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Game Review: Fable 2

#1
[Imagine: Fable_II.jpg]

This review is written for the out of the box version of the game, unpatched in any conceivable way. For some obscure reason, my internet connection refused to engage in extramarital relationships with a borrowed Xbox 360; probably for fear that the PS 3 would pick up its things, take the kids and move to the upper shelf with its bigger siblings.
If that isn't the reason, then I may have goofed something along with setting up the connection. So yeah, some points I will make may prove to be moot after being fixed up by patches along the game's life time.

With that out of the wait, let the blood bath commence: I hate 'Fable 2'. But I do not hate it in the classic implication of the word (voodoo on its strand of hair in the dead of night to cause malaria on it for twelve generation plus shrinkage of genital organs) but rather a hate of everything that the game could have been but is not. For Lionhead's 'masterpiece' of a game manages to parade so many good ideas and downright glimmers of genius content that it's a wonder the game managed to half ass so many of them.
Yes, fundamentally, 'Fable 2' is flaw to the core and back, cracked in so many places it resembles a very large cracked thing (for lack of some witty comparison that the cliché demanded). It fails to attach itself to some of the most basics of basics of RPG elements but manages one very, VERY important thing.
It is fun.

'I can take it Doc. Give me the itty gritty of it all.'
The game takes place some hundred years after the first one, with the Guild of Heroes having fallen to some cataclysm in time and now the bloodlines of heroes having dissipated throughout the people. You're a boy, or girl, by choice, living with your sister as orphans on the streets of Bowerstone, dreaming to one day step through the halls of Fairfax Castle.
The short of it is that your sister gets killed, you are saved (and proven as a new type of hero that will reunite the others) and vow revenge as the years pass. Your companion, the seer Theresa and the Dog (capital letters because I was too lazy for most of the game to rename him…he was a dog so his name was Dog…makes perfect sense to me…I guess) accompany you throughout your quests, the first with directions and quests, the second…well, more on him later.
The story, if you just keep to it is over before you even believe it to have started.
No, there are no ancient evils to conquer, secret tombs to raid, ancient weapons to reactivate.
No, you won't spark revolutions and amass armies, find lost jewels to aid you in your quest or discover great ancient civilizations or bloodlines.
No, you won't bring back to life ancient orders of heroes or guilds long forgotten.
Yes, all you'll do is enlist the help of three heroes, each with his or her own little quest and at the end realize you've already faced the boss and it was a big piece of ROCK.

Oh, sorry, too many spoilers?
So what?
The game has a story that explains little of itself and manages to be completely surpassed in EVERY aspect by the intro sequence.
Yes, the intro is more interesting in most ways than most of the games and that is one of the reasons why I really hate 'Fable 2'. You see…the intro is fantastic. No, I don't mean the cinematic sequence (by the by, the game furthers the story by computer generated videos or hand drawn panels at times, not really important stuff I'd say…they're great thought), but the actual time you spend as a child from the beginning of the game up until your sister gets murdered.

'YOU JEST!'
I TAKE OFFENCE, and only fools jest. Or them people that fart in public and soil their pants, but more on that later.
The intro sequence for the game sets a mood that reverberates with what you could usually find in most Tim Burton works, not only his animations but also his poetry if anyone has read it. It is perfectly paced, the city seems just the right amount of lively for how it is snowing and all in all the mood of the game at that point in time is absolutely gorgeous.
And there's the problem: the game all too rarely visits such heights again. Once in a dream there is a meadow by moon light that glows whimsically…behind a demon door there is a winter paradise that goes nightmarish…or a blinding desert. There are such moments that pop up from time to time along the game, but mostly you'll find yourself traversing boring paths with boring enemies, few in number, dumb in wits and always, ALWAYS the same and in the same place.
The cities react to you in one out of two ways and that is dependant on what you chose to do in the game as a whole (be good or be evil).

It is sad when a game manages to hit a high note immediately just to sink into repetitiveness and a drab RPG world that could have been great, had there been a full implementation of the features that there are present.

'Bloody murder lads, bloody murder I tell yah. But this is an autopsy table so we're cutting deep here so let's get to the bowels of the thing. Watch your fingers there boy or we're likely to find one too many weird things in this man's stomach'


I wish to leave the RPG elements of the game for later, because they hold such a special place in my heart of hearts. I really wish to talk about the distractions first of all, in what seem like a really backwards way of writing a review if you think about it. So don't.

First of all, 'Fable 2' is a game about choice, choice that impacts everything in the game. Or simply your morality and your appearance based on that, added how people perceive you.
But, problem is, there is no real choice to speak of. Like in the PS 3 exclusive 'inFamous', the choice and morality system are really crystal clear for most of the game and the choices are preordained by what you've chose to do at the start. Of course you need to fart rainbows to reach full good karma, and you need to eat live chickens and get fat to reach the negative one but it really doesn't impact much.
And therein lies the breaking point of the whole choice thing: apart from a few choices (three, I've counted) what you chose to do in the world ultimately does not amass to anything except reputation. And that is only skin deep…it's harder to get a good price but then again you always have money to spare.

The game always has a few side quests and jobs available for a few days that pay well and are fun to do.
Until they cycle.
And cycle again.
And the novelty goes away fast.
This would've been really great if a job would've been something to really look out for, not something that pops up every fifteen seconds. The lucrative jobs (yes, three in number, again) help you raise so much money early in the game that it becomes a cake walk from the get go.
Expensive weapon?
No problem? Just play that damn mini-game for a couple of hours and you've got enough money to buy the weapon, the shop and a couple of adjacent buildings that you can rent out with double rent if you're a bastard.
The jobs come around easily, they pay well, there is no skill involved except some timing BUT they are fun to undertake. I've personally spent a lot of time distracting myself from the game gaining levels here because I enjoyed it. It was a brain dead activity but it was enjoyable (for once, I could understand MMO players).
But my point stands why the jobs could've used more variety and some scarcity and when it's urgent…it better damn be urgent, like that world really is alive.
Why should I care that the offer is ending if it comes around in ten minutes again? Same goes for sales and side quests like Slave Rescues.

Another big thing in 'Fable 2' had to be the emotional involvement and the way we could interact with the world.
In one word, the way we interact is 'retarded' since we use expressions like fart, belch, laugh, middle finger and so forth and so on. Because nothing makes a town love a hero more than violently farting for ten minutes and then soiling his trousers because the player missed the timing. Lovely, just lovely.
Then come the people: except for the main characters, there exists no personality in the game whatsoever. People fall in love with you at random (I've had a lot of people randomly in love with me because I've spent days at the iron forge making swords…a lot of women as well as misguided men) and have the weirdest likes and dislikes.
You want to marry?
No problem. Go to the first Mary Sue there, press the left trigger, see what she likes with the Y and spam it for 5 minutes…then give her a ring and she's yours forever.
And if you want your marriage to work there are just two (2) proven ways:
1) Ignore your family completely but set a high enough allowance that they can buy Mount Doom and turn it into Disneyland ten times over and forget you ever married;
2) Visit them every thirty seconds and bring gifts at each visit.
Do anything else, like trust the status screen where it says that your marriage is happy and the next time you come home your wife will divorce you without any explanation as to why (except for wanting sex). I had it happen to me twice and each time the status screen for my family said that everything was peachy and their bars for liking me were full…I gave them gifts, gave them expressions of love and what not. Thirty seconds later I was divorced. The second time I caught up to her and shot her in the face. Third time I just got married to shoot her in the face before she gets the change of pulling that stunt. Then I stopped marrying because I really, really, REALLY had no reason to care for any of those constructs. But the next woman that came to me wanting to marry I still shot in the face…it was a hefty fine to pay, but it was damn worth every penny.

And then comes the ever helpful dog. The dog does a great deal in the game: he does tricks, sniffs out treasures and silver keys, bites enemies when they're down and sniffs out buried treasures. He's your best friend and relieves most of the tedium of exploring ever nook and cranny of every dungeon you visit for every chest that you may miss. He does it for you and he does it well and by the end of the game he'll feel like part of the character rather than a separate entity.
There is no direct control over the dog and punishing or praising him has really no impact on what he does. Praising or giving a treat usually just relieve him of being scared in some places…but the only conceivable use for punishment that I could find was a sadistic way of making him feel worse when he's scared.
The whole concept is pretty much a throwback to the creature from 'Black & White', minus the complexity and the learning. Granted, the dog does learn to fight, find better treasures and new tricks (from books) but it's nothing like the complexity found there and it's honestly a shame. It's another failed opportunity for 'Fable 2'…though you get to care much for him. In itself, even that is a success.

The most fun I've had with the game came from buying buildings and houses and renting them out. Besides it being the main way of making real money in the game (getting a hefty sum after a few shops every five minutes if nothing to be ignored) it is also the way in which the economy is presented. The only way…
You can help raise or lower a town's economy by spending much money in its shops, doing odd jobs there or, at the bad end, stealing and attacking shops. But, truth be said, there is really no economy to speak of. Once you bough a building, there is really no risk involved for you: you get money no matter what.
Now, wouldn't it have been grand for the game to have had some micromanagement at this point? Add a hint of trade? Set up a route for merchants, set up buying prices for goods and selling, set up some salaries…anything but not JUST THAT.
I was smiling through my ears when I bought my first building only to have my enthusiasm sawed from the base when I realized my little fish stall was just there to give me 22 gold pieces every five minutes and nothing more.

The ending.
You see, there is no boss. Yes, stop playing; there is no boss battle, no grand climax. You just get a choice from three wishes.
Here's another fine breaking point:
-the first wish is so pure you can vomit in your hat and then wear it…problem is you can't chose it in good spirits, no matter how good you are because there's no way in Hell you could possibly care for all that;
-the second choice is the logical one and you will chose it because the others stink;
-the third wish is pointless since you already make enough of that to buy the world three times over without even breaking a sweat.
So the ending choices are badly thought out and the only way anyone would chose anything other than the second wish is if they wish to experiment or if they're heartless heartless bastards. Otherwise, the only consequence is one of the characters trying to brownnose you with your choice and that's that…the people still loved me and wanted to have my babies.
Way to go Lionhead.

Features, features, features, more and more and more features in a game that seems to now know how to do any of those features right. There are more, of course, but my article would span way too many lines and I feel it's already reaching the limit.

'The heart! Where is the heart?'
Yes, an RPG that tries it's hardest to be immersive and full of things to do but forgets to be an RPG…what are the odds? Apparently, they're perfect for birthing 'Fable 2'.

Character growth in this game implies four types of experience: strength, skill, will and general. You need one of the first three plus the fourth to gain levels in about six skill of strength and skill (that sounds wrong) and a few spells. Of course…fighting is nothing more but an unfortunate side effect to traveling…because otherwise you can get all your experience from potions.
I am not kidding…this has got to be the first RPG where I've gained levels just by drinking potions. It was awkward as a game mechanic but what the heck…they were there, I drank them, I gained strength…who am I to argue the more illuminated light bulbs that programmed this?
This is the barebones of bare bones of RPGs. There are few spells to learn and no way to find more, few skills that can be maxed out and once that's done there's really nowhere else to go with a character.
Disappointing?
Yes.

Disappointing again is the very small selection of items that exists in the game. There are few clothing items even if at some point in the game there pass 10 blooming years. You'd think that someone would say 'Hey, we've been wearing the same clothes for 20 years now. Shouldn't we, I don't know, create something new?'. There are also very few weapons and enhancements for them.

'But you cut it and it bled. A monster it couldn't be.'

'Fable 2' has blemish upon blemish but it is, dare I say it, a fine game. A horrible RPG by any standard that you wish to judge the genre, with repetitive combat in spite of the many upgrades to the basic mashing (flourishes, guards, counters) and magics that can be ordered by strength of the spell and can be cast by area or on target.

All my complaints thus far sum up a mediocre game that can become addictive for a short period of time. It's over before you know it, it has few memorable moments and it shines much too rarely.
But this mediocre game coins it when it comes to immersion like few others. Exploring caves is fun, running along cliff edges is also fun to do and look at the wee hours of the morning and so on. The odd jobs that are worth undertaking tend to make time pass really fast and get a lot of money in, some quests are actually fun (though there are so few of them it's actually really sad) and all in all this can be a fun game if approached in the right state of mind.

'Well, ok, the corpse doesn't stink up the whole morgue then. Let's see how it looks then. Boy, more light.'
There have been better looking RPGs ('The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion') than this but it does its job admirably. There are some draw distance problems at times that are simply laughable for this generation of consoles, laughable when you consider that even games like 'Morrowind' would allow you to see further away.
Noting as problems are some frame rate issues as well when there are quite a lot of enemies on screen at the same time, plus some spell effects. Nothing gamebreaking, but annoying since it happens often…plus menu navigations that are rough, hardly responsive and annoyingly slow.

Apart from those problems, the game is beautiful. As I've said above, it's a sad thing that there are few moments when this shines line in the first part of it all. The art direction does its job well but the repeating models are seriously ugly up close and rather drab and stiff most of the times.
But what really makes the game beautiful are the forests and the open fields that sway in the wind and that fill the wide screen TV that's so often saturated with brown and gray with a symphony of colors and lights. It's simply wonderful and beautiful to behold and a pleasure to walk around aimlessly sometimes.

Also, the game sounds great. From the haunting theme to the top notch voice acting, the sound was not neglected. But, as some loading screens attest, everyone pretty much sounds the same. Some diversity would have been welcomed in Albion and making fun of itself does not absolve the game of its own shortcomings.

All in all…let's cut it all down:

Graphics: 8

Ugly models, stiff animations and glitches are saved by beautiful and colorful landscapes that are welcomed into a generation of games that have made brown and gray their primary color theme.
Though not the best looking game out there, marred by draw distance problems, it is pleasant to look at and just wonder about.

Sound: 9

Beautiful music and great voices are marred simply by the lack of variety at times when a lot of the peasant and the high society sound pretty much the same.

Story: 4

There is no real story in this game.
There are few quests that actually matter to build a story and they manage to contradict themselves.
It is short.
The ending is anti-climatic and badly written in oh so many ways.

The only real redeeming qualities for the story are the stories for the heroes if you are actually interested enough in listening to them and searching for them.

Gameplay: 5


The combat is repetitive with monsters that are few in types and always in the same spot. It is a chore to kill them, no matter in how many ways.
Exploring is repetitive and wields little rewards, especially since most of the legendary weapons are up for grabs almost without any effort.
The game is incredibly easy and generous with potions of life and with money.
All that I've already explained as hall assign the job by Lionhead.

Can be addictive for long periods of times.
The dog.

General impression: 6

I loathe it as much as I love it.

Overall: 6.4
[Imagine: 14wyiz6.jpg]

Pentru intrebari sau orice alte interactiuni cu mine, folositi cu incredere mesajele de profil. Contrar opiniei populare eu nu musc...si chiar daca as musca, am toate vaccinurile facute.



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