Back to Albion Again

A couple months ago, my family moved (back) overseas to Okinawa, Japan. When my XBox arrived with some of our belongings, I looked for a few favorite games. I was working my way through the high-definition Anniversary edition of Fable, and I kept finding myself looking for features that were missing from the game.
There’d be something I wanted to purchase, and I’d think, “I need some quick money. Maybe I can pour drinks in the tavern or chop some wood. Where’s the place to do odd jobs to earn money?”
Then I’d remember: that’s in Fable II.
This sparked a madness in me, and I wanted to play Fable II right then. Thankfully, XBox Live has Games On Demand, where you can purchase and download a bunch of old games. Fable II is on the list.
But for some reason, it simply would not download. The purchase would not go through. I kept getting an odd error code.
A quick Google search informed me that – for whatever reason – Fable II was not authorized to be sold online in Japan. It’s no worse than Fable III (not by a long shot) or the original game. So for a few months, I waited for the rest of our belongings, hoping I still had the game and, if so, that it survived the journey.
I finished off my playthrough of Fable Anniversary edition last weekend – playing a completely evil character, as you can get things done quicker when pesky morals don’t stand in your way. I immediately got started on a new game of Fable II.
And happiness filled my addled gamer brain.

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Photo (obviously) taken from IGN

So, to refresh your memory or perhaps inspire a look at a great game you never played, why is Fable II so awesome?
Much of my argument assumes you’ve played and enjoyed the original Fable. If not, here’s a synopsis:
The series is about the consequences of your hero’s moral choices. The world changes and characters respond differently based on whether you choose noble deeds or wicked misdeeds. Your appearance shifts over time the more you go to one extreme or the other. There’s a fun-enough swords-‘n’-sorcery fantasy storyline that takes you from a nobody to shaping the destiny of the world, but you almost always have a choice to make about how you get there.
If you played Fable, Fable II widens your exploration options dramatically. You can vault over obstacles, jump off of ledges, dive into pools and swim across lakes. The world feels far more free to explore.
The magic system brings some finesse to its controls. Every spell has two options, a targeted effect when you move a directional stick towards a foe, or an area-of-effect around your character when you leave the stick centered. Lightning isn’t just a bolt you shoot at some unfortunate foe; leave the stick centered and it becomes a storm that damages every foe in range around you. Force Push doesn’t just create a bubble that shoves everyone away from you; push your stick toward a target, and you smack a single foe with a blast of power.
Your options for defining your character’s virtues are expanded (slightly). Instead of a simple “good vs. evil” slider, you also get a “pure vs. corrupt” slider. The most obvious visual representation of this is your character’s pudgy or petite body. Right or wrong, a “corrupt” character does whatever they want, including eating pies and fattening meats. A “pure” character (whether good or evil) lives by a stricter set of rules , and thus doesn’t end up flabby.
Fable II advances the “history” of the kingdom into a light Steampunk vibe. There are mechanical creations. More importantly, this means guns are a thing in the game. It’s so satisfying to shoot (and potentially decapitate) some bandits with ranged zoom before they pose a threat. Plus, turret rifles and pistols! Multiple shots before you need to reload!
You can customize far more than Fable ever permitted. First, you can choose your hero’s gender, and both genders are well represented in the wardrobe available in game. Next, you find or purchase dyes that allow you to tweak your clothing’s primary and secondary colors in addition to your hair color. Makeup is another option, and it’s not just for the female Hero; the game incorporates some twisted makeup schemes similar to the Joker that are just fine for your male character.
There are often Jobs available for you to earn money by playing mini-games. Chop wood, forge blades, pour mugs of ale… the games are easy enough you can earn a good chunk of change when needed, and monotonous enough you won’t want to play forever.
I also love the story aspect of seeing the future of Albion. There are plenty of parts of the game that call to mind some of the original Fable’s locations. It’s interesting to learn what became of many of the my old Fable haunts in the 500 years between the two games.
Perhaps most important, it’s NOT Fable 3. The original Fable was an ambitious game that didn’t quite measure up to the amount of hype which preceded it.
(On the other hand, Fable 3 seems like a terrible object lesson in the pain of trying to manage a nation preparing for inevitable calamity. You either have to play as a tyrant who crushes the citizens in order to save the day, or you play the benevolent ruler who fails to prepare the kingdom for war and thus lets it fall into destruction.
No matter which path you take in Fable 3, you feel punished all along the way… which defeats the whole escapist (and FUN) aspect of playing a video game where you get to be the hero.)

Fable II is hands down the best game of the series. The fact I’m ranting about how much I love it several years after its release should make that clear.
Not surprisingly, when we received our household belongings, one of the first things I looked into was the case of XBox games. There right on the first page sat Fable II, as though subconsciously I knew years ago that I’d want to play that game again someday.
Me from a couple years ago was so very right.

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