Albion is a world that's extremely difficult to pull away from once you get tangled up in its charmingly irresistible net. In Fable II's magical land, you'll come across crass gargoyles mocking your foul-smelling breath, nasty trolls erupting from the middle of luscious green pastures, and flirtatious women pleading with the local hero to put a ring on their naked fingers. This is a place that seems to exist whether you're actually playing or not, which makes it all the more compelling when you become one of its virtual citizens. The simple combat and predictable story make the early moments feel slight--as if the whole adventure will lack the depth needed to truly suck you into its spell. But once your initial doubt fades away, you're left with a meticulously crafted world that demands exploration, makes you laugh out loud, and urges you to experience all the incredible details waiting to be discovered.
Fable II starts when you're just a small child. Although your childhood doesn't follow the typical RPG path of burned homes and murdered parents, it encompasses a unique tragedy that provides the backbone for the rest of your adventure. Your path is one of vengeance; you'll spend the journey recruiting fellow heroes as you attempt to destroy the ultimate evil threatening Albion. The story is one of the weakest aspects because it focuses on your choices without creating interesting characters of its own, but it does provide a few powerful scenes. There is one section in which your morality will be put to the test, and the severity of your choices is on full dramatic display. During another scene, you're given a glimpse at the main character's fondest dreams, and the simple yearnings combined with the enchanting visuals leave a lasting impression.
The lack of meaningful character interaction and development is the reason the story often falls flat. Key moments are acted out in monologue form, where one character will babble on about your destiny while you silently listen. It's unfortunate that you cannot give your character a voice during the adventure. Your interaction with others is confined to a series of expressions that help you convey your feelings but provide little actual discourse. While it is certainly amusing using these often lewd expressions to get your point across, it decreases your attachment to the rest of the world. It's hard not to laugh when you perform an elaborate hand-puppet display as your wife storms out of your house, but because the citizens of Albion are pretty one dimensional, it's difficult to get really attached to any of them.
Human interaction seems to exist solely to provide laughs, though there is one emotional link to Albion that is quite powerful. You have a loyal dog that will follow you everywhere. His main role is that of a furry metal detector, barking excitedly whenever he spots a treasure. His need to alert you of hidden goods before you have a chance to find them for yourself takes away some of the thrill of discovery, but it's hard to be mad at him when he rolls on his back or chases his tail. You can comfort your dog when something scares him, play fetch using a rubber ball, and even teach him tricks from dog-training books. It may not seem like much, but youíll definitely miss him and his antics when heís gone. For instance, your dog will sometimes choose a safer way down a cliff rather than jump from a great height into a pool of water; in other cases, when you come across a treasure chest for the first time without your dog happily pointing it out beforehand, you'll feel his absence and anxiously wait for him to join you again.
Even though you can't speak, you can choose how to interact with the people of Albion. Just because you're a hero, it doesn't mean you have to act like one. Pillaging towns, buying stores just so you can mark up the prices, and selling innocent people to greedy slavers are memorable diversions on your path toward saving the world. Just like in real life, it's much easier to get noticed if you're being particularly rude rather than behaving like a civilized person. And it's much more rewarding playing the part of uncouth barbarian rather than lovable purveyor of justice. If you do go down the dark path, you'll be laughing the whole time. The morality choices aren't balanced, though. During our experience, we were able to max out our evil and corrupt status after only a few hours, whereas becoming completely good and pure when playing as a noble do-gooder took much longer. Adding more overtly good choices could have made a second play-through completely different. You'll still want to try playing from both perspectives, but you'll run into a lot of the same situations.
Aside from randomly terrorizing anyone you encounter, there are actual quests to embark on as well. These will send you all over Albion, through dark caves dotted with phosphorescent mushrooms to foggy swamps teeming with undead creatures. You are often asked to kill a certain group of foul creatures that are making life unpleasant for those not accustomed to coexisting with banshees or trolls. Other times, you'll have to perform a more delicate task that places the moral burden on you. During one early quest, a ghost petitions you to court the woman who broke his heart. You are asked to make her fall in love with you, and after she consents to be your wife, you're supposed to hand her a ghost-written note that lambasts her for her youthful follies--breaking her heart in the process. Of course, you don't have to follow the orders of a ghost. Moral conundrums like these keep the quests unpredictable. The mission types are plentiful and varied. You'll need only complete a small percentage to compete the game, so there's plenty of reason to return after you finish.