Saturday, 29 November 2008

Fable 2 Review

fable2box Right, time to review the game! Now then...this is currently the third attempt at starting this review because Fable 2 is one of those games where you don't know where to start when it comes to explaining it. Let's go for the basic points first starting with Story.


The story in Fable 2 follows you, a hero who doesn't know it yet. You and your sister (who sounds like she's voiced by someone from Eastenders) are homeless orphans living on the streets with dreams of one day living in the Castle. Needless to say life doesn't stay like this for long as something major happens which causes the world around you to change forever. The plot in Fable 2 is just as dark as the first Fable but this time with better voice actors, and the fact your an orphan with only your sister to look after you in the world it feels like so much more is ripped away from your character than in the first game. I'll admit I've not finished the story in Fable 2 yet but think I'm about half way though and so far I'll give it too them, Lionhead Studios have written a long story full of interesting characters, dark moments and some good humour. To accompany the major plot as you move though the timeline you'll also follow the stories of some lesser characters like a businessman who's always asking for help with some idea or another.


So, moving on from Story lets talk about Audio, another area that Fable did right but Fable 2 has improved upon. Although a lot of the world doesn't use music the ambient sounds as well as the chatter of children or the calls of market stall owners really gives the game a feeling of life. Voice acting is all top quality and kudos to LH Studios for using the voices of not only Stephen Fry but Zoë Wanamaker and the man behind Firefly's Shepherd Derrial Book, Ron Glass. When there is music it's very fitting to the atmosphere of the area your in and works very well in battle. The use of audio in this game also includes the wise choice of when to use none at all. A few times I've managed to get though Demon Doors and into the twisted worlds behind them and the lack of any music or ambient sound at all gives a really weird, unnerving but beautiful effect to the areas.

Right then, I think next we'll cover game lets watch Fable 2 fall on it's face. Now don't get me wrong, the basic controls are smooth and work well, but there are so many issues with handling in this game. Your character turns so slowly at times you'll end up looking like a moron as you walk into walls. There is also the issue of your characters inability to swing at small boxes on the floor resulting in you having to kick each box one at a time instead of doing one fine swoop. Using items is a slow and cumbersome process involving you having to pause the game, go to your items menu, find the item you want to use and pressing a, but if you want to use the item twice you have to go though the same process again as the second you use an item it closes the menu. There are hotkey's for the D-Pad to use items but they will only appear when the game feels you NEED them and there seems to be no option that I can find to hotkey items myself. Another control issue which bugged me was spells. In Fable 1 you'd hold down your trigger then press A,B,X or Y based on what spell you'd hot keyed to what button to cast it. In Fable 2 you only have one spell button, you assign spells to it based on how long it's held down, the problem with this though is if you want to use a spell above level 1 you have to hold the button down without being hit for a few seconds, which is almost impossible if there are more than about 3 bad guys on screen. Issues are not just limited to controls though, there are also problems like the lack of an ability to steal anything off shop shelves like you had in Fable 1, the ability to buy items in bulk is gone, and battles jump between stupidly easy to next to impossible. Visually some fights can get so confusing due to the number of bad guys on screen I was left unable to see my own character and just button bashed the X button till everything died. House owning is also an area of game-play which is vastly over rated. You make very little money renting stuff out considering how much you'll put into the house. I've spent well over 50k on houses in the game but for all the houses combined the rent is only 1,300, makes it hardly seem worth it.


Ok what next? How about the online mode? LH Studios bragged about the drop in system for Fable 2 and in fairness I have to admit it works beautifully. One second I was running around alone, the next minute a menu popped up, I picked what gold, experience and so on I wanted to share and my brother jumped into my game, took about 1 minute and wasn't confusing (although we did have some issues with hearing each other over our headsets, but I've put that down in one of the billions of glitches in the game). Sadly though that's about all the praise the Online mode gets. For some unknown reason you cannot bring your own character into someone else's world...this makes NO sense as every item your character can wear is stored on the other persons CD too meaning the information you'd have to send over the net to use your character would be tiny, the fact you can see the hosts character means viewing other peoples characters wasn't an issue for LH Studios so I have no idea why this was messed up, the only logical reason I can come up with is the fact they'd admitted the online co-op may not be out with release but managed to rush it and get it in, maybe they had to cut corners and we'll see this change in a future patch. This isn't the only problem with the co-op mode too. The second someone joins your game or you join theirs the camera switches from the nice smooth good working camera you've gotten used too and becomes a fixed camera, nether players gets control over it and it limits the movement of characters so that they cannot be more than about 10 feet apart. This doesn't sound too bad but numerous times while playing we'd be unable to see where we were going because the camera would get stuck in front of us, or would shift violently without warning causes us to run the wrong direction, sometimes it would even move in a way where one of us would get stuck until the other came running back. The online mode is something that got me VERY excited for Fable 2 along with many friends and we all feel cheated by it.


