This would probably be as good of a place as any to say this: This is not a review of Fable 3. This really makes sense since Fable 3 isn’t exactly out yet, and as a poor, penniless blogger, it’s not like Microsoft and Lionhead Studios are just handing me pre-releases of their up and coming games. But, with there being a lot of hype surrounding the release of Fable 3, set for… I dunno, sometime in the future, I think, this would be a good time to talk about the last entry into the Fable series. I’ll post here the things the game does right and the things the game does wrong, and at the end of the long, slightly dingy hallway of the future we can compare notes and see if Fable 3 really is better than its ancestors.
Fable 2 takes place a couple hundred years after the first game, when the battle against Jack of Blades is just a distant memory in the minds of the people and the Heroes Guild has been torn to the ground. The main character in this game is a young, orphaned guy/girl (depending on your preference) who is living in a life of poverty with his sister in the town of Bowerstone.
Then there’s something to do with a magic music box, and a creepy, obsessed crazy dude in a castle, and before you know exactly what’s happened some douchebag has killed your sister and thrown you right out of the castle. You survive only due to the timely intervention of a dog and some hippies gypsies who teach you how to take a sword and lodge it into someone’s sternum over the course of several years.
As Fable plots go, it’s pretty standard. You’re a nobody with nothing, and its up to you to either save people or sell them into slavery and start making a name for yourself. This game has a much bigger open world than the first Fable, and it creates a very “adventure” feel as you run around with your dog and kill things what deserve to be killed. There are plenty of spells to learn and physical and dexterity upgrades, and you’ll spend a few wide-eyed moments wondering what specialty to focus on first.
Once you get past all that, however, you start to realize that Fable 2, for all its bragging about you being able to go anywhere and do anything, is actually pretty limiting.
Lets start from the top.
You do have a lot more ways to customize your hero in this game, but by the end of the story you’ll look almost identical to every other hero you’ll play. This problem stems from two major upgrades: Strength and magic. The stronger you are, the more buff your character becomes, and the more magic you use, the more blue runes glow on your character’s skin. The end result is that at the end of the game, regardless of what gender you’re playing, your character is this massive, horrifying, glowing, no-necked monstrosity of a hero. You’re like Frankenstein’s monster meets Shale from Dragon Age Origins. If I saw something looking like that coming for me, I’d try to kill it.
This leads into the next issue. People’s reactions are strange. You, this monster of a person, wanders into a town. You’re ripped to the point where you don’t even look human, when all attractiveness is leached out of you through your bulging biceps. And the people can’t get enough of you. They’re literally falling over themselves to stand in a ring around you like idiots clapping. And if they aren’t? Well, you can just burp, dance, or cheer at them for a while and they’ll perk right up. It’s the strangest social simulator I’ve ever seen, and one of the most unrealistic. I’ve wandered into a town I slaughtered just ten minutes before and just belched my way back into the people’s hearts. I don’t get it.
The third problem I had with this game was cool in theory. Once you earn enough money at your day job to start owning some properties, you can put those suckers up for rent and really start raking in the dough. Every five minutes you’ll be greeted with another notice that you’ve just earned some cash. The earnings continue to happen, indefinitely, even if you’re not playing Fable 2. So say you earn about 500 gold from your properties every five minutes. When you start up the game again after having not played for a while, you’ll be greeted with all the money you’ve earned since you were gone. You quickly become the richest man in the world.
So money quickly becomes irrelevant and shops become ridiculously easy to clean out. Not much challenge there.
The last problem I had was, admittedly, a bug. It was, however, a pretty hilarious bug. At one point in the main story, I felt pity on one of the poor, unwashed locals in Bowerstone and took her as a wife. Eventually, she had a kid. I’m assuming it was with my hero, but you can never really tell with someone easily impressed by a man who puts on spontaneous sock puppet shows in the middle of town. Anyway, I found a ring in my travels and gave it to the wife when I got back to town as a present. The game, however, registered this as me proposing to her again. I didn’t think much of it because hey whatever, but then when I moved into a new house, I married her. Again.
It started to get confusing when a Bowerstone noble then tried to blackmail me due to my infidelity, since I was cheating on my wife with my wife. The relationship finally ended messily when my wife, who was upset that I wasn’t spending enough time with her, divorced me because I was spending too much time with my second wife. She left the home, child services abducted my kid, and I was left with a phantom wife who the game assured me I had but actually didn’t.
Glitches aside, the game was pretty compelling, if a little on the short side. There were some genuinely great decisions you have to make through the game, even if the plot was a little on the “bad guy has schemes” side. (Are you a bad enough dude to…)
Traveling around the countryside with your dog really helps develop a bond with the critter, who can use his powers of digging, mauling, and playing fetch to help your cause. He’ll actually look different, either golden and noble if you’re good or black and shifty if you’re not, even though when push comes to shove, you really don’t need the animal along at all. There’s some pretty fantastic moments to find in the game as well. If you haven’t found your way inside all the demon doors, I’d highly recommend it.
The bottom line here is that Fable 2 was an alright game to play with some interesting (if not exactly surprising) twists along the way. The game handles well, even if you are eventually going to turn into some kind of enormous mountain of a hero, and it’s definitely worth a play through. Still, Fable 2 left me wanting more out of the series, and I’m not so certain Fable 3 is willing to step up and put those issues to rest.