So I may have been a bit biased when Fable 2 was (finally) released this year since Fable 1 still ranks in as one of my favorite games but the massive disappointment my hopes and expectations suffered is almost unmatched in my long history of gaming. Fable 2 descended on me on a rainy evening like the hand of an angel reaching down and tapping me on the shoulder. Then after an hour or so of play that very same angel lost its heavenly glow for a dull earthy brown tiny and kicked me in the crotch as hard as it could.
Ok, I'm willing to look past that 25% of the game is spent staring at loading screens since that was there in Fable 1 as well. But this supposed Holy Grail of "choice based gaming" really seemed like a work in progress. I'll try my best to break this review down into specific rants:
The dog: One of the main selling points for the year before release was man's best friend and all that it would bring to the game. Maybe it was me not paying attention, but my dog never showed me where to go in a non-treasure aspect and played the most minimal role in combat. Ok yes it found every stray bit of treasure and silver key in Albion but where's the fun in that? It's an RPG based around open world exploration and customization. Having my four legged friend show me where every "hidden" bit is takes away any sense of satisfaction from actually finding the treasure on your own. Ok, maybe in Fable 1 it was taxing to slowly walk around graveyards looking to see when the "dig" icon popped up but at least when I found treasure, I felt like I was responsible for it. By the end of the game I came to realize that you could replace the dog with giant red glowing arrows that pointed at all the "hidden" treasure and if you still continued to walk by it the game could just automatically put it into your inventory.
Buying property: "You can own everything in the game" was what we were told. Truth is, you can't. You can own a lot, but not all. I like many others played the pub games and had a massive sum of gold at my disposal before the game hit the shelves so maybe I'm to blame for my lack of enthusiasm here but property and gold were a joke in Fable 2. In every other game where money is a functioning system there's that sense of satisfaction when you finally save up the 20,000 gold to buy the absurd Wooly Mammoth mount that carries vendors on it's back, but in Fable 2 where money is as abundant as Hobbes it's just not a big deal. I never once encountered a piece of property or item that I couldn't just buy instantly in Fable 2. Ok, so maybe you don't start as wealthy as I do, then you slowly buy a property or two and then you pass that magical mark where you own just enough and the money pours in. Same end result of money being a broken system.
Character customization: There's not a whole lot to write here because frankly, there wasn't a whole lot of options on this one. You could be a man or woman and dress them as a pirate, bandit, highwayman or properly dressed noble. That's about it. That and your character will get fat. Very, very fat. Don't try to keep them thin, because it just won't work.
Good vs. Evil: Ok, in Fable 1 you naturally went to the good alignment over the natural course of the game and becoming truly evil was a difficult task that pretty much involved slaughtering entire towns on several occasions. In Fable 2 they made up for this by "balancing" the good/evil swing but my complaint now is that the swing happens far too easily. Do one quest for bandits and eat a piece of red meat and suddenly you're the devil himself. I found that the good/evil meter as well as the corrupt/pure meter were always pinned at one extreme or the other and bringing them back to the middle was exceptionally hard.
Story: Ok, the actual game itself. Short, very, very short. The world itself feels small and the separate zones feel very disconnected. Even with doing as many side quests as I could get my evil little bandit mitts on I still finished this game up in under 10 hours. The combat was boring and felt very repetitive. I played a skill/will hybrid so maybe strength was were the fun combat happened but as the game progressed I grew more and more annoyed when having to fight. Overall the game was incredibly easy and I never died once, yet still ended up a frightening scarred mess despite normally sticking to ranged combat. The storyline for the most part was good, but felt a little forced at times. I won't get into any spoilers but the ending was my biggest complaint of the game. Basically the ending is the story stops and you get a small conversation that more or less explains that downloadable content is coming.
I can best sum up this game by it's ending, and that is "surprisingly uneventful." The game knocks on the door of greatness but when greatness answers the game giggles and runs away leaving a flaming bag of dog poop on the doorstep for greatness to have to hose off its shoes.