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Review: Fable 2

Role playing games have a long and celebrated history. They often elicit strong attachment from their players and can become thoroughly engrossing as players learn to identify with their avatar and develop a personal attachment to this alternate personification of themselves. The problem is that as deep as these games can be they can also be somewhat complicated and forbidding. Not all players want to study statistics, memorize obscure qualitative and quantitative relationships or deal with obsessive and often tedious exploration and documentation of their game world. Last week we had the chance to sit down with Xbox Canada’s Jake Reardon and Jeff MacDermot (pictured below) to go through Fable 2 at it’s launch event in Toronto and try it out first hand.

Fable 2 allows for an RPG style experience yet attempts to streamline it so as to be more accessible to casual players without sacrificing the richness that more dedicated players come to love from the genre. Beyond that the game also attempts to encompass concepts of morality, virtue, economy and sociology to create a rich world which is more the product of the player than the player is a product of it. This is an ambitious game and for better or worse lends itself so much to comparison with other RPG games that it is difficult to talk about it without discussing the rest of the genre.

Avatars
As soon as you start the game you are presented with a choice – male or female. That is the extent to which you can customize your character for now. As you progress you will be able to change your hair, makeup, tattoos and clothes. Your behavior can also change your physique or add scars. Eat too much pie and see what happens. What’s nice is that you can dye your clothes (and hair) too adding further opportunities for individual expression. The selection of clothing items in the game could be better but with dyes and various combinations of items it would be surprising to see two players with identical avatars. You are further shaped by the choices you make through the game. For instance if you are particularly angelic you will evolve a halo hovering overhead. While you may not be able to change your race or see your character through adolescence or old age, your Avatar in fable will likely be a unique one and a reflection of your gameplay behavior.

Socializing
Your interactions with others in the game can be pivotal. A good reputation or a bad reputation can have its share of pros and cons. Do you want a family? Do you want more than one? How will you treat your dog? There are lots of decisions to be made. Often in RPGs stealing is defacto – it is hard to finish a Zelda game, for instance, without ransacking someone’s home, smashing up all their clay pots and stealing all their rupees. In Fable you can get through without being such a jerk. Sure being a jerk can be easier and more fun but since being totally pure and virtuous is harder, it too has its own rewards. The social aspects of Fable 2 are a huge selling point and the game even goes so far as to track how many STDs you have contracted through your travels. The social system is even deep enough to allow for homosexuality, sexual deviance, and even masochism. Now that’s what I call a game. Thankfully despite the morality factor playing such a large role in Fable 2, the game is careful not to judge you too often and considers that everyone’s views on morality are different. For instance while some non-player characters (NPCs) are terribly conservative, you will find some with more liberal politics proving that this game does in fact seek to accommodate a spectrum of tastes and ambitions for role play.

Simplicity
Fable 2 seems to have been designed with simplicity in mind. It is very well suited to the new gamer. When following a quest you are guided through the world so that navigation is not an issue. Everything is as easy as it could be. The controls are simple. Picking out weapons, outfits, et cetera is all simple. That is great. You don’t even have to worry about picking this game up after not playing it for weeks or months, you should be able to get right back in to it. In that respect it’s great for the casual player. With a rich RPG many can get exceedingly complicated. With Fable 2 you can skip the complexity and get straight to the fun. This may be a problem for some players though. It can remove some of the explorative discovery elements familiar to many dedicated RPG fans. It doesn’t quite have the same richness as some of the more intricate RPGs have. It doesn’t reward exploration too much. But its much more casual and fun – for most people that’s a great tradeoff. The dedicated RPG fan can still find value here but this time it’s a lot less intimidating to the casual RPG fan. The interface is good and in most respects it’s well designed to let anybody get in to their role

Conclusions
While Fable 2 may be missing out on some of the intricacy of some RPGs and may not reward exploration and discovery as much as one might hope; it is still a rich and fulfilling experience. It’s simply fun. You don’t have the burden of having to memorize complex controls or figuring out countless factors. Its simplicity shouldn’t scare off more dedicated fans though as there is enough there with the social and economic aspects to keep them entertained for a while too. You can even buy up all the land in the kingdom, and rent it back out to the peasants, earning rent money in real time – even when you’re not playing the game. It might cheer you up during this sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Once you are done your main narrative quest you can still enjoy the world for hours, interacting with the NPCs, gaining wealth and exploring sub-quests. If you are interested in role playing at all, weather casually or obsessively, or are just curious to explore morality and virtue in the context of a game, this may be a worthwhile title for you to check out once it is released to the public tomorrow.

[Lionhead Studios]
[Fable II]

About Raj Patel

9 comments

  • AlanaReply

    Wow that snow is really pretty.

    youre right though about RPGs. I never plaid them too much because they were like an obsessive boyfriend demanding all your attention and requiring you to remember every little thing and noticing even the smallest detail so it just seemed like so much work that I couldnt be bothered. I liked fable 1 because i was like meeting a chill guy who i could just have fun with and it wasnt a big deal. If fable 2 is even more like that as you say it is, then maybe I’ll hit up futureshop tomorrow after work. Yay!

    Okay, maybe i’m tying this too much to my personal live hahahaha.

  • pixelmanReply

    Oh hells Yes!

    Sexual deviance? Masochism? now that’s what I can a fantasy game, and you know I likes me some Role Playing. :D

    But Rajio you didnt tell us. Are you good, evil, or morally ambiguous?

  • KowZReply

    Review of Ohmpage.ca Review of Fable 2:
    Dessert Scale: Dairy Queen’s Ice Cream Cake (Happy it’s Ice Cream, Sad it’s Dairy Queens)

    You make some good points, but, in fairness, I believe these counterpoints need to be addressed:
    * There is no change in difficulty for being Pure Good or Corrupted Evil. Both have their benefits and both have their weaknesses. The only difficult part is maintaining neutrality as you will find your actions tend to become lopsided as you move further into the game.

    * Rewarding Exploration: The game allows you to upgrade your dog’s exploratory skills, and depending on how you treat your canine companion can have different results. If your dog is scared, you are required to find things more on your own. If your dog is happy and running around [that ball you get, it's useful for finding dig spots], you will have more luck at finding treasure]. Also, I must point out that there are 50 keys spread out over Albion, along with 50 Gargoyles, and as you collect more of each, you get better gifts. There are also several Demon Doors which unlock items as well, and those only grant you access after you have acquired the items they require – this ranges from Emotions to how you look. Exploration is rewarded based on how much effort you put into it. Little effort gives you little return.

    * You didn’t really hit on the fact that every small thing you do has consequences. Your actions as well as your inactions can cause major changes to the gameplay. If you skip out on side quests, your world reflects that as well.

    * I might have skipped it, but I didn’t see anything about which skills you use affecting your character and the world. Players who choose Strength become muscular where as Players who choose Will remain small and slender but glow (Red or Blue based on Alignment). Strong characters make more at physical jobs, compared to their weaker equivalents.

    *Overall I believe you hit on many of the key topics, but you missed a small portion of the game.

  • HadokenReply

    Nice review. Enjoyed the first installment and will probably check this one out too. I did find the first game a tad short, hopefully this can tide me over longer than a couple days.

  • MaxamiliusReply

    a very good review, and has helped make my mind up on whether to buy the game, a definite YES, with th intriguing morality system and the simplified gameplay is a definite bonus to us gamers who like an easier ride.

  • RajioReply

    Hey guys, no problem. Glad you liked my latest review :)

    My character is 100% good and pure by the way. Wherever I go everyone loves me, unlike in real life.

  • aprilWhineReply

    @Rajio, good review – I like the sound of a casual RPG and I think @Alana here may be on to something!!!!

    one question tho. if I get this is there any value to me getting the pub games from the arcade too? I DO want the complete experience but also don’t want to waste my money.

  • MattReply

    Oh Raj you were right about this. I wasn’t going to get it but tried it out now and it’s just what I want. All the story with none of the thinking!

    My character is pure evil btw. I saw you on INSIDE XBOX! hahaha You’d better watch out. I may be more evil than Kyle

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