Let’s get to some serious stuff: gaming! I love a good video game! I know everyone has their own definition of „good“, so my grand reviews might fall on deaf ears, but that’s okay. Just don’t make me play Call of Duty. I’d much rather be playing Fable II – and that’s our topic for today.
Just to clarify: this is about the Xbox 360 version. I actually came quite late into the Xbox family (autumn 2013), but I regret NOTHING. I had played some games with one of my best friends before on his Xbox, but my skill was appalling. Surely this would change with my very own console? … I’m not too sure it did, but I sure spent loads of time with it. Actually Fable II was one of the first games I played that autumn. It will always hold a special place in my heart (this one –> ❤ )
First of all about the story: The protagonist (either male or female) is living with their sister Rose in the beautiful village of Bowerstone Old Town in a land called Albion. As it‘s winter and the two are orphans life is tough, but they are accepting little jobs all around the town (tutorial time!) to earn some money. They spend the money on a little music box that supposedly has magical powers and grants the owner any wish. They wish that they would live in a castle and live a grand life. And sure enough: they are invited by Lord Lucian, the local aristocracy, to live with him in the castle. It turns out that Lucian is more on the dark side and he wants to kill all those with „Hero“ blood. He kills Rose and tries to kill you, the protagonist, but you survive the fall out of the window and are picked up by a wise seer called Teresa. Years go by and you become a strong and agile youth, ready to challenge Lucian and his evil plans. To do that you have to assemble all four Heroes into one place and unite them.
As you see this is a fantasy RPG at its finest – and so is the world you are playing in. The locations are so beautifully designed that I have often picked up my controller again after I had finished the game just to visit some places again, take a walk in Brightwood or see the sunrise over Oakfield. The seasons change as well and the colours and seasonal looks make the game even more memorable.
The character design is quite unique as well and has its very own aesthetics. Some characters are very pretty, but I was so disappointed with my lovely hero lady. As she got stronger she started to look like Hulk at some point – and no, not a female Hulk either. I actually started a new game then to play with a man after my first play-through, as it wouldn’t matter if he gets hulky in the end. I do like pretty characters if possible, but who wouldn’t sacrifice looks for that sweet level up? Speaking of looks: you can fully customise your clothes, colour and all. You can also sport different hairstyles and colours or get a tattoo. Cool stuff.
The music… The music. It’s so haunting and absolutely beautiful. The soundtrack does have fighting tunes and exciting pieces as well, but for me the slightly spooky or mysterious tracks have stuck. The music makes up a great part of the playing experience, in my opinion. Please just listen to this stunning piece, Marcus Memorial.
The game itself has such a wicked and British sense of humour. The voices are great and really make you feel part of the whole setting. One of my favourite “loading sequence fun facts” is a sentence something along the lines of “I found one of those Shadow Monks under my bed the other day, worshipping the shadows. Nutter!”
Now to some little anecdotes. You can find nine Demon Doors throughout the land of Albion and once you solve the riddle of how to open them (they all have a different little quest for you) they grant you access to their inside. The design is again remarkable. But one stands out for me. When you open the Bloodstone Demon Door you get to a place called Winter Lodge. The moment I strayed onto that snowy path I fell in love. That was one of the most beautiful winter sceneries I had ever seen. The little path with little stone walls left and right is winding further into the scenery and you feel all safe and snuggly being guided by trusty old lamps. You then get to a clearing where you find a house. The house looks like the perfect home. You can see the glow of a warming fire coming from the inside, the door is open and it just makes you feel all warm and cosy. You step over the threshold – and everything changes. The house is burnt down, there are skeletons everywhere, the lamps have turned into cages. All is nasty and horrible. That was one of the worst shocks EVER. You feel so safe and suddenly this happens. Why?! The worst thing: There is a bug, so that it will stay burnt and horrible even after you leave the Demon Door. That’s why I didn’t enter the house on my second play-through. So I can visit Winter Lodge whenever I want.
At my first play-through I naturally assumed that Lucian would be the final boss. Hahahaha! He isn’t… There actually isn’t such a thing as final boss. Just a final fight. Which is pretty epic. But anyway, Lucian is talking about all of his grand schemes and I get bored waiting for him to finish so I can fight him. I look around the room and suddenly I hear a gunshot. I look back and Lucian falls down dead. One of the other Heroes just shot him. And he taunts me “Oh, did you want to finish him? Well you took your sweet time…” Thanks… NOT. It felt very unsatisfying at the time, but once you know what’s coming it’s okay. I did the job the second time round.
One last little anecdote. One of the long side quests is finding 50 Gargoyles in the (friggin’ huge) world and then go and claim your prize in the Gargoyle Vaults. I felt so pleased when I finally managed to find all 50 (who says I needed online help? … I did. Frequently), so I went to their lovely little cave. I finally arrive at their Master Chest and when I open it I find … a rotten apple. Nooooo! And they laugh at me as well. Little bastards! Anyway, it does turn out that they were just kidding and I got an amazing prize, but I will never forget the initial humiliation. NEVER!
I have to admit it took me a while to get into the game play, but that might have been connected with my low Xbox Player Score. You can perform expressions (like pick up line, playing the lute or sock puppet theatre…) and according to their character the people around you will like it or hate it. It’s fun to try different expressions on large groups of people. The “expression wheel” is a little difficult to handle at times, so the first expression I made was a fart and it actually went wrong (yeah, the bad way). The worst thing about it was that it was during a “let me take a photo of you” quest. Bad memories… But after a while I really got the hang of the controls and even fights weren’t that hard any more. Maybe it’s because you can’t actually die… You will always revive, but YOU WILL BE SCARRED FOR LIFE. Fair enough. (I love games that don’t have game over!)
I have not played Fable I, but thanks to this game I am so excited for it. Especially as Studio Lionhead has courageously brought out a remake called Fable Anniversary for Xbox 360. Alas, I don’t have access to my lovely console at the moment (that’s what I get for having two households in different countries), but when I have it for two weeks or so next time I will definitely play that Fable Anniversary. And run around in the Fable II universe, just because I can.
All in all (hands up – who skipped a couple of paragraphs there?) I cannot recommend this game strongly enough. If you are into fantasy, RPG and medieval things, this is definitely a safe bet. But even for people who haven’t had any gaming experience in that direction might be tempted by this game, as it really brings out the best in fantasy. An adventure and a compelling story, action, fun, humour, challenges and beautiful design. Once you step into the world of Fable II you will find your step directed back into it now and again ever after.