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Xbox 360 Review: Fable II

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Fable II's legendary creative director Peter Molyneux has a lengthy resume, bringing to the gaming world such classics as Populus, Dungeon Keeper, Black and White, and the original Xbox RPG Fable.  Molyneux is also known for, at times, being a little too overexcited about a game in production, announcing features in the game that do not actually end up in the finished product.  Despite missing some features Molyneux promised for the original Fable, the end result proved to be a hit with Xbox gamers, selling more than two million copies worldwide.

Fable II released for the Xbox 360 in 2008; is it a worthy successor to the original? For the most part, yes.

The game takes place 500 years after the events of the original Fable.  Albion has changed quite a bit in these years, and the world has not known of a Hero for centuries.

After selecting from a male or female character, the game begins with your avatar as a child, a street urchin living hand-to-mouth with his (or her) sister.  Your character has no name, just the nickname of "Sparrow."

The opening of the game serves as a tutorial, guiding the player through the (mostly) intuitive controls.  One new feature in the game is the introduction of "glowing bread crumb" trail which guides the player where they need to go.  This option can be disabled for the more adventurous player, but I never found the trail to be distracting, and certainly made it easier for me to head off in some other direction to explore before resuming whatever quest I was on.

The opening segment ends with the introduction of the game's antagonist, Lord Lucien, who of course is plotting to take over the world.  Lucien kills your sister, and attempts to kill you, but as it turns out, you have the blood of a Hero flowing through you, and survive.

A mysterious blind woman, Theresa (voiced by British actress Zoe Wanamaker), takes you in, nurses you to health, and begins training you in the ways of the Hero.  After reaching adulthood, the game proper starts.

The plot, such as it is, is pretty standard RPG fare: your hero must stop the evil Lord Lucien from taking over the world.  To do so, your avatar must bring together three Heroes (the heroes of strength, will and skill) in order to stop Lucien.

If you follow the basic quest, the game can be completed fairly quickly — eight hours, tops.  Luckily, there is plenty to see and do in Albion to extend your game time.

Fable II also introduces another brilliant game play mechanic: your dog.   In the interest of full disclosure I should say I am a cat person, but as I played the game I grew very attached to my virtual pooch.  The dog will fight at your side and will lead you to hidden treasure.  His skills can be upgraded to improve his fighting prowess and treasure hunting.

Your skills can be upgraded as well, as you earn experience by defeating enemies.  The experience can be spent to improve your strength, accuracy, and magic powers.

One difference in Fable II from its predecessor is the fact that quests do not pay out in gold; to earn gold to purchase better weapons and other goods, you actually have to take a job, which the game will announce to you during play as being available.

As you accumulate wealth, you can begin to purchase homes, shops and businesses; virtually every building you encounter can be purchased.

My biggest complaint with the game is the anti-climatic ending.  There is a lot of build-up to this ending, but instead of a standard boss battle (and believe me, by the end of the game you're going to want to take revenge against evil Lord Lucien) the game ends without so much as a sword being swung.

The game controls well and is mapped fairly intuitively to the controller.  The X button controls melee combat; the Y button ranged weapons; and the B button controls magic spells.  RT allows you to switch up your spells on the fly.  RB controls your "expressions," which is your character's only way of communicating with the world, in categories such as "social," "fun," "scary" and so on.

Load times can be slow, so if you have the room on your HDD, installation of the game is a must.

Visually, the game does not push the Xbox 360 to its limits (2006's Oblivion visually blows Fable II out of the water), but it is a nice looking game, with decent texture work and a colorful palette.  Sound is also very good, with a lively musical score and, for the most part, good voice work from British actors like Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Fry and Oliver Cotton.

Again, aside from the main quest, there is a lot to see in do in Albion, with plenty of side quests, jobs to tackle for gold, men (or women, or both) to seduce and marry (and possibly contract an STD from), children to raise, gargoyles to kill, treasure chests to find, and demon doors to open.  You can play your character as good, evil, or anything in between.  You'll even spend time playing with your dog, unless you have no soul.

Fable II makes for a great gaming experience, and with co-op, you can invite a friend along for the carnage.

Highly recommended.

Fable II is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol, Violence.

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