Fable II – Little Sparrow’s 5th Birthday
I feel old. This isn’t one of those birthdays, like next week’s 25th anniversary of the Sega Megadrive (sorry Tim, Genesis!), that makes you wonder where all that time has gone to, but is one of acceptance that a handful of years ago a sequel emerged from one of my favourite games of all time, and it was… ok.
Fable II was a bit like the weird, younger brother that got dropped on their head as a child, but you loved them all the same – even through the quirky times. Molyneux, again fronting the campaign for the franchise, promised devotion for your new companion – a dog – the likes of which gamers had never seen. Many other vows were not quite fulfilled along the way, but I like to think that Molyneux is just excitable, full of so much passion for gaming and his product that certain embellishments can be forgiven. Given all its shortcomings, however, Fable II was still an excellent sequel to the amazing Fable: Lost Chapters. It was teeming with adventure, customisation; becoming the hero you wanted to be in an extension of mechanics already in place from the original.
Playing the game as Sparrow, it was the first time in the series you could choose to be male or female. Unlike the initial game, in which you played a young boy who grew into a hero as part of the guild, seeking out your seeress sister, your character lives in a world very different from the Albion we once knew. 500 years into the future in fact, stories of heroes and magic had long since died, but a magic still resided in you, and three others that had the potential to be saviours of Albion. You were tasked with recruiting Hammer, a religion-bound war machine (The Hero of Strength), Garth (The Hero of Will) who wields great magic, and Reaver, a rather egotistical and successful pirate (The Hero of Skill), to take down Lord Lucien before he activates the Spire and takes over the world. Of course, you also needed to avenge your sister, Rose, who was shot in cold blood by Lucien… oh, and he pushed you out of window. Yeah, he kind of deserved what’s coming to him.
As with the previous game, your acts throughout your adventure affected not only your standing in society (feared or loved), but also your appearance and even that of your dog. Eat nothing but fruit and veg, play nice, and not farting on anyone would reward you with tanned skin and lighter hair, while eating live chicks, thrusting vulgarly at passers-by, and general meanness would reveal a darker look, often including flies and horns. Other body morphing depended on the skills you upgraded for your character; Skill abilities would make you taller, Physical abilities would increase muscle mass, while a high level of Will power would create electric-blue lines to appear across the body. You could of course add a variety of tattoos, haircuts, facial hair (for the men…), and clothes to really make your hero your own. It was a wonderful feeling to walk around as a muscley man, covered in tattoos, in a bee-hive and a whore’s dress, and the drunks in the bar loved it…
If you weren’t after the guys in the pub, however, you could settle down with a young lad/lass (whichever took your fancy), get married, have sex, pop out some children if you didn’t use protection… although from all that promiscuous sex in the pub you might have caught a bad case of STIs and became sterile. Being a hero whilst having a family in every town (to try and stop them from learning about each other and fighting in the streets) was a hard task, but it was up to us to do so!
To keep up with everyday life as a hero, you also had to work for your living. Aside from the odd adventure money, you would have to work in local establishments for your hard day’s pay. This was often more dangerous than going down a mine full of hobbes – bartending often involved a lot of broken glass from pouring those pints too quickly… it all seemed a little too mundane, but hey – who doesn’t want to play a game to get away from real life and have to go to work in a bar? That’s fun, right?
Aside from keeping your physique in check, raising a family, working all day, and adventure time, you also had to fit in amassing the numerous collectables found about Albion. Train your dog up in the ways of treasure hunting and this was a breeze! Dig up coins, books, jewellery for your loved one; points of interest were pretty much never-ending. Then there were chests to open, gargoyles to shoot between the eyes, Demon Doors with riddles to solve that guarded pretty, legendary weapons and armour.
Without ruining the end, if you’re still yet to play it, Fable II really pushed your moral compass to the edge. It was a pretty tough decision; one that was rectified with the Knothole Island DLC, and that my dog (Michael Jackson) was thankful for. I must have played this game about four times from beginning to end, and not once was I left wanting. There was always something to discover, something to attempt, or something to just go and admire. The inclusion of co-op helped slightly during my last play-through, and it was always enjoyable to see a friend’s character come to life in your Albion, even though the mode was pretty broken from the get go.
So there we are – happy birthday Fable II; you increased my love for the world of Albion and everything within it, while paving the way for something great… which is a shame, because the third addition was lacklustre in comparison. Bring on Anniversary and Legends! I look forward to seeing what Lionhead have up their sleeve!