Guest Author - James Shea
"Fable 2" continues the traditions of Lionhead Studios (the game studio also behind the "Black and White" games) by creating a world where the character and the surrounding environments are affected by the player and his or her decisions. Fable 2 expands on the interactivity of Fable 1 in many key ways, but sacrifices some things from the original as well.
The game takes place a few hundred years after Fable 1 - long enough, essentially, for the world to have changed, but with some elements still remaining either as modified forms of their original selves (like towns) or as ancient myths and legends (such as the exploits of the the hero and the other characters in the original Fable). Your character is an oddity - a hero (male or female, as opposed to Fable 1's male hero) who has arisen after they were thought to have died out. While the world is still a dangerous place, there's a shift from the epic struggles of the world of Fable 1 - which quickly resurge as events unfold. The fashions and styles have changed as well; rather than a traditional medieval fantasy setting, the world of Fable 2 is more of a 17th or 18th century world. Armor is essentially non-existent, and bows have been replaced entire by crossbows and guns. Melee weapons are roughly the same, though their style has changed slightly.
As a whole, the game is a lot more content to let you explore the world. Fable 1 had a lot of interactivity, but there were always nagging demands from the omnipresent Heroes' Guild to do quests and so on. In Fable 2, after a relatively short introduction, you're free to do what you want, for the most part. Doing the main story unlocks new areas and towns, but essentially most of the game is available from the start. Certain changes have been made to emphasize the shift from a sponsored guild to a lone hero. For example, doing quests and killing monsters no longer gains you money; you either have to get a job (represented by a minigame or a short mission) or go digging for treasure. However, because of this, it's easier to accumulate money from the beginning of the game. Most of the items used for customization (haircuts, clothes, and dyes) are fairly inexpensive (in comparison to combat items like potions or weapons) so it's reasonably simple to find a look that suits you. The only downside of this is that there are remarkably few clothing items in the game; since they only serve a cosmetic purpose for the most part, you'd think it'd be easier to have more.
The other aspect of customization is your character's alignment; the concept of this has been drastically expanded from Fable 1. In addition to good and evil (which has essentially been changed to helping innocents or killing innocents, respectively) there's also "purity" and "corruption" which involve lesser sins like gluttony, sloth, and lust (consorting with prostitutes, specifically). Abstaining from such sins will make you more attractive, while partaking of them will reduce your attractiveness. People can also be afraid of you or think you're funny, depending on what emotions you use near them; growling or threatening them will make them afraid, while telling jokes will make them laugh and treat you less seriously. Each character has their own unique preferences for what actions will make them more friendly, as well. Your interactions with people aren't limited to mere interaction - shopkeepers who like you will offer discounts, and if a person really likes you (and their sexual preference allows for it) you can propose to them and make a family. Fathering/mothering children has been added to the game - though pregnancy is essentially instantaneous, presumably to prevent female adventurers from trying to wander around while heavy with child.
Combat in the game handles roughly the same as the previous game, though it handles slightly worse. Certain abilities (blocking, dodging, combo attacks) need to be unlocked by advancing in the "strength" or "skill" path. Magic handles the most differently from Fable 1: there's no more Will Points, but every spell needs to be charged up before it is fired off. Essentially, there's a line with a set of checkpoints lying along it; every checkpoint represents a spell level, and whatever spell (fireball, lightning bolt, etc) you have put in that spell level will be used if you release at that time. It's an overly complicated system that doesn't really help the game at all, and in a lot of cases it simply became easier not to use spells. Finally, due to the lack of armor and the reduced number of potions, you will take a lot more damage unless you've got a lot of skill. The game wants you to rely on food for health, so that you'll have to make the decision between your health and your waistline - a decision that doesn't make sense considering the fact that you are swinging a sword or axe around for most of the game, which should more than cover the amount of calories you're taking in.
As a whole the game is promising, but in truth - and in terms of content - the game is barely equal to Fable 1. The size of the world is about the same - if not smaller - and the few towns are nearly identical (whereas in Fable 1 each town had its own theme and population). For this reason, while the game starts off promising, once you've gotten into it everything seems the same, and you've run out of new things to discover - new clothes to wear, new vistas to explore, new haircuts to get, etcetera. Much of the content is based on unnecessary sidequests, and the main quest fizzles out too soon with an entirely anti-climactic finish. Fable 2 provides only about ten to fifteen hours of actual gameplay; the rest of it is essentially wandering around doing tasks for people, buying houses, or raising a family. These things are exciting, but they should be side tasks for the main adventure, not the primary focus of the game. As a whole, though, the game is reasonably fun for the time that it has.
Buy Fable 2 from Amazon.com