Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review: Fable 2 (360)

I figured with my love of video games, I should start to write some reviews up here. So here goes, my first video game review, and the lucky culprit that gets to be my first is Fable 2, the new RPG for the Xbox 360.

Having never played the first Fable, there's not much for me to compare this game to. I didn't have an Xbox so I never bought or played Fable (1) so I was starting from scratch with, basically, a "new" RPG. However, I'm a huge RPG fan and I'm always willing to try out something new and different.

Let's start here. The story was interesting and different from most things that I have played in the past. However, for as much as the "every decision has a consequence" thing is played up, it didn't do a whole lot for me in the end. For one thing, the ending is the same no matter what path you take. I took the evil path for something different and while it was very fun, the ultimate outcome of the game was the same. I beat the bad guy, world is a better place, game over. The main thing that is affected by your in-game choices is how people react to you throughout the game and your character's appearance. For instance, if you decide to be evil and monstrous and whatnot, people in towns will cower in fear when you come near them. Merchants will be afraid of you and will discount items so that you don't try and kill them (which was cool because I got discounted items everywhere I went throughout the entire game). As my character got more and more evil, his skin darkened, his eyes grew evil, and he actually grew horns.

Looking past the consequences thing, though, the story was solid. SPOILER ALERT: Your sister gets killed by a crazy ruler when you are kids and you grow up and vow revenge. But it's not just vowing revenge; there is a creepy old lady with no retinas or irises that tells you that you must defeat said crazy ruler, who has now taken over a giant stick protruding from the ocean called the Tattered Spire. But you can't do it alone. You must recruit three other heroes and here is where the fluff comes in. You must seek out these heroes and these quests make up the entire main story. Once you find the three heroes, the game is basically over. The worst part about the main quest is that you can probably beat it in about 12-15 hours. I spent well more time on the game this because I did most of the side quests.

The game is never really over, though, because there are so many side quests to be done. I have completed all but about 4 side quests, only because those are the ones that require you to have a family and I just didn't want to deal with allllll that. The side quests, interestingly enough, were fun to do. Most games make you do side quests as a diversion to the main story and to make you level up before you reach a harder point in the game. These ones are actually enjoyable to complete and you are always leveling up, so you don't really have to do them all. Oh, and here's another (GIANT) SPOILER: there is no final boss battle, so leveling all the way to defeat a horrible giant boss at the end simple does not exist.
Score: 7/10

The graphics in this game were done very well, as long as you don't expect Final Fantasy-style CG movies and cut scenes every 15-20 minutes. The style of the graphics was interesting. They were sharp, but at the same time cartoony, in a way. However, the graphics flowed smoothly for the most part and were pleasing to the eye, despite the lack of cut scenes. The environments were large and very detailed and looked great as well. My only issue here was with the amount of glitches. There were a ton. Enemies getting stuck in the side of a mountain, but still alive and able to attack you, while you struggled to find a spot where your attacks would still land rather than just hitting stone. Characters going through each other, blinking spots in the screen, etc. It was nothing that actually made me restart the console, but still very annoying nonetheless, considering how long the developer spent making this game.
Score: 8/10

The gameplay was just good in this game. The fighting is altogether fun, if not frustrating at times. It's an action-based RPG, so all the action is done in real-time, with no turn-based strategy. Which is ok. The only problem with this is that, at times, you are simply overwhelmed with enemies and some strategy is required to dispatch of said enemies before getting killed. You really can't be killed, though, per se. What happens is, you get "knocked out" and when you are revived (which happens immediately) you come back with some of your experience taken away. Your experience is built by gathering four differently colored orbs that enemies drop when you defeat them. When you have enough orbs, you can "buy" new abilities. So, most of the time, you have a surplus of orbs and when you get knocked out, you lose some orbs. Also, the orbs that the enemies drop depends on how you beat them. For example, if you kill them with your melee weapons, you get strength orbs. If you kill them with magic, you get will orbs, and if you kill them with your ranged weapon, you get skill orbs. (There are also generic orbs, if you will, that can be used in conjunction with strength, skill, or will orbs to level up.) And I like this, because it makes you use all available resources, which is something you really need to do in this game. It is hard to get through the whole thing without using, for instance, ranged weapons. This was a glaring flaw with Oblivion, which basically just made you use whatever your class called for.

