Fable 3 is only months away, so if you fancy catching up on your Albion history, Fable 2 is now available from Play for just £8.99. Delivery, as usual, is free.
Averaging an 89 on MetaCritic, Fable 2 had something of a burden to bear upon release, with its irrepressible creator, Peter Molyneux, dubbing it "the greatest RPG of all time". While the result is utterly subjective, Fable 2 fell short of the mark, offering a wonderful realm to play around with, an economy system to toy with and a lovable mutt to join you in your adventures. But it's RPG credentials are dubious, and the ending and certain design choices proved divisive amongst the videogame community.
However, Fable 2 is a great game. You begin life as a lowly street urchin, either boy or girl, wandering the Dickensian sprawl of Lower Bowerstone. It's a miserable life, burdened with the horrible moral choices of poverty and being the unwitting target of avian excrement. But when your sister is murdered by the evil Lord Lucien, it sets in motion your path towards becoming a hero.
But what kind of hero will you be? Will you rescue merchants set upon by bandits? Or aid the bandits in their attack and claim the spoils for yourself? Buy all the houses in a village and become a much-loved mayor who lowers rent? Or up the rent and fill your pockets with cash? The choice is yours. If you're not too bothered by the binary nature of the morality meter, it's a wonderful system to exploit, as your choices are reflected in your own image. Evil and corrupt? Expect smoldering eyes and a wicked grin, perhaps even a portly belly, too. Selfless and kind? Enjoy an angelic aura with its own halo.
The combat system in Fable 2 is another curious design choice. One-button combat is the name of the game, with swordplay on X, guns and the like on Y, and magic on B. It's intended to appeal to both the casual and the hardcore fan alike. Casuals can hammer away on the buttons and enjoy visceral combat with none of the inherent risks, whereas the hardcore crowd can learn to chain attacks together. Knock a bandit into the air with your sword, slow down time with magic and pop him with your pistol while he's still locked in midair. Personally, I found the combat far too easy and the punishment too lenient for any sense of danger or urgency to be present when set upon by enemies, but it's an enjoyable system and far better than most RPG combat.
One of Fable's most underrated features is its Monty Python-esque humour. The game is riddled with amusing little jokes, from the descriptions for each and every resident of Albion, to house-names and dialogue. The Black Adder tone, combined with well-realised characters and brilliant visuals, result in a quintessentially English game, which may go some way towards explaining why Fable receives a much better reception here than over there.