All images copyright Lionhead Studio 2008
Remember when I wrote my 1st gaming review for WTNH? And I noted how it was going to be a “weekly” thing? And then February quickly turned to, well, September?
Yeah, sorry about that.
This will mark a new era of WTNH writing though, with an improved work rate, all dedicated and committed to the cause…or at least, that’s the intention.
So, with all of that out of the way, this time around, I’m reviewing an older game (9 years old as of October 2017) which I’ve taken to playing again thanks to Microsoft’s Backwards Compatibility on the Xbox One.
Developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios in 2008, Fable II is, unsurprisingly, the 2nd entry in the oft-times brilliant Fable franchise.
An RPG based in the fictional world of Albion, you control the hero, known only as ‘Sparrow’ (until you purchase a new title for yourself from any of the numerous town criers dotted around the world).
You start the game as a child (whose gender you can choose), walking the streets of Bowerstone (one of the major towns) accompanied by your elder sister, Rose. Life seems okay, despite being homeless orphans, and you dream of living in Castle Fairfax.
One day, you overhear some commotion in the town square, and hurry over there where you find a travelling salesman who has a magical music box that will grant anyone a wish. Naturally, your aim is to buy it, which you do by collecting gold coins by doing a few odd jobs nearby.
You purchase the box, go back to your home and make your wish. The box suddenly disappears, and, feeling as though you were conned, you make do and head to bed.
During the night, however, some Royal Guards come to escort you to Castle Fairfax (your wish, by the way, was to live there one day), because Lord Lucien has asked for you and your sister.
You go along to the castle, meet Lord Lucien, who tells you about the Heroes and the history of Albion and how he believes you may have a connection to the past. He then traps you in a vortex, tries to get you to reveal your secrets, and then goes about shooting and killing your sister before shooting you.
The force of the gunshot sends you flying through a stained glass window down to the streets below, as your body lies there, prone and limp.
You awake in a nearby Gyspy camp with Theresa, a mystic who has helped bring you up in the years since, and it is Theresa who acts as your guide and spiritual aide throughout the game.
She is also the one who tells you how to get your revenge on Lucien and how to avenge your sister’s death.
And so, you set out to restore order to Albion, assemble a group of Heroes who each possess a different ability, and defeat Lucien.
Those abilities are defined as;
- Strength: the name for prowess with melee weapons such as; hammers, swords, and axes. Can also affect your Hero’s physicality, namely adding muscle mass and damage with hand-to-hand weapons
- Skill: the name for prowess with ranged weapons such as; crossbows, rifles, and pistols. Can also affect your Hero’s appearance, namely by making your Hero taller in height as well as making you faster and more nimble
- Will: the name for magic in the Fable Universe. Heroes with the Will ability can learn and/or master spells, including; Lightning, Fireball, Slow Time, Force Push, Vortex, Blades, Time Control, and Raise Dead.
Pretty much sounds like the premise to nearly every other RPG ever, right?
Fable, though, brings a suitably British humour to the game – no pun intended – however, with British slang words used for a chuckle, British gags, and even some of our best stars (including Zoë Wanamaker and Stephen Fry, to name but a couple).
You get a dog – which is always nice – straight from the off. There’s in-game 4th wall breaking humour (an example of which is how one of the NPC’s states how there are all of these horse drawn carriages around but no signs of any horses – a play on the fact that, bar your dog, and a few rabbits and birds here and there, there are no animals in Albion).
And, perhaps most appropriately for an RPG, the option to purchase (and use) condoms, which makes absolute sense. You have the option of marrying numerous people; men and women regardless of your own gender, and as such, should protect yourself.
Added to this, if you’ve chosen to play as a boy but think that that dress looks nice, you can purchase and wear it. You get a “cross-dressing” bonus which, basically means the people of Albion laugh at you, but to Hell with it. You want to wear a dress or skirt and blouse, you do it.
You do you, as the kids say these days. (Do they still say that? I have no idea)
Yes, Fable II is a fun frolic through the park, a nice entry into the RPG genre which just manages to keep its head above water thanks to well-written dialogue delivered from top quality voice actors.
Yes, the plot will seem familiar to veterans of the genre (or even of the franchise itself), but there are enough differences and nuances to make it feel like a different game.
You need money? You can take a job and earn a fair whack of money in next to no time (as long as you can stomach pressing the A button upwards of 400 times in a slow, melodious rhythm that could bore an insomniac to sleep).
You got a bit of money and want more without doing the same Goddamn thing until the end of time? Invest in some property management and rent out a house – you earn a tidy little sum every 5 minutes, and the more you own, you more you earn, just like in real life…I imagine.
Fans of the 1st Fable game might be left a little underwhelmed by how few towns there are, or how some of the elements of the game (combat etc) has been altered, but the level of customisation, the attention to detail, plot, and added little extras (like the golden, sparkly “bread crumb” trail which leads you to your next quest) were applauded.
Having played Fable III before Fable II, I was already used to the world of Albion and the set-up of the game. However, even I thought that, in comparison, there just seems like so much more to do in Fable II.
The story, though similar to many other RPG titles, pulls you in just enough to make you pay Albion a visit. The in-game activities and nuances are what keep you coming back.
Nerd rating; 7/10 – a good game, if a little dated nowadays. Fun for a break, with a storyline that can easily get you invested, but it’s the customisation and depth of other things to do that make it what it is. Dialogue delivers some comedic gems at times, though I wonder if non-British audiences would have found half of the jokes and puns as funny?
If you like this, try: Fable III, Fable Anniversary.