So I finally got around to playing Fable II. I never played the first Fable, but I was told that Fable II was simply bigger and better so I skipped the first. It was on my Christmas list last year, but it didn’t show up under the tree until this year. Overall, I enjoyed the game, despite the numerous reasons to put the controller down.
There were so many things going against this game. The user interface was, by far, one of the clumsiest interfaces I’ve seen on a console in quite some time. It was almost as if it was designed for PC first, and ported to console. I hated that every item you used, and every book you read, would ultimately kick you completely out of the pause menu for no apparent reason; not a good one anyway. The player physics were sticky and unresponsive. Moving my character around, especially while sprinting, felt like driving an RV through molasses. I often found myself questioning why I was unable to “vault” down short drops, while moving 1 step to the left or right gave me the option.
Even the simple act of walking up to a sign and reading it was a nearly impossible task that often required the dexterous ability to maneuver your character onto the ledge of the stairs, where the sign was inconveniently placed next to an interact-able door, and jam on the “A” button repeatedly until one of them registered. This frantic button mashing often resulted in also selecting the first menu item that appeared; commonly the “buy this house” button that lacked any kind of validation. A simple “Are you sure? [ok][cancel]” could have saved this game.
The graphics were gorgeous enough, especially for the size of some of the areas. I absolutely enjoyed the life that the world had; trees and plants swayed and everything was vibrant and cohesive. Unfortunately, those gorgeous graphics lead to unbearably long load times and frame rate that dropped into the single digits during some awkward camera angles. The worst I saw was easily swimming behind the waterfall on the Treasure Island of Doom. I had hoped that installing the game onto my Xbox’s hard-drive would have done something to at least improve on the load times, but it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference.
I found myself struggling through the story, opting to skip most conversations. The pace of the dialog was painfully slow and unresponsive. AI characters would have long pauses before starting up a conversation with you, or force you to stand around in uncomfortable silence before they give you the reward for your particular completed mission. I probably spent more time chopping wood than actually listening to a single character speak, which is sad. I wanted, badly, to enjoy the hard work that those voice actors put into the characters; it was legitimately solid voice acting. I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough about those people and their feeble problems of collecting chickens, or clearing out basements filled with beetles.
I did make an early choice to be as pure and good as possible, but even this was unfulfilling. I gave up everything, never lifted a hand to a single villager, remained monogamous, sacrificed my exprience, strength, beauty, and did every good deed I could along the way. In the end, I lost everything and got a statue built in my name… Wow… Now, all I have is a save file that I’ll never load again. I think that the moral choices in the game were interesting, even if they were very transparent. I would like to see some effort in Fable III to explore the morally gray decisions that may not effect your stats, but might effect how the remainder of the game is played. To be honest though, I don’t know that Fable III is going to be on my Christmas list. I was expecting more from this game. While it did deliver in some parts, others were far too lacking to ignore; enough for me to turn down this franchise.
I was excited for Fable II after hearing that it received an award for Game of the Year in 2008, but now I am left with more questions. Like, where is the rest of the game, the part that justified it as the best thing to happen to gaming in 2008? I enjoyed the moral choices, I loved owning entire regions of the games housing market, and I loved that a 1-2 combo of sex and sock puppets was the best way to stop your wife from hating you for giving her a 10 gold allowance. But it seems like a far stretch to get Game of the Year.
Gut Score: 3/5