Ok so how about Downloadable Content? Well there is none. A lot of people would see this as a bad thing but I see it as a good sign. How much would it piss you off if you baught a game brand new only to find content online at a premium price? You'd feel you'd paid full price for half a game. Also to be fair LH Studios have just announced a peice of DLC which will unlock a whole new land with quests and a continuing plot and in a move of kindness will release a patch which will allow players without the DLC to still co-op with people with it, good of them if you ask me.

So, that's Audio, Gameplay, Story, Online Mode and DLC...what else? Oh, visuals!

The graphics in Fable 2 are beautiful, sure the textures are not amazing but everything works so well, the fact plants will move under your feet looks beautiful, the way the lip sync on even the smallest mouths of children are done perfect looks good too and shows a good level of attention to detail. The landscapes are very immersing and truly inject some colour into this brown generation of gaming. Sadly there are areas where the visuals fall down a little though. Almost all the women in the world (and the men) are pretty damn ugly unless their whores, also a lot of the weapons in the game are rehashes of previous weapons with new textures which feels a bit cheap. One of the biggest issues I had with the game though is my classic complaint, it's not very SD TV friendly, and I know a lot of people will say that's a silly complaint to make in a world which is going HD but there are still a lot of us who can't afford HD TV's and as long as there are I will continue to see this as a problem.

God I've written enough for a short book and there's still more to go, almost done now though!


Next the matter of character customisation. This is a major part of the Fable series and what caused it to stand out in a world of other RPGs. All in all it's pulled off very well in Fable 2 but I do have some issues. I played as a woman with the intention of turning her into a hot goth chick (what can I say, if your gonna give me the tools to make a sexy woman I'm gonna do it). Alas this went horridly wrong though because the second I upped her physical strength she turned into a huge butch lesbian bordering on the edge of being a genderly challenged man. To make it worse although I'd only taught her a few basic spells as I wanted to mainly use my sword these spells had caused the magic markings on her skin to appear. Also due to a few bad deeds my skin was covered in some freaky lines which just looked ugly. I know LH Studios wanted to make everything have a reaction in the world but I quite liked Fable 1's system where stuff like getting fan required eating a shit load of food, not having 3 or 4 pies. Things had to be done in excess for the effects to show which worked well, in Fable 2 you have to be careful of EVERY action incase it turns you into some cross-dressing whore look-a-like.

Oh, I almost forgot something unforgivable! The Dog! Fable 2 prides it's self on an IA Dog which accompanies you and sniffs out treasure as well as doing tricks, looking cute and chewing on the ankles of bad guys who are knocked to the floor. He can be useful but half the time he feels kinda pointless, he'll bark at chests which are blatantly in the open and anyone can see, any treasure he finds in the ground for you to dig up is usually crap, and his only REAL use is to get you though 1 demon door and find treasure for the archeologist quests. Maybe if they'd given some more interaction than fussing, scolding, feeding and healing it I'd have enjoyed it's company more but in truth I'm starting to wonder about the mental health of the guy in my local Game who told me by the end of the game he had kinda bonded with his dog. In fairness though he doesn't really get in the way if you can ignore his barking, so he's no major issue.


So, time to end this review by summing up for everyone who skipped the wall of text above. If you did read your probably a bit untrusting of Fable 2 with all the issues I raised but in fairness sure the controls are badly thought though, and 90% of what they promised us isn't in the game, and the online mode sucks, and the golden line that's meant to lead you around will constantly get confused and send you the long or even wrong way, and you'll spend way too long doing timed button tapping games to make money, all of this is overlooked if not forgiven by the humour which will have you at least smiling if not laughing at times as well as the well written plot which will keep you playing and telling yourself 'just 10 more minutes' till it's 6am. For every issue in Fable 2 there's some element of charm or some little nod to the previous title which will cause you to forgive it and carry on Some of the games floors are almost charming in themselves, and if you need more convincing to give this game a shot all I should need to say is Stephen Fry man! Stephen fucking Fry!


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