The 2008 Xbox 360 game Fable II is (unsurprisingly) the second instalment from Lionhead Studios of the Fable series. This time, rather than starting off as some country bumpkin watching your village burn down, you’re a guttersnipe, living on the street with your sister Rose in the town of Bowerstone, dreaming of what life is like for the Lord of Castle Fairfax.
The game starts off with you running around a couple of streets doing small tasks for the other folk around, but there’s also a travelling trader who happens to have a magic box. This box is what will destroy your old life, and launch you into your new one as a Hero.
American / British actress Zoe Wanamaker does the voice acting for your guide, Theresa, a mysterious traveller who sets you off on your journey many years after your first, terrible, meeting with Lord Lucan, who rules over Bowerstone. As an adult you are now set on your quest to defeat him as he seeks to control the Spire – a monolith structure rising from the sea, which he wants to use to channel incredible power. To do this, you need to enlist the help of three other Heroes.
Set around 500 years after the first Fable game, it’s got a familiar feeling but there’s a feeling of greater freedom in where you can go, and with your interactions with the other NPCs in the game. You can weald an axe and a gun or rifle, as well as develop your magic and you are rewarded in fights if you use a mixed combination to defeat your enemies swiftly. As in the previous game, there’s a strong influence on good and evil – if you strive to help others and do good deeds, as well as eat foods such as tofu where nothing was harmed, you can glow. However, if you turn off the safety and kill innocents and try and burn things down, you’re going to end up growing horns and people will react to your presence differently.
Eating too many pies will make you put on weight, and this was a bit of a niggle for me, I have to say. I ate a couple of ‘bad’ things near the beginning of the game, and my character started bulging, but this weight didn’t come off throughout the rest of game, despite not eating anything and spending all of my time running the length and the breadth of the land, slaughtering monsters. This was daft in itself but the design of the character just made it look ridiculous at some points, especially in certain items of clothing. You also age and I’m not in favour of this level of ‘realism’. I’m playing a game where I run down Hobbs, smack them with a double-headed axe and then conjure up a fireball large enough to incinerate anything within five feet of me, I’m not expecting it to be that realistic. By the end my face looked like it was sliding off me. Combine this with the glowing lines which appear from magic use, and all of the scars you acquire from being knocked out, and it’s not a pretty sight.
Another niggle was the map system – there are a whole range of towns and places you visit in your travels, and there’s a scroll-down list to use to travel to each. But you’re not going to remember where everything is in relation to one another, and what if you want to spend your time exploring all of the exits from a particular town? You’ll need an overlay map of some sort, and an overall map showing the location of everything in relation to everything else. I found the whole inventory and map system pretty cumbersome, near the end you’re going to have so much stuff that it takes forever to scroll through it.
However, the overall game play is swift and fun, charging up a level five fireball in particular was awesome, I could’ve sat there burning things into oblivion all day. The designers were definitely on the button with that one, and there are all sorts of spells and skills you can learn to improve your fighting, aiming and magic casting.
Coming back to the interaction with the other characters, this has improved significantly from the first game. There are a whole range of entertaining, social and mean expressions you can do to influence those around you. If you start posing or waving your trophies around in Bowerstone town square you’ll quickly get a crowd gathering and people will be falling in love with you all over the place. However, this does mean you’ll start getting followed around by Gary the Househusband who keeps giving you loaded hints about needing a wedding ring. Though the interactions are entertaining, and you can take characters back to yours to get better acquainted and marry and have children with them, this means that you have to install them in one of the houses that you’ve bought and pay them an allowance. Minimal gain and significant monetary loss as far as I’m concerned – I have to pay them for being married to me, and I can’t rent out the house to get some cash! They also get a bit arsey with you if you spend too long away from home doing annoying things like saving the world, or if they find out you’ve actually also shacked up with a couple of other people in other towns. Ball and chain, I don’t recommend it.
A fun addition to the game is your dog, who you pick up at the beginning and who follows you around barking whenever there’s a dig spot or treasure chest near. It does mean you’ll spend a lot of time digging up bottles of yellow clothes dye, but now and again something useful turns up.
As well as all of your side quests and the main quest, you’ll come across Demon Doors, who have the face of a bearded old codger who gripes at you about something or other and wants you to do a series of expressions or play the lute. If you win, you’ll enter another realm and get something snazzy to chop other people up with.
So overall it’s a very good game. There are minor points which could have been better executed, and finding you can’t go and have a look down the side of the castle because you’re confined to the main road is annoying after you’ve been playing games such as Oblivion, but for what it is I highly recommend having a go. Also, keep an ear out for something insulting you in a Scottish accent, it’s worth taking a look up in the eaves now and again.