I've been following Fable since it was the itch in Peter Molyneux's pants known as Project Ego. I listened as promises were made and let down when they were broken. I learned to blame myself for unjustifiably putting unreleased video games on a pedestal and how to keep my expectations low until I actually play the game. I don't blame Fable for that, nor Molyneux.
It was a valuable learning experience. When Fable was finally released, though not as grand as promised, it was still an incredibly fun game. I play few games more than once, and it was one that I played for 30 hours the first time and the second, I put the controller down after 60 hours; I didn't even complete the story.
Fable is not the kind of game that is strongly story driven, nor is the player writing the story through their actions. It's a large world excelling more at sandbox gameplay than RPG or adventure. It's more fun farting in front of a crowd or enticing woman on woman action than strictly adhering to the beaten path. After almost 8 years of hype later, starting a time well before Fable was released in 2004, Fable II is much closer to Molyneux's originally advertised vision.
It might be hard to imagine by reading my posts that I always play the good role when I go through a game. I have a very stringent moral compass in real life and it forcibly reflects itself in my gameplay. Curse my parents for teaching me right and wrong. In the back of my mind, I want the in game parents to cry their digital selves to sleep at virtual night because some asshole(me) rode through town and killed everything under 4 feet tall. That's only in the back of my mind though.
Let's get down to brass tax. The story is the weakest part of the game and I knew that going in. It's not bad by any means but rather incredibly generic. Fable II's story compared to some other RPGs is like Magic Stars to Lucky Charms. Which in some cases is better than the original. Some of those Japanese RPGs have no fucking idea how to tell a story without it being delivered like a high school algebra class... taught by a woman...
Regardless, you have a requisite tragedy, followed by the discovery of hereto unknown special abilities, building up with a cross-country voyage, and culminating in revenge. The difference between this story and so many others, is at least in this story you don't have to be Mister(or Missus) fancy-pants-epitome-of-righteousness. You can be an insatiably evil dirty prick, guilty of greater atrocities than the man you are trying to deliver justice.
I'll level with you on this, I haven't played the entire story yet and I have no idea when I will. As I mentioned previously, Fable II excels at sandbox gameplay and if you play only the story, you're playing the game wrong. I had the privilege of knowing how to play the game before I even put it in my system. If you want a detailed story review, go somewhere else.
This review is based on roughly 15 hours of farting, hip thrusting, bandit killing, gambling, using my female character to make female NPCs fall in love with her, searching for prostitutes, dirty digital lesbian sex, swimming around lakes, looking for demon doors, kicking chickens, and many many other enjoyable time wasters.
Not to suck Molyneux's dick much harder(he still owes me a reach around for Black & White), there's a lot of good in this game. You are encouraged to use the revamped expression system in earnest because your character never talks, much like Link. Your dog is a clever instrument added to the game. He adds little to my emotional attachment(I'm emotionally challenged) but his contribution to exploration and general questing in invaluable. I've been looking to get him a piece of ass too and if anybody knows where I can do that please leave a comment.
Games like Grand Theft Auto get all the press when it comes to corrupting the overly impressionable youth. In my opinion, Fable offers a greater variety of debauchery and sin and I love it. When my pregnant fiancée walks in the room and gives me shit because I have condoms in my inventory and says something to the effect of "it's a little late for that," I know I have a winner on my hands.
The combat is a point in Fable's favor. A lot of the bullshit that comes with RPGs is missing. There's no mana or will bar, no turn based combat, no inventory micromanaging, no where-the-hell-did-my-sword-go weapon degradation, and no bullet or arrow count. It's just good old fashioned fighting game style button mashing, some with timing and aiming, and doesn't take a 60 minute video, online course, and practice workbook to understand, let alone master.
The graphics are good. Albeit the art direction is fairly stylized, but the rain and snow, as well as the building and character models, look good. It isn't the prettiest or most detailed game, but it certainly looks better than that beastly woman eying you from the end of the bar begging to have your illegitimate child because you drank a bottle of whiskey and bought a 75 cent truck stop vending machine condom.
You don't have the ability to alter your appearance à la character creator style, but you get a plethora of clothing options and a halo or horns for being good or evil. You'll also scar if you suck at fighting. That is actually a step up from the first Fable, which seemed to scar my character for being born.
It's a little too easy to make evil decisions. For instance, I was on a mission where a man was looting a carriage wreck and I thought, "well I'm Johnny Law around these parts" so I killed him. This was an evil act when personally, I thought it was avenging the dead or defending their honor.
Money is very easy to make, but unlike in Grand Theft Auto IV, it actually has value in Fable. I would have preferred money from questing like in the good old days instead of playing mini-games. Most characters are shallow but I can't blame the game too much for that because, let's all take a deep breath, close our eyes, and choke down some reality for a second, they're all part of a computer program(gasps).
I'll slightly complain about the RPG leveling system in that it's too simple. It has linear progression for each skill you choose, which is more accessible, but I lean more towards the lattice upgrade approach. It's not like that approach is RPG standard or even featured in Fable but is it too much to ask, for example, if I have a fire spell and a level-whatever sword attack, since I have both, to be able to shove a flaming level-whatever sword attack up someone's ass? I can light them up and then cut them down but I can't light them up while cutting them down.
Your dog, in my case his name is Mr. Kensington, and several other characters will disappear into buildings and the terrain like some kind of Albion acid trip. The loading between areas takes enough time to remind me I'm wasting away in front of my television, and the map is a pile of shit. Icons on the map are too small to really tell what you're looking for and they played a very personal and dirty prank on me by making them color coded(I'm colorblind).
I haven't had the opportunity to play online co-op but I have played local co-op and this is my one glaring piece of advice to you, don't play it. You have no control over the camera and it's your worst enemy. I know this is supposed to be an experience in collaboration, but you shouldn't have to work in tandem to move the camera into a position just so you can see what's on the road ahead. If I'm playing a game with someone in the room, alcohol is involved, and trying to work together to see the road is a needlessly complicated drunken task.
The story doesn't mean shit to me and it shouldn't mean anything to you. The combat is quick, easy, and fun. There are a few graphical hitches but that doesn't stop it from looking pretty. There are a lot of foul things to do, or not, and overall it's an enjoyable experience. The game is fun.
As with all reviews, whether mine or someone else's, this is fairly biased. I enjoyed Fable and naturally I really enjoyed Fable II. Each system has its share of exclusive titles, some more than others, and this is an Xbox 360 exclusive. If you own the system, you should own this game.