Nerdphilia Game Review: Fable 2

25 Okt

Due to an apparent mistake on Xbox Live, the full game of Fable 2 was free to download for a few hours last week.   A $20 value for free, I had to jump on it.   I finished the game this weekend and here is my review, albeit 2 years late. =)

My first impression is that the game and art design looked very well done. The characters’ voices was done quite well.  The audio and art style fit with the environment of a fictional ”old world” England.  The worlds were detailed and city regions are populated with citizens of the world.

You start out as the child version of yourself and are immediately given basic missions that have a good vs. evil alternative in each one.  For example, you can help a local shop keeper kill some beetles in his store or alternatively destroy his stock in the process to help his rival.  Your good and evil is kept as a score and you reputation is remembered by the characters of the world.

This is the basic concept of Fable 2.  Do good or do evil.  At any given point you can do either.  Steal things or help people.  Threaten or entertain townsfolk.  Over time your appearance will reflect how good or how evil you’ve become.  Your reputation will effect how the townsfolk interact with you.

The gameplay is varied but fairly basic.  Most of the time you are killing bad guys on quests that move the story line along.  Which brings me to biggest problem I had with fable.  It’s allows you do many things, like marry people (gay or straight), have sex with prostitutes, buy property, upgrade your appearance, get fat or stay thin, learn a trade skill to earn money, rampage through a city while fighting off the city guards, upgrade your weapons, learn a variety of magical attack spells.  The list is extensive and larger than just this.

However, Fable 2 does none of these various aspects very well.  I was never required to master anything but basic combat, melee and ranged, even though there was more nuance possible.  There really wasn’t a much incentive to use any but few different spells. Upgrading either spells or weapons was pretty lackluster as well.  They simply did more damage or had more damage radius but largely remained the same. You do have a dog companion much of the game, but it was really only useful in helping me find hidden treasures.

This was basically due to the fact the game had one difficulty setting and it was largely too easy. A criticism I rarely levee against a game.  You never really die in Fable 2. When your health reaches zero, you lose some experience you have stored up but recover in the same spot with full health.  So death is really just a nuisance and not a real setback.  For almost all quests, there is a magical golden trail drawn in front of you. So you always know where to go to complete your current quest.  You can turn this magical path finding feature off if you want much more of a challenge but it would literally make the game more about finding things than accomplishing quests. So a wise choice of game design.

The enemies characters themselves were well modeled, animated and textured.  Though there wasn’t much variation in how you approached them and they are constantly reused throughout the game.  In fact, there are only about two different distinct boss fights in the entire game.

There were some positive innovations.  It has co-op so you can play with a single friend.  And there is an interesting MMORPG type feature where you can turn on the icons of other players in the same part of the world as you, they are only displayed as their Xbox Live gamer icon but you can talk with them via your audio headset and it gives the game a less lonely feel and you can ask for help or advice from these fellow adventures if you are stuck on a puzzle aspect of a quest or Xbox achievement.  I was surprised  how much I ended up liking this feature.  And most of my fellow players were helpful despite Xbox Live’s reputation to the contrary.  Possible to due the non-competitive nature of the game.

The bottom line is that the game design was too ambitious for the time the developers had to either polish or make it interesting and varied enough for it to be rewarding.  Ultimately, making the game a ”jack of all trades” but master of none.

The verdict
Hits:
  • Good art style
  • Solid voice acting
  • Innovative multiplayer audio feature
  • Always knew what to do next
  • Some in-game moral dilemmas did invoke an emotional response from me
Misses:
  • Almost every aspect of the core game play felt shallow
  • Not enough variation in enemy characters and bosses
  • Not enough challenge

Nerdphilia rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

 

What did you think of Fable 2?

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