Anyway, back to the combat. As I said, it's an open field that sometimes features massive amounts of enemies, sometimes 10 or more at a time. Sometimes you have help from your other heroes, sometimes not. Either way, the combat isn't all that difficult. I only got knocked out two or three times throughout the couse of the game. One cool feature that the game has is a little icon in the bottom left of the screen that has the buttons of the D-pad and an icon next to each button on the D-pad. When you hit one of the direction buttons, your character automatically does that action or uses that item. This comes in very handy in battle, because the game is smart enough to put your potions in this little icon and you can easily heal yourself seamlessly in battle without having to press pause and use an item.

Other than battle, the game consists of running around in large environments and dungeons and exploring large towns. I have to admit that I got lost more than once in numerous different towns. There is a level of customization that can be done, but I was surprised by how limited it was. You can buy new clothes for your hero, but it's basically a pointless exercise. The clothes that you buy only increase or decrease your attractiveness or aggressiveness and have no effect in battle. You can buy or find dyes to change the color of your hair or your clothes, but it is again only for looks. You can also buy furniture for the houses you buy, much like you can in Oblivion.

There are no stats to worry about, such as strength and defense or magic defense. This might be great for some people, but I was disappointed. It was like Oblivion for Dummies. Also absent is any kind of limit to the number of items you can carry. Yep, you can carry as many items as you choose. By the end of the game, I had about 75 books in my inventory. You try carrying that many books in your knapsack without keeling over and passing out. I know they were trying to simplify things, but I loved and hated Oblivion for these reasons. You go out on an important quest and you have to decide what items to take. It involves a level of strategy far above what is required in Fable 2.

Then there is the whole meeting people and starting a family thing. I said earlier that I bypassed the whole family thing, mostly because I think it's pointless. So what? You meet a woman, marry her, move into a house, and have kids. What's the big deal? I did seduce a couple of women, just to see how hard it is (it's not). Even though my character was evil and had horns and an evil dog, all you have to do is dance around for a little or play your lute and they are in love with you, so much so that most people will actually want to give you a gift. Here's where the consequence thing fails. You would think that most people, if they met someone with fucking devil horns, would turn tail as fast as they could upon meeting said devil. But not the lovely, stupid people of Albion. They still love you if you can play music and dance.

Another aspect to the gameplay was treasure hunting, but it wasn't a side quest. It was done right within the main gameplay, so it worked extremely well. When you start out as a young adult, you have a faithful companion in the form of a dog. He helps you fight, sometimes, when an enemy is already lying on the ground. He gets hurt a lot and makes you heal him with your neverending supply of dog potion. But most importanly, he finds treasure for you. And this is helpful because sometimes the treasure is really, really good. You can level the dog up, per se, by finding books about tresure hunting and reading them to him (not sure how he understands them, but whatever, we're not going for realism in this game, after all). You can also teach him tricks and impress the townsfolk with them. The best part about the dog is that as your level of evil (or good, I would assume) increases, your dog changes with you. By the end of the game, I was pretty damn evil and my dog was jet black with red eyes.

All in all, I have to give the gameplay good marks. There is virtually no level of realism, especially not to the level that Oblivion went, but you don't really care when you're playing the game because it's fairly light-hearted. It's almost alarming to go into a dungeon and see dead bodies and skeletons. It almost makes you forget that the game is rated 'M' for Mature.
Score: 8/10

Sound is very important to me in a video game and Fable 2 did the sound portion very well. The music was a little redundant, but it was pleasant so I didn't really mind it. Some of the music is actually very good. But the thing that really steals the show is the voice acting. While sometimes redundant, it is ultimately very funny. I look at Fable 2 as a much less serious version of Oblivion. The game is so un-serious that it can't even take itself seriously, as evidenced by the often funny quips that appear on the loading screens. The voice acting by the characters is done quite well, but once, just once, I would love to have the hero in a game have a voice. The hero says nothing the entire game. However, everyone else has a lot to say. The best voice acting in the game has to go to the gargoyles, though. The gargoyles are part of a side quest but it's impossible to go through the entire game without seeing (or hearing) any. The gargoyles hang from various places throughout the world (there are 50 total) and basically just hurl insults at you whenever you are near them. It's absolutely hilarious. And the best part is, you can to shoot them in the face when you see them and it goes toward the side quest.
Score: 9/10

Overall, this is a solid RPG in a sea of mediocre. It's the best action RPG I have played for the 360, and I say that only because I played Oblivion for the PS3. If the reason you liked Oblivion was because of how seriously it took itself, get Fallout 3. This game is more of a less-serious version of Oblivion and lacks the character stats and customization that Oblivion proudly featured.

Overall score (not an average): 7.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment