Fable 2 is a game that is so hard to classify at times, it defies a genre. On the one hand it’s an open ended, Sim like world. On another, it is an action adventure RPG. It borrows from many games to attempt to create something new and while very unique, it is also somewhat muddled.
Now I played the original Fable and I never really got into the game, finding it an illusion of choice and free-form gameplay that Peter Molyneux promised (and indecently, always promises with his games.) back on the original X-Box. Fable 2, like the original, had Molyneux promising the world and then some, and in one sense he did deliver on that promise, as there is a ton of activities, mini-games, and real life simulations that can be done in the game.
But where the gameplay fails, however, is the actual gameplay. It’s not broken in the normal sense, but rather it’s totally overpowered by everything else in the game. The game has you, a young boy who survives a nasty fall from a tower; grow up to become the first of a new crop of heroes who are given the choice to save the world. The story is pretty much a standard, “save the world or destroy it” scenario that was present in the first Fable, with a final choice in the end that is almost a no-brainer in a sad attempt to give a “twist” ending.
Story aside, everything else in the game can make up for it. The controls for fighting are well made and well thought out, even though the balance of power will always shift to magic over long range and melee weapons. For some reason, the magic is severely overpowered, allowing you to kill enemies in large chunks, rather than hacking them to bits all the time. It’s a shame that this wasn’t balanced more, because it really hampers the gameplay in the later stages.
A ton of the additives in the gameplay have a lot of other activities. Buying houses, furniture, books, clothing, tattoos, produce, meat, and other items give the world a Sim-like sensibility, a degree of choice that is not seen in most games. Interactions with those around you are also important, and frankly, the best part of the game. You go around emoting to other villagers, guards, shop owners, and even some enemies, where you can charm them, threaten them, or just fart in their face if you want to. Using the right combination of emotions can charm people to give you gifts, have them fall in love with you, or even marry you. Hell, you can eventually get a threesome going on, marry a man or a woman, or even have multiple wives in different towns.
The emotions are the best part of the game because unlike the combat, or the straightforward narrative quests, you need to show some degree of strategy and restraint when courting a person in the game. It is actually a well made system, and it helps that these interactions give a semblance of real life to Fable 2.
Unfortunately, other aspects are also still flawed. Your canine companion in the game is useful only finding and digging up random items around the world, (and for me, it was usually peanut shells for some reason.) The dog is not strong enough to attack enemies, and when you’re fighting a major cluster of thieves or hobbes, you might lose your friend in battle. You can also train him by giving him different collars to perform tricks to strangers, but it’s really a shallow system that I feel like should have been used more, since you have the dog for most of the game as your sole companion.
Another broken concept is the money system in the game. You would think doing quests and performing bounties on people would give you a mountain of gold, but actually it’s the mundane tasks of chopping wood and making weapons that gives you a lot of cash. It’s quite sad that a mini-game that requires you to push a button at the right time gives you more in-game money than killing pirates who threaten to take over an entire town, but I guess that’s the way it goes, proving that real life jobs are the way to go.
And like in Fable, the game essentially forces you to do good in order to proceed. You can be a bastard and kick chickens, eat a ton of meat to get more evil, or sacrifice half of a village to an evil altar; you will still be considered a savior for tackling a storyline quest. This was the problem in Fable, and it’s still a problem in Fable 2.
Graphically the game has a ton of detail to it. It is crisp, beautiful and stylistic, with a soft, pastel like feel to the game, giving it a timeless look. The character models are goofy-looking, with big arms and legs and small torsos. Other characters have small heads but big frames, giving the character animations a cartoonish feel to them. There is some slowdown when the action part of the game gets real crowded, but it’s not a major deal breaker to the game.
This cartoonish feel fits in with the witty dialogue that Lionhead studios injected into the game, with lots of jokes and game references about Fable. There is also some more sophisticated, witty humor straight out of Monty Python territory. Sadly, the dialogue is hampered by poor voice-overs done by what seems like a set of four actors and actresses, each with the same cockney accent. I suspect this was done on purpose, but it’s too damn annoying to listen to. The orchestrated music and game sound effects are good, but not noteworthy.
So what is Fable 2? I see it as an experiment to try and create something new. That doesn’t mean it’s a great game, in fact it’s far from one. It is just a good game with too much going on, like a mixed drink with too many flavors in it. I should point out that the game plays well and has a lot of charm to it, but the strange mix of gameplay elements, plus the broken parts of the game, namely gold acquiring and the linear quest lines, hinders it from becoming something great. In the end, if Peter Molyneux finished his game and kept it nice and balanced, his usual promise of having the world would finally have been achieved I think. But as it stands, Fable 2 is another game that is nearly crushed by its own lofty goals.
Final Score- B-