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Fable II review
by Ben C

On paper this really seems like the perfect sequel to the first Fable, an entirely new story, and world that builds on the mechanics and lore of the original without being fan-servicey, and as this was my first introduction to the series and the game I grew up with, I was very excited to return to it. But after playing Fable: Anniversary to death, this one feels almost lacking somehow, yes the combat is significantly dumbed down, the lack of enemy blocking and the combat multiplier I can excuse, but the removal of nearly all the support combat spells and the whole mana managing aspect leaves a big hole and turns the combat not from a frustrating but almost strategic mess like the original, but a boring slog that seems to only exist to pad the games length. Shame about the silver chests and to a lesser extent the Demon Doors too as the rewards that lie within them nearly aren’t worth the hassle, especially the chests which only ever contain gold or augments.

 Speaking of padding, the much hailed property buying mechanic, is expanded on exponentially in Fable II, bringing a completely new side to the game, with varying results. Now it is nice to be able to buy all these properties and look back on your empire of economy-crashing realty, and it does give a much needed life to the end game, but it really only exists to supplement your income, and much like Fable I, once you make all that money there is nothing to really spend it on. Again it’s a nice thing to have (and the flavour text of each property makes every purchase feel unique) but it is just too disjointed from the narrative and doesn’t really do enough to justify its own existence. The story is another thing I take a slight slight issue with. As although the side quests are much more fleshed-out and interesting this time around, it comes at the dire cost of the main story feeling bland and rushed. Now a generic story is nothing new, but spending the whole game hyping up an alliance of the 4 last heroes, just for the final mission to limp its way towards the end as soon as they finally team up seems like a giant slap in the face to those that were expecting something more. I have nothing against any of the characters (though it’s clear Reaver was the only one they put real effort in to, not that I’m complaining) but more quests to flesh out their stories would’ve made the ending go down a lot smoother, something kind of like the loyalty missions from Mass Effect. I also wish Theresa would remind me that my health was low in a timely fashion.

 Another thing they’ve changed that I can’t say I fully agree with is the entire art-style itself. Gone are the cartoonishly enlarged extremities of the characters or the absurdly large armour sets in favour of a more grounded and realistic take. I imagine this is to reflect the modernisation of Albion but it takes away a lot of the charm for me personally. The 2 DLCs that released for this game are also sufficiently entertaining although it feels like they only exist to supply the player with unique items that can even break early progression if you’re not careful, this is especially true for Knothole Island, as it feels like the town and even the quest itself is pushed aside to show the weather-changing mechanics and to shower you in items.

 That being said, I do really love the world Lionhead has created this time around, building on the generic fantasy setting of the first into an Enlightenment/Fantasy hybrid that never takes itself too seriously, the writing is just as sharp and witty as the first with a lot more items for them to insert their always creative flavour texts in to. The music is also just as charming and fairytale-like. Everything in this game just feels so lovingly crafted right down to the smallest detail, it is really hard to dislike it.

 In many ways this feels like the Evil Dead II to Fables The Evil Dead. Bigger, more expensive, and in theory better in every way, but lacking some of the charm and authenticity of the original. The real tragedy though is that I wish I could compare Fable III to Army of Darkness, hey wait a minute...

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replayed in 2020.  Its still really good.