Rear Review: Fable II

by Mitchell Dyer


The back of videogame boxes tell us a lot about how mesmerizing its story is, or that the explosive action is the greatest thing since Jesus lit that tree on fire with his kick-ass guitar solo. How do these back-of-the-box promises hold up? The Rear Review lets you know how the high promise quotes really turn out.


Peter Molyneux makes some wild promises in the days, months and hell, even years leading up to whatever game he’s developing. Inevitably, his promises fall flat on their face, and are then shoved deeper in to the earth by an iron boot before suffocating on mud. Fable II was no exception.

That doesn’t make it a bad game by any means, but tons of his jaw-dropping ideas didn’t really come to fruition like he said they would. In spite of the game’s shortcomings, it sold like hotcakes. And hotcakes, in case you missed it, sell pretty darn quick. So how did the back of the box pitch the game to everyone that didn’t hear about or buy in to Molyneux’s BS?

Who Will You Become?
Beginning as a penniless street-urchin, your destiny is to become Albion’s greatest Hero. But will your power lie in kindness or cruelty? Choose your own path to glory and experience how those choices change you and the world forever. A new life, a unique adventure – every time!

It’s not like the game is all that unique on your second run, really. You’ll still kill the same bandits in the same areas as you work toward your ultimate goal, which plays out in a cheesy cutscene instead of, you know, giving you the choice that will “change you and the world forever.”  I don’t see where these Earth-shattering decisions come in, because the choices you make throughout the game barely influence anything beyond your appearance, and the way people react to you. Neither of these have an effect on the game, and are merely there to make you say “cool.”

Whether or not your power lies in kindness or cruelty is irrelevant since, like in Fable, your alignment to good or evil has no bearing on the ending. Your selection between the final trio of choices doesn’t need to reflect your actions up until that point. Altruistic or asshole, your motives as Albion’s greatest hero don’t mean a damn thing. Again. Nuts.

It’s All Up To You
Man or woman, good or evil, career and family or just you and your faithful canine companion – live life your way.

Isn’t… isn’t this the same thing Fable‘s box just told me? I’m pretty sure I just read about doing things how I want to, living life as good or evil, etcetera! At least it brings up the dog, who’s actually a pretty cool, though not really useful for finding anything but books about marriage buried in the woods, addition to the series. Having the help in combat isn’t necessary, but who’s going to complain about a throat-shredding ally? Too bad it doesn’t elaborate more on the dog, especially since it was so pivotal to Molyneux’s end goal.

Share The Experience
Dynamic co-op play allows friends and family to join your game at any time, and share your world.

The word “Dynamic” in “Dynamic co-op play” certainly doesn’t refer to being able to play as your character in your friend’s game, because you can’t. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal since you can share or split experience and money, but having to be a generic-looking, lowly “henchman” for your bud is super lame. The great thing about Fable is finding sweet new loot to equip, and raking in cash to invest in owning pubs or shops — and all of that is out the window if you’re the co-op tag-along.

Worse yet, when your heroic ally decides he (or she) wants to make some cash as the local blacksmith, you’ve got to watch and wait while they work. You can’t explore, hunt, or do anything interesting. You can’t even help. You just kick back and enjoy the slow paced, hammer swingin’ show.

On top of this mess, the abhorrent camera is about as painful as taking a poisonous arrow in the groin. Not being able to keep track of your character isn’t a result of a too-hasty teammate, or intrusive geometry — the point-of-view is so awful that it can’t keep tags on the action when the action is “standing in the center of town.”

Roads Are For Chumps
Explore the landscape and openly roam the countryside in a world 10 times the size of the original Fable.

I often complain about the world of Fable II feeling disjointed, like there’s no connection between areas, and I’ll stick by that until I die. Load screens bring you from gorgeous open fields and forests to run-down mud-hut town, or to stone-walled metropolis. It’s all very inconsistent. Despite that, the world is ridiculous in size, and the amount of stuff to do is as daunting as Oblivion. There are some very beautiful locales, and the neglected mention of misty hill-tops, lush and flowery forests or haunting swamps that precede a familiar, but completely obliterated Original Xbox-Fable town is criminal.


Verdict: Fable II doesn’t do a good enough job of selling itself on the back, especially since it focuses on doing-what-you-want multiple times. Its failure to elaborate on some of the scenic areas you’ll visit or why the dog is so cool (despite his awful ability at finding useful treasure) is a definite oversight on the part of the publisher and their printer. Also, the box doesn’t do anything to tell potential customers that it’s actually an epic adventure, complete with emotional impact. I suppose the lacking mention of  a story isn’t unexpected when you consider how paper-thin it is, but enticing people with recruiting new friends for your revenge plot is a pretty sexy selling point.

It’s too bad it doesn’t tell you that the co-op kinda blows, too. But hey, you only have so many letters you can fit on the sleeve, and the ones they have don’t do enough to encourage moms and pops to pick it up for their kid at the GameStop.