Like childhood fables, Fable II charms you into thinking that it's a game of consequences.

User Rating: 8.5 | Fable II X360
Fable II is a game about choices. In its short but eventful journey that is set in the fantasy landscape of Albion, one plays the life of 'Little Sparrow', a muted hero who throughout the game, would make decisions that would impact his/her morality, purity and ultimately, on how the game plays out. Leading towards the release of the game, one just knows that the huge bubble Lionhead Studio created is going to be a promise it would have much difficulty upholding to. So it can't be helped that the bubble would ultimately burst when some of the reasoned expectations have fallen short. But fortunately, it had been good fun bursting those bubbles while it lasted.

Albion is a beautifully illustrated world that wouldn't have much difficulty stealing one's breath away. From the lush of the greens to the glitter in the evening rivers, much joy can be derived simply by tracking the world of this fantasy world. It never matches the graphical engine in other similar games such as Oblivion, nor does it try to, as Albion is more of a blend between realism and fantasy, thus creating a world that is so unique to Fable II. It's a pity that an epic tale never materialise to make use of this breathtaking setting, but in all regards, there are many side quests (mostly interesting) that would provide ample reasons for one to spend a little more time in the world of Albion.

The insipid story revolves around the theme of revenge. After witnessing the death of a loved one by a man of questionable motive, Little Sparrow sets out to seek his revenge under the guidance of a person whose real reason for doing so is never really explained. To fight this villain, Little Sparrow needs to gather the help of 3 heroes blessed with the power of might, skill and will respectively. The quest in finding these heroes could have been epic, but marred by the lack of screen time, the interesting facets of these characters are never fully developed. This leaves them as nothing but empty shells, or mere passing instances for the story to continue, which quite sadly, leads only to a disappointing end.

While Fable II faltered in its story, the promise of giving players more choices is never compromised. There are lots to do in the world of Albion- taking up jobs; setting up a family; buying properties and tons of interesting side quests. Many of these side quests would require Little Sparrow to make a decision (often one of a good versus bad nature) that would have different impacts on the environment and his personality, which would ultimately affect his appearance and how the residents of Albion treat him. This matter about choices extends to the very creation of the character. Little Sparrow can be female homosexual that dons an assassin outfit with a pirate eye patch- imagination is limited only to the vast number of collectible that exists in this charming world. Are they superficial? Perhaps so. But are they fun? Most definitely yes.

Without the ability to speak, interactions with the colourful residents of Albion feel limited at times. It feels awkward as Little Sparrow is often relegated to mere audience in conversations, with his only form of response in the nature of 'Yes' or 'No' (for accepting or declining quests). This however, worked out well as the delightful British-accented voice acting of the Albion residents is consistently stressed and put into the limelight. The impairment of speech brought about the need of an alternate way of communication and in Fable II, it comes in the form of expressions. Little Sparrow can learn various expressions that ranges from being crude to flirty. Executing expressions would require players to complete a mini game by releasing the right trigger button at the right instances. Successful executions influence how Little Sparrow is being perceived (cute, rude, scary etc) and depending on how the residents like their heroes, some may offer gifts while others may run away at his mere sight.

While Little Sparrow can enjoy building relationships with the residents, threading the vast world of Albion is at times, a lonely journey. Having a companion in a trusty dog is therefore an indispensible source of comfort. Besides being a very handy tool for directing the player to unseen treasures, the dog can also be useful in battles, both in fighting and in alarming of the imminent danger as enemies encroach. And as the men's best friend, it never asks for anything more than a pat on its furry body (or a dog treat, if one feels more generous) for a job well done. The idea of bonding with a dog may sound cheesy on paper, but it had surprisingly worked out well in practice.

"Simple but fun" is perhaps the best way to describe the combat of Fable II. With a choice of hand-to-hand, ranged and spectacular magical attacks, players are never limited to any particular method of combat for dispensing the fearsome enemies. Each of this fighting styIe is assigned to a button and can be executed by simply pressing them. And while combat is at times a matter of button-smashing, the bonus of more experiences (and the sheer fun of doing so) forces players to employ each of the fighting methods and in discovering the styIe that suits him best. Little Sparrow can collect experience orbs by killing the enemies that he can choose to invest in each of the three attacks. While the limited enemies species leaves much to desire, the extremely engaging combat proves that complexity does not necessarily means better.

The gorgeous graphics, beautiful music scores and impressive voice acting are marred by the long loading times and some frame rate issues, but not to the extent of tainting the overall experience. Although I have personally not tried, Fable II offers online co-op which is certainly a bonus. Furthermore, players can choose to download the Pub games from Xbox Live, though not the best deal available, are good sources of fun for those who cannot get enough of the game. However, the adventure in Albion falls exceedingly short at 20-25 hours, and once completed, there isn't enough reason to revisit the game other than in collecting some of the achievement points.

For a game that invests so much in forcing players' decisions, the biggest challenge Fable II faced is in justifying this: Should I get the game? The production values and its sheer fun make this title a hard one to miss, but getting caught up with undue expectations may just be like a game of bursting bubbles- it may fall flat on your face.