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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Microsoft Games Studio

 

Developer

Lionhead Studios

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

October 21, 2008

 

 

- Unbelievably complex and expansive realm to explore with amazingly interactive non-playable characters
- Drop-dead-gorgeous graphics and orchestral music
- After single-player game is complete (in about 10-12 hours) co-op gives gamers compelling reason for return visits to Albion
- Laugh-out-loud funny NPC interactions and missions

 

 

- Pub games aren’t much fun
- Co-op movement can be restrictive

 

 

Review: Fable (XB)

Review: Legend of Kain: Defiance (360)

Review: Mass Effect (360)

 

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Fable II

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

Fable II, the sequel of sorts to the original Fable role-playing game on the Xbox from renowned developer Peter Molyneux, takes the franchise even further, with a rich and rewarding new tale of Albion. There is much more gameplay and Fable II even infuses co-op play into the fray for a perfectly designed and completely satisfying gaming adventure that once again allows gamers to choose what path they will follow: the pure and true champion, or the ultimate anti-hero (or somebody in-between).

 

fable ii          fable ii

 

This tale takes place 500 years following the first Fable’s events. Gamers become Sparrow, a homeless child of the streets who survives with sister Rose. Rose’s one dream is to live in the large castle that overshadows the town. And with the help of

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a magic music box, her dream comes true. But it quickly turns into a complete nightmare, as the evil owner of the castle, Lucien, kills Rose and nearly kills Sparrow. After a long recovery (and an aging from childhood to a twentysomething), Sparrow sets out on a journey to revenge Rose’s death.

In a signature of the franchise, it’s up to the gamer which path is chosen to defeat Lucien

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– the good and virtuous road of the Albion champion, or the complete opposite, the malevolent anti-hero – or even a mix of both (it should take about 12 hours to complete Fable II’s story if gamers primarily focus on completing it). Whatever path one takes, the brilliantly designed non-playable characters more than notice it, remarking no matter where you traverse about your past deeds. If you’ve followed the moral path, they’ll praise you. If you’re mostly evil, expect them to shower Sparrow with disdain, often running in fear and loathing whenever Sparrow comes near.

 

No matter what reaction the NPCs give Sparrow, there are plenty of humorous interactions and situations gamers will uncover. One particularly funny “mission” has Sparrow rounding up items needed by a “cleric” for a “religious” ceremony – food, wine and a woman of the night. How he asks Sparrow to gather the “goods” is downright hilarious. Fable II is funny, despite the darkness of the revenge story and the possibility of death around every corner for Sparrow (although Sparrow can’t really be killed per se – just knocked unconscious, bouncing back into action with the loss of experience points that build Sparrow’s skills and wills).

 

Albion is a very expansive land, too, so gamers will be meeting thousands of NPCs throughout, including the NPCs that don’t care if Sparrow is good or evil, they’re attacking. All over the vast kingdom, Sparrow will constantly face enemies: bandits, bugs, monsters and Lucien’s lackeys of various sizes, shapes and fighting ferocity (and in both living and undead embodiment). Sparrow will face off against foes in a variety of locales, too, from the wooded forests to the Albion towns to caves and catacombs deep underneath the Albion earth. Assisting Sparrow is the revamped combat system, which brings plenty of exciting fighting action to Fable II’s role-playing facets. Weaponry of various sizes, shapes and effectiveness – from swords and axes to crossbows and rifles – give gamers the means to their foes ends. Sparrow also possesses magical “will” powers (time control, raising the dead, chaos, inferno, and others) that can dispatch enemies.

 

How gamers get to a final conflict is once again entirely up to them. Fable II has an enormous amount of missions and jobs that gamers choose to undertake in any order they want. In fact, one could simply explore Albion and lead a life as one of its residents indefinitely if that’s the choice the gamer decides, working non-adventurer jobs to earn money to buy property, living tranquilly with their family (players can once again get married and have children). Gamers can choose to be bigamists also – although care must be taken to keep the spouses from ever finding out about each other (there are NPCs who will try and bribe Sparrow to keep from disclosing the bigamy).

 

fable ii          fable ii

 

However, it’s the adventuring path that is Fable II’s more engaging undertaking. Showing gamers the way to the selected mission is a golden glowing trail. Following it will generally get Sparrow to the desired location, although it isn’t entirely reliable or easy to track. Sometimes it fades into the background, especially during the daytime hours (the world has passage of time from day to night) so that the path is impossible to see. Other times it goes in a confusing direction until it resets. Gamers would do well to go off the beaten glowing path, though, otherwise they won’t find much of the treasures hidden around Albion. Those treasures are not only silver keys, but also the chests that are opened by those keys, along with other chests that don’t require a key to open them. These treasures are all kinds of items and books that can be sold for gold to buy other items and weapons (money can also be made playing the pub games, which really aren’t much fun at all).

Many books upgrade your dog’s skills – yes, Sparrow has a constant dog companion that serves one main purpose and a secondary one as well. Firstly, gamers’ dogs sniff out – literally – hidden and buried treasures. The dog also will aid Sparrow in battle by finishing off wounded enemies.

 

With a faithful companion along for the journey, Sparrow’s adventures earn renown. The more renowned that Sparrow becomes, the more admiration (or fear, for those gamers with evil Sparrows) earned, which also opens up missions and tasks previously unavailable when Sparrow was a lesser-known hero (or anti-hero).

Getting around the large expanse of Albion is made much easier by the ability to “fast travel” to points on the map already discovered by Sparrow. A big annoyance, though, is waiting for the constant load screens to complete loading. Fast traveling, however, cuts down on the amount of XP Sparrow can collect (since Sparrow won’t be battling against the many XP-spewing enemies that are all along the paths that must be followed in order to get to the mission point on the map). If gamers choose to take the scenic (and more XP-producing) route, the “A” button allows them to speed up Sparrow’s pace so as not to make any singular journey too long.

One aspect that will keep players continuing to return to Albion even after the final chapter of the story is done is the co-op gameplay. Gamers can allow other Fable II gamers, in the form of orbs floating throughout the land, into their Albion. An invitation can be sent out – or a gamer can join another orb player – for a fellow gamer to join in the game and take on missions.

 

Co-op really makes battles much easier to earn both XP and gold. One of the easiest ways to make a quick gold strike while playing co-op is the Crucible, sort of an eight-match battle royale in an enclosed coliseum-like structure that serves as Albion entertainment. These timed events are so much less taxing when two players fight through each level, although movement can be restrictive if one co-op player heads one way on-screen while the other doesn’t follow right away.

 

From the amazingly vast landscape to the equally impressive NPC interaction to the first-rate story to the many, many choices and gameplay freedom it presents to gamers, to the co-op that will have gamers coming back for return visits to Albion long after the revenge on Lucien has been satisfyingly taken, Fable II is a stellar and engrossing RPG of the highest order.

 

‑ Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(December 8, 2008)

 

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