Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fable II

After playing the first "Fable" I was left with the feeling that I just experienced something fresh and exciting in the RPG world. The original "Fable" had a story that was unique, and extremely engrossing despite any faults that were contained within the game. When the game was done, I felt sad to leave Albion. There was a definite attachment to the world I have traveled for 15 hours of my life, and I knew I would miss it. On top of that it was a nice break from the typical RPG with antiquated turn based combat and generic Japanese story lines. 

When "Fable II" was announced I was excited. Though the original "Fable" had it's game play faults, it was a great game, and I figured they would certainly take what they had and improve on the concepts already introduced. Combat and magic were great in "Fable", but ranged magic, and ranged weapons were so difficult to productively use that you often had to use melee attacks and short range magic to win battles. It got so frustrating that I gave up on ranged weapons entirely. On top of that, quests were presented in an annoying and clunky way. The guild master presented you with Quest cards as if you were in a giant game of "Magic the Gathering" and you had to find your way around the world using an on screen map and teleportation pods. Travel
 was ok, but it definitely could have been improved on so that your objectives were easier to find.

Rather than address these issues, and make a great sequel to "Fable", a dumbed down game was created that eliminated all skill, and also added new imperfect features that I now want improved in "Fable III". Now, like I said ranged combat was impossible in the original "Fable", but in "Fable II" the ranged combat is so dumbed down all you have to do is press the "Y" button continuously and all your enemies die before you. They tackled the map issue by eliminating all sense of travel in the game. Rather than travel in real time from city to city, you just go into the start menu and select the city you want to travel to and it tells you that it takes 18 hours on the load screen. Apparently, by saying it takes 18 hours to get somewhere, this constitutes a "massive environment" since that is what they claim on the back of the box. Personally I think the first "Fable" was a more massive world. On top of this, the on screen map was eliminated entirely, and a gold trail leads you from place to place. What am I 8 years old? 

I am also a fan of going against the grain, but they eliminated the concept of mana in the game, and I don't see why really. I guess this is supposed to make it easier to cast? However, the system used to make casting simple, actually causes you not to want to cast at all. They tried to tie all casting into the "B" Button so that you are not constantly cycling through spells like the first game, but this raises a new problem, you have to know which spell you will cast prior to the fight. So I guess their solution was instead of replacing your old spells when you level up new spells, there is a hierarchy of casting. So you set the primary spell you want on the first level of casting, second, etc. and you can chain together spells like this. In theory this is not awful, but once you get passed level 2, the powerup time for a level 3 spell is considerably longer, and you take a lot of damage every time you cast, so it becomes not worth it to cast anymore. I think this is a shame because of how important casting was in the first "Fable".

With all of this aside, "Fable 2" added two really cool new concepts to the franchise. Coop play, and an economy. I will start with Coop play. It was really cool to be walking around Albion and see your friends icons in the game. When you get close to their icon, you can talk to your friends using your headset, and trade items. I think I prefer this for the console over MMORPG's because it allows you to interact with friends while your character still maintains a level of importance in the world you are playing in. You can invite players into your gang, but they will appear as henchmen rather than equals. Once again I think this is great because you can see how your choices have influenced Albion compared to how your friends' Albion appears. While I think this is what ultimately saves the game, it is disappointing that the game is so easy because the coop feature would be much more exciting if the enemies scaled to your level.

The economy feature would have been really cool if it mattered. I really worked on improving the economy in the game just for the sake of earning money, but really after 2 hours of working on the economy you pretty much have unlimited money. The economy consists of taking jobs as a blacksmith, bar tender, bounty hunter etc. and then using the money you earn to buy businesses and homes. When you buy a business you are able to raise and lower prices based on a  percentage up to a 100% the value of current prices. If you raise prices it is seen as an act of corruption, if you lower prices it is seen as a good act. These decisions coupled with all of the other decisions you will make through the game determine the appearance of your character and how he is viewed by others. This was a cool feature, but all the money you will ever need could be raised in 2 hours. 

Overall, despite all of my bitching it was a good experience. There were a lot of throw backs to the original game, and a pretty decent story. The ending was really outside of RPG norm, and like it or not, it's nice to see a game going outside the box. Decisions seem to make a much more significant difference than in the first game, and I am interested to play through again to see how my character looks as a good guy. I have visited my friends world, which seemed much more corrupt than my game. Also, being corrupt can really affect the economy negatively. It is cool to see your decisions affecting the environment so greatly. Overall, this was a good game that should have been great. It seems like they really catered to the casual gamer, and in my opinion this is the major issue facing gaming today. I will give this 2 out of 4 bananas. 

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