Apparently Hero doesn’t necessarily mean Heroic

Originally Published 18 May 2010

Earlier this week, I finished up my playthrough of Fable 2. I had been attempting to delay playing it until it came out on the PC, but given that over a year has passed since it was originally released it seemed unlikely. When there was a particularly cheap deal for the Platinum Hits version (~$20 and includes all the DLC), I finally picked it up.

The game plays rather similarly to the first one: you’re still a young hero set out in the world to get revenge on some ultimate evil. You still get to build up your powers in each of three categories: melee combat, ranged combat, and magic. It has a big mess of “sameness” about it. Insofar as it is a rehash, it doesn’t have too many glaring flaws, but action RPGs have evolved since the first Fable, and Fable 2 hasn’t kept pace.

For those who missed the first one, Fable 2 is a third-person action-RPG with an open world. The game is structured as a series of quests with those in the “Main Quest” slowly unlocking more of the world for exploration. This time around, the player character starts off watching his sister being murdered in front of them by a young noble. After surviving the noble’s bullet, the PC is raised approximately a quarter day’s walk away from the villain’s home and trained so as to be able to carry out revenge on him. Apparently, nobody notices this until you start going around being all heroic.

Fable 2 adds a few new twists on the formula. This time around, a major side endeavor is to gain wealth. The game only provides money in a few ways: periodically found in chests or buried underground, a rare reward for quests, signing up for QTE-based jobs, and through buying and renting property. All of the money available from the first three types is dwarfed by that available from the last. The game gives you approximately 0.1% of the total value of all of your rental properties every 5 minutes (or 50 minutes if the game is off or paused). In the early game, this will be close to zero and jobs or quests with gold rewards drive your income. My current character, having beaten the game (and gotten a perfect gamerscore) gets just shy of 20,000 gold every tick. As a comparison, the top three most expensive properties in the game are 1 mil, 100k, and 80k respectively and the largest possible chest reward is a paltry 50k.

The sequel also dramatically ramps up the ability to customize your character and home. Although it is entirely optional, the game provides for substantial renovation of the rental properties by swapping out the various furniture pieces with other kinds. It also has a ridiculously large set of possible clothes and hairstyles and dyes that can be applied to said clothes and hair. Of course, the game once again does the “character appearances is partially determined by leveling choices”. This results quite quickly in having a character who looks more like the incredible hulk than a real person and is much worse on a female PC who ceases to really appear female once they get about half way up the “strength” ability tree (yet still has the voice of an 11 year old).

My biggest beef with the game, though, is the size of it. The main quest is incredibly short. The world consists of maybe three dozen locations, only about 4 of which are worth returning to visit later. Sidequests tend to be sparse and almost uniformly of the form of 1) fetch quests (rarer) or 2) go kill X (the majority). The majority of the time that I spent playing was done earning money so that I could reach a critical threshold wherein my wealth would allow me to buy every property in the game. If I hadn’t needed to grind for money, the game would’ve likely been at least 10 hours shorter.

When I was thinking about what to compare Fable 2 against, my first inclination was to compare it to Oblivion. This comparison, however, quickly shows the shortcomings of Fable 2. Despite being two years older, Oblivion had a substantially larger world–orders of magnitude different in size. Oblivion had a more diverse and larger set of quests. Oblivion may only win out in that it is impossible to build a completely non-optimal character in Fable 2 whereas Oblivion allows for character advancement that results in enemies outpacing the player.

Honestly, I can’t really recommend this game. Yes, I did go through the effort to defeat it, but that was mostly because it was easy to do so. If you want an open-world fantasy-themed action-rpg, just go play Oblivion. If you do decide to play Fable 2 though, I can probably help you along. The game allows players to exchange items and currency when connected to XBox Live. My character currently has about 3 million gold (plus whever I made since I was last online), so I could cut those first 10 hours of money grinding off your game.

Fable II: 0

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