Sunday, December 7, 2008

Xbox 360 - Fable II

Fable II by Microsoft Studios

While I haven't reviewed Fable I on Gamezelot, suffice it to say that I liked it reasonably well. Excusing the less than steller graphics, after all it was on the Xbox... it turned into a reasonably decent game after you get through the starting-off-as-a-kid beginning.

Fable II has a similar beginning, but the one thing that has changed between Fable I and Fable II is the look and feel of the entire game. But, that's not all that they've changed. Many of the changes make the game fun, many more make the game tedious. Note that there is a lot wrong with this game, so this review will be long.

What is Fable II?

Fable II is the sequel to Fable I. At the same time, it really isn't a sequel. Think of it both as a sequel and as a new beginning for the franchise. Since Fable II doesn't begin where Fable I left off and, instead, chooses to start the story line all over again from the beginning, this really isn't a sequel in the truest sense. Fable II really should be considered a remake.

At its most fundamental level, Fable II is a Role Playing Game in genre. But, at the same time, it lacks some things for me to consider it a full RPG in practice.


The quests are reasonably lengthy and work well. I've found no specific glitches in any of the quests I tried and was able to get through each of the ones I've attemped. However, the quests rapidly become repetitive and too much the same.

Map (or lack thereof)

Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say about the mapping system here. For whatever reason, Microsoft and Lionhead decided to NOT put a real visual world map into this game. There is a map on the loading screen, but there is no map within the game itself. There are area maps that show you where you are in a given play area (exits, entrances and quest spots), but there is no world map. Instead, they offer a text based menu of regions (and subregions) where you can fast travel.

Unlike Fable which you practically lived on the World Map, Fable II developers, for whatever reason, decided to not include a visual world map as part of the game play. This is one of the primary reasons (there are others, read on) why I hesitate to consider this an RPG as such.

The lack of an overall world map was a complete surprise, considering that Fable I had one. Removing this feature leaves the player fumbling to understand how each of the cities and townships interrelate to one another and how far something is from another city.

That said, the developers decided to tell you (in hours) how far something is from something else whenever you travel there. It's not really that it matters, though, as the time passage in Fable II is irrelevant (other than for shop opening and closing purposes).

For me, the lack of a world map is a huge sore spot in Fable II. For this reason alone, this game will not get 10, or even 9 stars. An RPG needs to have a full visual interactive world map as part of the game play, period.

Golden Trail

In lieu of an interactive world map, Lionhead decided to create a 'golden trail' for Sparrow to follow. While, in theory, it's a good idea... in practice, it sucks. Think of it kind of like a GPS that leads you to your final destination. The reason this system sucks is that it makes you feel like you are 3 and you need someone to hold your hand to play. Just give me a World Map and let me see where I am in the world and I'll make my own way there. I don't want to have to follow this stupid Golden Trail.

Thankfully, the developers do let you turn it off. But, what I quickly found is that when you turn it off, you rapidly get lost. Without a world map or the Golden Trail, you never get where you need to be.

The main problem with the Golden Trail is that it doesn't give you distance. So, you have no idea how far you are from your destination. Because there is no world map, you can't even reference that.

Finding Places

As with most other RPG style games, you can't fast travel to a location where you haven't been. Worse, however, is that given that you can't fast travel, it also does not help you by even letting you travel to a close destination. Without a world map, you just have to know where you are in the world. So, you can't even figure out a close destination. Naming sometimes helps, but in other cases it doesn't. There were times where I just roamed forever trying to get to the final destination.

If you can buy a real world map or download one, I highly recommend it. Again, the lack of a world map in this game is the biggest sore spot and majorly detracts from this game.

Choices and Game Saves

As with the original Fable, at the end of certain quests you will be required to make a choice. Unfortunately, there is only one saved game location available for this game. Worse, the Xbox 360 will not allow you to copy your saved game to either another profile or an MU for backup purposes. So, you cannot make a backup of your saved game. This means you also cannot start the game from previous saved positions.

So, once you make a choice and the game saves (and it will), you are stuck with that choice unless you start the game over from the beginning. Again, this is yet another MAJOR problem with this pseudo-RPG. An RPG should allow you to save at any time and allow you to have at least 10 different save positions... although, placing any limitations on saved games is highly stupid.

Marriage and Kids

Fable II does offer a Sims-style interactive relationship system. So, you can have relationships (both straight and gay) in the game. Note that later in the game, you are offered a way to change your gender and become female which completely reverses all the roles. However, you can have kids and these kids can become quests later which is kind of cool.

Treasure and the Dog

In Fable II, you find that you now have a dog that follows you around. You can teach the dog tricks from books that you find along your quests. These tricks come in handy later for other quests. However, note that a later choice from a quest eliminates the dog so you no longer have it.

I found the dog mostly a problem. It's constantly barking showing locations of treasure, keys and dig spots. This is ok, but I find that the treasure you find is really so petty and useless, why bother. For example, most treasure where you find money, it's 100-150 coins (not enough to worry about). Or, you might get a rusty necklace, an emerald or some other trinket that you can use as a relationship gift or to sell for some tiny amount of cash..

Owning Property

In Fable II, you can now own property that gives residual income. Because of the residual income, the trinkets you find as treasure really becomes pointless as sources of income. But, owning property doesn't allow you to collect treasure as Sparrow can carry infinite amounts of treasure (again, un-RPGlike). So, once you amass enough property, you'll be earning 11-15k about every 5 minutes. Since the game bases these 5 minute increments on our real world clock, you'll get that amount every 5 minutes whether you are playing or not. So, if you don't play for 24 real hours, you'll end up with like 300k-500k in coin when you do play again.

You can even just set the Xbox system clock ahead if you need fast cash. I'm not sure why Lionhead did this. Basically, once you understand how it works, money is trivially easy to obtain in Fable II.

Will (magic) User

The magic that is offered in this game is, at times, downright annoying. As with the first Fable, the stronger your magic, the longer the magic takes to manifest. The problem is that while you're manifesting the magic, you can't do anything other than get hammered on by the enemy. Really, it takes way too long to manifest the fifth (final) level of magic. There should be a way to speed up this generation, but there isn't. I would have preferred an actual mana bar where you use up mana to manifest. This would mean that instead of taking longer for spells to manifest, that it uses up more mana. For me, using a mana bar is a much more of a traditional RPG approach to magic and spells than the taking long times to manifest.


I found Fable II to be entertaining, but lacking and frustrating. The quests were good enough, but the quest system was only mediocre. Once you get to the point where the quests become repetitive, the game is really no longer very fun. The main quest shouldn't take you long to get through. The side quests may take you longer (unless you get bored and put the game down).

This is not an RPG in the truest sense because 1) you cannot fully customize your character or their stats and 2) it does not have a world map. Fable II does not hold a candle to Oblivion's system.

I'm hoping that Microsoft will decide to try Bethesda the next time around for Fable III. I also don't like playing the same game designed as a sequel. This game should have had a completely different story than Fable. But, it overall it isn't. The game is pretty much the same idea as Fable from beginning to end as Fable II (with slight alterations in the story and characters).

  • Sound: 9/10 (reasonable, decent voice actors)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (smooth, but not outstanding)
  • Bugginess: ?/10 (not rated yet)
  • Controls: 9.5/10 (reasonable controls)
  • Bang-To-Buck: 2/10 (will play through once for each quest)
  • Overall: 6.5/10 (Too much like Fable, no map, one save spot, can't backup saves)

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