Evil urges

Fable II leaves it up to you
By AARON SOLOMON  |  November 4, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for Fable II

Fable II | For the Xbox 360 | Rated M for mature | Developed by Lionhead studios | Published by Microsoft

We live in an era of difficult choices: Mac or PC, gas or hybrid, and, as always, Coke or Pepsi. Fable II, the sequel to one of the premiere titles on the original Xbox, offers you yet another choice. This one, however, is a little easier: be good or be bad. Really, really bad. And those who've played the first Fable already know that being bad is a hell of a lot more fun than being good.

Fable II opens on a beautiful sparrow's-eye-view flyover of the Kingdom of Albion. As you and your older sister set out along Albion's streets, your actions start to affect your personality. Give the drunken hobo his wine (bad, but fun) or give it to his lady protector (good, and therefore boring); smash up the shopkeeper's inventory as payment to the mob (again, bad and fun) or clear beetles out of his storage. To make a long story short: you get an invite up to the castle, and that leads to the Castle Lord's killing your sister and throwing you out of the window. You spend the next 10 years recovering in a Gypsy camp. Eventually you're ready to seek revenge.

There's tons of gameplay. The entire forward-moving campaign clocks in around 12 to 15 hours, but you can double that by moving laterally through the side quests. These might not advance the plot, but they will affect your renown and your purity and your appearance — all of which have an effect on how the citizens of Albion will react to you. Not only does eating too many meat pies and baby chicks increase the size of your gut, it counts as an impure act. Eat tofu and celery and you'll keep that heavenly figure and appearance — at the cost of the crunchy fun of baby-chick eating, of course. Visiting prostitutes and committing murders and robberies will also move you toward the evil side; soon enough you'll be sprouting a nice pair of horns.

Fable II adds a Warcraft-ian on-line feature that allows you to recruit a friend to engage in dastardly deeds in your game without affecting your morality or purity. You have access to that new-fangled invention called a "condom," and guns now augment the ranged weapons. But the more important addition is a canine companion whom you can teach to do tricks, dig for treasure, and even help you in battle. Your pooch's appearance changes alongside yours; look for people to run from your hellhound as well as from you.

If there's one flaw with Fable II, it's that there's no map on the game screen instead, you follow the golden path, a glowing trail that directs you where you need to go. Still, Fable II is the closest Xbox owners can get to their own version of Zelda or Final Fantasy (for now, at least), and though those series have grown a little long in the tooth, this one shows no sign of slowing down. Being bad never felt so good.

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