding full investment from the player.

The beauty of Fable II is that it’s as long or as short as the player wants it to be. Peter Molyneux has a reputation for trying to reach for the stars with his ideas, and this much-anticipated piece of work is full of them.

Take the concept itself, which doesn’t differ from the first title — start off in the shoes of a young hero and shape his or her life and legend over the years with every action and decision you make. You can live like a bad-ass drifter or start a family (or several of them) and earn money as you travel. You don’t even have to be good … you can run around and be a greedy, murderous thug if you want.

All of this takes place in the fictional land of Albion, 500 years after the events of the first game. While you don’t need to be in tune with the first game to fully appreciated the sequel, it does add a little bit of extra mythos as the story progresses.

Graphically, the game does a good job of conveying the sense of a wondrous fantasy world. Albion’s full of quaint markets, humble villages, deadly ghost-filled swamps, raucous pirate towns and lush forests.

It’s also full of quests. The main story (which I won’t spoil too much) pits you against a power-hungry madman who fears his foreseen death at the hands of a hero. To that end, he tries to have you killed, but you manage to survive. This is when you start to build your path to revenge, which is where the multitude of quests factors in.

Each quest enables the player to craft practically every facet of his or her character’s life. One of the game’s best points is that is has so much for the player to do. Feel short on money? Grab a job with the blacksmith. Want more people to know your name? Try and hold a pose long enough to have a statue made.

Interpersonal relationships have a lot of dimensions here as well. For instance, you can flirt your way into a person’s heart and marry them, regardless of gender — Prop. 8 isn’t an issue in Albion, apparently.

Eventually, you’re going to have to fight people, so the re-tooled combat system makes the game feel a little more accommodating to the button-mashing action gamer. Anyone who’s played God of War or Devil May Cry won’t have much of a problem taking out scores of enemies with swords, guns and magic.

Perhaps the most adorable feature is your dog, who faithfully follows you around no matter where you go. You can give him a name, train him to do tricks (like seek out treasure) and he’s a valuable battle companion. You don’t have to maintain him like a Nintendog, but you end up getting attached to him as the “years” in the game pass you by.

I stuck mostly to the main quest, which seems very short by comparison to other games such as Mass Effect or Infinite Undiscovery. It also seemed to end a little too suddenly after doing a solid job of keeping the narrative moving.

Other issues I had were the lack of co-op at the time I got the game (to be patched later), as well as the occasional frustrating glitch or crash during battle. Overall, I’d say “Fable II” is certainly worth the time. But how much time you want to spend on it depends on you.

Fable II
Microsoft/Lionhead Studios
Xbox 360, PC
Score: 8.5/10