Saturday, 6 June 2009

Fable 2 review

Fable 2

Fable 2 has finally arrived, four years after the original masterpiece on Xbox. Developed by Lion Head studios, Fable 2 is famously led by Peter Molyneux, who unfortunately has, over the years, given himself a bad reputation as an “Over hyper”. After the major disappointment that many fans felt after Fable 1 and Fable TLC, the Lion Head crew obviously realised that they needed to up the ante.
This game includes many new features, some that were promised for Fable 1 and TLC; some entirely new, such as the amazing dog AI. The game does not only boast itself as an amazing RPG based game, set in a mythical, free roaming land, but features many ideas and game play design quirks such as sandbox game play and mini-games.

The story starts with you; a child living the rough life in Albion with your sister Rose. As you start the game, it’s clear that Lion Head must’ve sat down and thoroughly discussed the best way to begin. After all, the final result ended up being a bird dropping feces upon your head. Other ideas must have included finding a dead rabbit and lopping its foot off, or maybe finding a horse shoe, the world will never know.

Anyway, after being pelted with bird droppings, you are thrust into a world of similar to that of a 17th Century Christmas novel. You are then sent on a series of tasks, quests if you will. These “quests” consist of doing small errands for the locals, so that you can gain enough gold to buy a musical box. Yes. A musical box. After this series of events, you are brought into another realm, one in which you are an adult, and this is where your adventure truly starts. The plot has plenty of depth and although a little short, it nonetheless provides laughs, tears and at least 12 hours of game play for the “hardcore gamers” out there.

I have nothing but praise for the NPCs in this game. They are a huge part of this game, as it is a game in which you can interact however you like, whether it’s slaughtering a village, being the town fool, or being the town sweetheart. Furthermore, depending on how you choose to act with the NPCs, they will have appropriate reactions for you. As I stated earlier, new features have been implemented into this game. However, there are also some features that were simply improved, such as the family system that the last game offered. In Fable 2, the family system is much more personalized, giving you the opportunity to marry and have kids. And it's not just a “have a wife and kids for achievements” kinda thing - this game offers you specific quests that tie into your family. Sadly, I can't really describe these without spoiling the story, but the way you become emotionally attached is amazing.

Now onto one of the biggest features of the game: the dog. In the beginning, there was a lot of scepticism over the dog, but clearly the doubt was misplaced. The dog is an excellent feature. In fact, if you were to play through the game without your canine companion, you'd likely feel lost. Not only does he proves to be a cute little buddy, but he also provides a treasure hunting service which comes especially in handy for specific quests, and sometimes is even a necessity to quests.

This game takes full advantage of the 360’s capabilities. Not only is the scenery huge and open, but it’s huge, open and magnificent. The best example of this would be Bower Lake, and as you first set foot onto the lake, you get the full package of what this game can offer you. With the lake in front of you lit by either sunlight or moonlight; the amazing view across to Hero Hill; the trees blowing steadily near you, on just one map, I’d actually say the visuals were breathtaking.

The soundtrack is made by the famous Danny Elfman, who is also known for his work on Tim Burton movies. Along with Russell Shaw, they cook up a storm of music, which is now available on free download from the Fable 2 site. But the music pales in comparison to one of the most epic features of this game: the voice cast. It includes some famous names, such as; Gemma Boyle, Oliver Cotton, Stephen Fry, Ron Glass, Julia Sawalha and Zoë Wanamaker, with plenty of other voice actors joining in on the action.

The depth that these voice actors give you is amazing, and personally, a favourite of mine was Stephen Fry. His character known as Reaver not only provides you with a passion for him, whether that is love or hate, but gets you really interested in him as a character and you feel you want to know more. The same could be said for Ron Glass, formerly known for his work in the show “Firefly”. He gives off a specific aura, not only due to his character, but because his voice acting is simply superb. Julia Sawalha provides the voice of Sister Hannah and because you'll get to know her pretty well, the voice acting of this particular character was fairly important. When you meet her, she is singing. I personally found her voice enchanting, which at first didn't really seem suit the character, but upon evaluation, this character is a little topsy-turvy, so an elegant voice such as Julia Sawalha's is perfect. Zoë Wanamaker provides narration throughout the game and also serves as the voice of Theresa, a blind seeress, whom you meet fairly early in the game, although I couldn't help but think of her as anything except/other than a mother in a slightly humorous British sitcom. Once you forgot that however, she seems to fit right in.

My major criticism for this game comes in the form of “Co-op”, a term that should be used lightly in the case of Fable 2. The fundamental idea of Co-op is a good one, but I can't help but feel it was executed a little shoddily. The general idea of the multi player is that you play as your friends’ henchman, in their world. Here is mistake number one. In a game about customization, a game in which customization is such a huge feature, why would the player want to play as a generic henchman? Well, truth be told; they don't. The second issue is that the camera angle is ridiculous, to be honest, and I would have preferred split screen to the angle that you are provided with. The angle that we are given to work with is centered around player one, meaning that all action has to follow him or her.

So those are the negatives, but there are positives. You can have a lot of fun on multi player, as long as you and your friend are content with playing together and one not running off without the other. Another advantage of this system is that it's easy to use. Whether it's over live or on a single machine, you simply jump into your friend's world after a mini screen pops up asking what weapons you would like and your appearance, whilst the host chooses how much of his or her earnings you'll be taking back with you.

Personally, I love the game. I've played hours on end of it, and even after I completed it, I carried on playing, racking up a massive 40 hours of game play on one character. I've played through three times now, racking up at least 20 hours on each character. The sandbox effect that you're provided with is nice, the game isn't too linear yet you're aware that you have goals, the freedom could be described as “Oblivion, but with aims” and you never feel overwhelmed by the freedom that you have, yet you do not feel confined. Overall, this game is another example of an amazing Western RPG, but just a little too short to be classed as an epic RPG.


Chris Leddy

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