Despite Peter Molyneux’s reputation for over-promising and under-delivering, Xbox fans have been awaiting the sequel to Lionhead’s bestselling Fable with eager anticipation.  Whereas the original Xbox was sorely lacking in RPGs, however, 360 owners have seen the genre flourish.  Console Creatures ventured to Albion to discover whether Fable II delivers on its potential sufficiently to stand out in the emerging crowd…


Although something of a plain-Jane looks wise, Fable II charms with a terrific personality and warm sense of humour.  The colourful, Anglo-accented cast succeed in bringing the world of Albion to life, with their reactions lending a tangible weight to your character’s actions and choices.  Indeed, morality matters in Fable II to such an extent that even the ethical ramifications of your diet are assessed, with vegetarian adventurers awarded extra points for purity.  Dynamic moral alignment may be a familiar notion to RPG fans, but rarely has the experience been as comprehensive as it is in Fable II.

Nonetheless, Fable II is not a game that takes itself overly seriously.  Albion has the air of a cartoon kingdom, and whether virtuous or vicious, all players will find opportunities to engage in some comic mischief.  If you’ve ever dreamed of having a skilfully prolonged fart immortalized in sculpture, Fable II is the game for you.  Of course, if you’re hoping to become a noble hero, know that constant farting won’t endear you to Albion’s inhabitants.  Handily, however, the game’s co-op mode allows you to join a friend’s quest, fart up a storm, and leave them to deal with the consequences, both locally and over Live.   Co-op camera management can be a little sticky, but the fact that you’ll retain any gold and experience earned certainly makes the hassle worthwhile.

Otherwise, apart from a clunky expression system, Fable II is strikingly hassle-free.  You’re at liberty to traverse Albion as you please, but can always call upon a glowing trail should you need help finding your next objective.  Your character’s faithful dog, meanwhile, will assist in sniffing out treasures buried off the beaten path.  Furthermore, thanks to your hero’s powers of regeneration, even combat feels highly accessible.  You’ll still have a compelling incentive to develop your skills if you want to avoid permanent battle scars, but the developers have cleverly ensured that defeat never becomes a source of frustration. 


Inevitably, Lionhead haven’t totally realized their lofty ambitions.  Molyneux and co. clearly sought to create an emotionally rich world, and have repeatedly touted marriage and childrearing as important elements of the Fable II experience.  Yet, in contrast to the verbose townsfolk, your character’s communications are limited to a series of simple gestures, with the result that social interaction feels highly superficial.  The realization that you can cause nearly anyone to fall in love with you by spamming a menu-driven emote command quickly undermines the potential for sentimental poignancy.

The main quest is also disappointingly lightweight, both in the sense of its brevity and its generic narrative.  The familiar plot tasks you with harnessing your latent powers to reclaim a fearsome mythical artefact from a corrupt overlord.  Unfortunately, few of your exploits are particularly memorable, and while the story actually spans several decades, the adventure feels as though it’s over too soon.  Just as you’re beginning to master the combat system, you’ve bested the anticlimactic final encounter and are watching the credits roll.  In general, neither the size of the world nor the variety of enemies on offer can truly live up to Fable II’s epic pretentions.


Ultimately, there is a good deal to like about Fable II.  Lionhead clearly prioritized accessibility, and whether you’re an RPG veteran or a relative newcomer, there is plenty of fun to be had, either on your own or with a friend.  Particularly if you’re motivated to complete the many side quests, and are determined to explore both the good and evil paths, the game can be stretched into a substantial experience.  It undoubtedly succeeds more decisively than its predecessor, and where it disappoints, it does so partly because of some high expectations.  Quibbles with respect to depth and narrative aside, Fable II remains a uniquely amusing romp, and deserves credit for at least trying to up the emotional ante, fart jokes and all. 8/10 JULIAN C.

~ by consolecreatures on October 30, 2008.

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