'Fable 2' one of year's most satisfying games

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Role-playing tale offers complex plot with many intriguing choices

Fable 2 is one of the more hyped games to come out for the Xbox 360. Which leads us to the good news -- this is the kind of story that pushes the limits of what games can do. Not so much with graphics or action, but with a plot that grabs you and a high level of control over the direction you want your character to grow.

What they're selling: From Microsoft -- "Set 500 years after the original, Fable II will provide gamers with an epic story and innovative real-time gameplay, including a massive amount of freedom and choice to explore a vast collection of dungeons, catacombs and taverns in the world of Albion."

What we're telling: That sounds complex and dull. This game is anything but.

The nut graph: Fables are supposed to be stories with a moral, and Fable 2 presents you with decision after decision that shapes your character and his place in the story. Many of the choices are not black and white; sometimes doing the "wrong" thing will improve your lot, while doing the "right" thing comes with a negligible reward. And vice versa ... even if you play as a total heel you will often have to help out a little.

Albion is a large world to explore but easy enough to navigate, and even though many of the diversions are kind of silly it still sticks to a mature theme. You can buy property, marry, have kids or just run around stealing things. The moral choices are up to you, and you can jump in and out of quests whenever you like.

The main story lasts about 10 hours, but it's easy to spend two or three times that long doing side quests and just goofing around. It's an open world with a lot to see, and it's easy to get attached to some of the people and places. And that's where Fable 2 lives up to its promise ... it keeps you wanting to turn the pages and finish the story, just like a great book.

Reason to smile: There are several extended sequences that play out like a movie, providing some of the most satisfying gameplay of the year. Maybe only Grand Theft Auto IV did as well at moving the plot along.

Reason to growl: Graphics aren't the best and brightest on the 360, but the tone suits the game well. And the combat system is very simple, but these are small complaints.

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