Fable 2 Review
Well, I did it. I finished Fable II, the long-awaited sequel to the original Xbox's action RPG bestseller. That is kind of starting at the end, though, isn't it? Let me backtrack for a moment. Fable II on the Xbox 360 was my first true foray into the Fable universe; my experience with the first was a few fleeting moments of play at a friend's house where I remember thinking, "Diet Zelda? Just one calorie, not enough Zelda." Incorrect or not about the first, I went into Fable II completely fresh-faced and with no reservations about what I was about to experience. About 20 hours later, I see Fable II for exactly what it is: a flawed RPG with some fantastic elements, some tedious and flawed ones to match and an overall experience that just can't seem to decide on a direction.
Before you flip out, Fable II is not a bad game in the least. It just isn't the world-changing experience it, and incidentally, the first game, was promised to be. Fable II places the player into the ambiguous shoes of a young child who will eventually become either the world of Albion's greatest savior or most dastardly villain. As you no doubt already know, Fable's hook is that the choices you make throughout the game affect your character, the world around you and the game's story and plot progression. Right from the start, your behavior will lay the groundwork for what is to come. As cool as it sounds on paper, these choices often boil down to simple A or B, good or evil, with very little room for ambiguity. Even with the game's numerous neutral decisions, and creative players' attempts at mixing up the good and bad, it all seems to lead to one of three results: The good, the bad, or the yawn-inducing middle ground. The fact is that other games, like the recent Fallout 3, allow the player much more room for choice and infinitely more varied results. And the choices in other games often feel truly good or sublimely evil; Fable II has you collecting STDs (not a typo) and charging high rent to accumulate bad karma. Ooo…. I'm terrified.
Even though the good/evil choices can be boring and the story hinged on them is a paint-by-numbers RPG yarn that was lame 15 years ago, the gameplay and exploration do make up for a good bit of it. Fable II plays and controls a lot like a 3D Zelda game with no viable enemy lock-on. This might sound like a shot against Fable, but like I said in my earlier review for Dark Sector (a game that copied Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War almost exactly), if something works, where is the harm in copying it? Getting around and fighting in Fable II all works magnificently, and the game will only be spinning in your 360 for about 30 seconds before you have mastery over everything.
The only aspect not faithfully copied from Zelda is the lock-on system. In the 3D Zelda adventures, locking-on to an enemy or object allowed the player to move a full 360 degrees around it. In Fable II, you can lock-on to enemies and objects, but the 360-degree measure of freedom is lost. Instead, you are tethered to the enemy or object with virtually no options except attacking or approaching head-on.