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Nega-review: Fable II

Kyle Orland
Kyle Orland|October 23, 2008 2:15 PM
"While Fable 2 is now 'all grown up,' its new scale and gameplay elements expose some key issues that other RPGs of this scope have spent years ironing out." (9) "There are almost constant niggling annoyances that persist from the very second the disc enters the drive." (5)

"Fable II is short and easy, and the plot is mostly boring." (3) "Running through the core missions from start to finish would only take a handful of hours." (6) "You can race through the main storyline in around a dozen hours or so." (7) "There's not an incredibly large amount of content to go through, and it feels like Fable II pads the play experience by requiring you to venture multiple times through the same areas at different times throughout your journey to collect everything there is to find." (6)

"The story carries little weight" (2) with a "typical medieval revenge plot" (8) that's "slightly boring and sort of incoherent." (3) "The lack of meaningful character interaction and development is the reason the story often falls flat. ... Because the citizens of Albion are pretty one dimensional, it's difficult to get really attached to any of them. (2) "The simple combat and predictable story make the early moments feel slight." (2) and "the final boss fight is anticlimactic." (3) "If you're buying the game for the main plot, you're going to be disappointed." (3)

The much ballyhooed morality systems "aren't balanced... During our experience, we were able to max out our evil and corrupt status after only a few hours, whereas becoming completely good and pure when playing as a noble do-gooder took much longer." (2) "If all you care about is the Good meter, however, it's pretty easy to dump a boatload of cash to the Temple of Light and get it maxed out again, so the choice is a bit dulled." (3) In the end, "does it really matter to you if the town guard or the town thug gets the five warrants you've collected? I doubt this kind of choice has much of a real impact on a gamer." (4)

"When you start exploring the social aspects ... things take a downturn." (4) "Unfortunately, every social interaction still feels exactly the same as the first game." (8) "The expressions system is too goofy for the more serious tone of Fable II and almost every interaction feels artificial." (4) "While it is certainly amusing using these often lewd expressions to get your point across, it decreases your attachment to the rest of the world." (2) "You may even get bored of having to use the expression system countless times in order to curry favor with the denizens of Albion, which gets quite repetitive." (6) "You can access the likes and dislikes of anyone you meet via a menu, making it the entire process feel disingenuous." (4) "I mean, would you marry someone after they use the same expressions on you for just a mere five minutes?" (8)

Speaking of marriage, "the marriage system is actually kind of harsh and I had more than a few wives walk out on me for no apparent reason." (1) "I had a few weird glitches, including a strange moment when my character's spouse got angry, divorced him, and then quickly changed her mind, existing in a weird state of being happy and content until I left the area, at which point the game informed me that a divorce had occurred. It was very strange indeed." (3)

"Perhaps the biggest disappointment in Fable II came from the much-hyped dog ... It never acted like a real dog, and there was no illusion that it was anything but a gameplay element, so the game's attempts at making me care for it didn't work." (3) "I didn't find myself bursting into tears every time he nicked his paw" (1) and "you won't miss it during the periods of the game when you're dogless." (3) "His need to alert you of hidden goods before you have a chance to find them for yourself takes away some of the thrill of discovery." (2) What's more, "on occasion, you may see him walk through a closed door or witness the textures on his fur disappear." (4) Yes, "there are some issue with clipping - your dog frequently runs straight through solid objects (including your legs)." (7)

"The whole navigation and user interface could do with a bit of polish." (5) "The map is pretty useless," (2) inventory management is an issue," (6) and "even something as basic as shopping for new gear is made cumbersome and fiddly:" (5) In short, "the menus and interface are poorly suited for all of the things you'll be juggling at any given time." (1) "Also, it's not always easy to tell which parts of the environment you can walk up and which require a detour." (2) There's "occasional lag when a large number of enemies are present on-screen," (8) and "it doesn't help that there's a small amount of loading time between pressing pause and actually getting the pause screen, either." (5)

"The monetary system in Albion doesn't always make sense. If you purchase a store or rent out a home, you will receive money every five minutes. The problem is that you earn that commission every five minutes, whether you're actually playing or not ... which quickly makes currency meaningless. Since you're able to buy most weapons and properties by just waiting around for a few minutes once you're established, there's little sense of accomplishment in buying the item you've been pining for." (2)

"At some point, you'll want a job. There are some painstakingly pedantic offerings. ... A blacksmith, for example, must hit the A button when a dial crosses the green section of a meter. ... But it's not very exciting. The other jobs are more or less the same idea." (4) "Working jobs or extending expressions to impress all involve nothing more than good timing with the A button. It doesn't matter what job you happen to be doing either." (7)

"[Combat] is far too easy and there is very little variety in the enemies you battle." (4) The game may seem like a bit of a simplistic generic button masher at times when you're just swinging your sword and spamming spells (8) "None of [the enemies] ever create that sense of wonder and awe expected from a fantasy game," (4) and "with the exception of a single battle in Fable II, I never felt challenged. I was only 'knocked out' once -- and that was on purpose, so I could see what happens." (4)

Which brings us to death. "Death is almost never a concern." (3) After dying, "within five seconds, you'll be back on your feet, fighting the same enemies who seconds earlier seemed to have ended your life." (2) That's right, "within seconds you are back on your feet fighting again. Defeat just isn't punishing enough." (4) In fact, "it is not uncommon for your character to get back up, defeat the remaining enemies and receive more experience points in doing so than they lost." (7) "To give you an idea of how insignificant your own death is, your dog won't even notice your pain." (2) "You do receive a scar each time you die, but we were playing a demonically visaged overweight gay horror Pat 'Butcher,' who was happy to show off the battle scars as she threatened the local children for their lolly pops." (7)

"While it might sound fun on paper to have a friend join you on your adventures, it really seems to do the game, and the overall experience, a disservice." (1) "A henchman brings with them all their experience and skills but none of their weapons or their character model. ... Isn't one of the purposes of co-op to show how different my character is from yours?" (4) In addition, "you will both share the same view and camera controls. This leads to frustrating camera angles, and requires both players to stay in pretty close proximity. ... The time I spent with the co-op seemed to strip away a lot of the charm and joy that I found playing in single-player, and appears to be more a novelty than anything of substance." (1)

Welcome, gentle reader, to thy newest Joystiq Nega-Review. As is our wont, we have gathered up the minor negative points for a super-hyped, positively reviewed game and assembled them into an unforgiving whole. Our humble purpose is not to cut down an obviously storied work, but to point out that even well-regarded games have their flaws.

While this is by far the longest Nega-review we've done, and one of the lowest review score averages we've put up to the Nega-Review treatment, that doesn't by any measure mean the game is bad. Impressively, almost every review used here concluded by saying that, despite the flaws, Fable II was an engrossing, addictive experience. The play.tm reviewer put it, "The negatives are just somehow more apparent than usual because it's just a bit disappointing when you stack them up against the flashes of genius that Lionhead often display."
In short, we hope this review doesn't make Peter Molyneux too emotional... it's all in good fun.


(1) Giant Bomb
(2) GameSpot
(3) WorthPlaying
(4) IGN
(5) Play.tm
(6) GameSpy
(7) Kikizo
(8) GamingTarget
(9) DailyGame