Needless to say, I had been anticipating the release of Fable II long since before its announcement and while various circumstances would prevent me from playing it for quite some time after its release, I've finally gone through Fable II and I'm pleased to say that as a fan of the original game I was not disappointed.
Fable II begins much in the same context as the original game, you start your journey as a young boy (or girl this time) and you go about doing various tasks to earn gold. The idea here is to introduce you to the game's morality system - which allows you to complete a task one of two ways: the first of these is the good way, the second one is the bad way. Fable II's morality system is not very complex and you'll ultimately end up either just doing the good or bad method for all of your quests depending on what kind of character you want to have. However it is possible to hover around a morally grey area in this game by not really dedicating yourself to either side of the spectrum.
New to Fable II is an additional meter which judges your purity/corruptibility. Jack up the rent prices on your owned buildings and you'll rack up quite the nice corrupt alignment, which also affects your attractiveness. In doing so you'll make yourself quite ugly in the process, even if you're supposed to be a good guy. Purity and corruptibility are determined by additional various subtle factors, such as the food you eat or the amount of time you've spent in the company of prostitutes, so you'll have to keep a keen eye on your behaviour if you want to have a true morally good and pure character.
The time spent in childhood is quite brief however and you'll be propelled out into the real world as an adult in no time, running around slaying various creatures and completing numerous different quests. One of the biggest additions to Fable II is the dog, your dog is your ever-faithful companion who will accompany you throughout the entire game; and while the dog may not prove to be as significant to the overall game as pre-release information may have led you to believe, the dog proves to be infinitely useful by completing mundane tasks in your stead. No longer do you have to aimlessly wander about looking for buried items, as your dog will now alert you to the exact whereabouts of items if he's close enough to them, allowing easy access for you to uncover them with your spade. The dog can learn various other abilities and can be upgraded through training with books, such as making him more effective in combat. The dog may not be the game-changing thing you might have expected, but he's an ever-valuable companion that you'll be glad to have along for the ride.
While Fable II is an extremely fun an insanely addictive game it does have some drawbacks: you no longer make money by completing quests and you'll rarely get money for felling foes. Instead you'll have to actually take up jobs around the various towns, such as becoming a blacksmith or a woodcutter. These are interesting concepts but they're all relatively mundane mini-games that you'll soon get sick of doing. The amount of money you make from these initially is quite poor but with enough dedication you can soon rack up quite the nice sum of cash. Doing these tasks is not very fun though but it is an interesting concept nonetheless. Getting involved in real estate however is a good thing to do early on, as you'll eventually find yourself making quite a nice sum of money on the profits you get from owning these buildings.
Fable II's customizability is also not very good. Aside from being able to decide whether you are male or female, your options are limited. You cannot change the appearance of your character aside from their clothes and hair colour/style. Clothing options aren't really that great either - there's no armour whatsoever to speak of in this game, so you'll be forced to wear the game's limited selection of clothing that you may or may not be fond of. It's kind of annoying too because a lot of the clothing judges your attractiveness and even if you're trying to make a good character it's hard to look cool without significantly raising your aggressiveness stat as well as lowering your attractiveness, which brings me to another gripe I had with this game; none of the characters in the game world are particularly attractive, so I generally avoided family-related business such as getting married and having children until extremely late in the game due to a certain specific quest relating to a character from the first Fable which I won't spoil for those of you who haven't played it yet.
To further analyze Fable II's faults, its menu navigation system is absolutely horrid. Every single time you want to use an item you have to reopen the menu, navigate to the specific area, use it, and then the menu closes. This makes using several items simultaneously really annoying and clumsy. The mini-map is garbage too; there actually isn't even a mini-map unless you pause the game and go to the menu which you have to keep doing if you're having difficulty finding a certain shop, which will be a significant issue until you memorize the layouts of the various towns. I actually didn't even know certain shops existed until I had already completed the main quest.
The way the game handles its magic system is also quite clumsy. As you progress through the game you will be able to learn various abilities through three skill trees: strength, skill, and will. You can upgrade any varying combination of these making your character as specialized or as unspecialized as you want. Strength naturally governs physical strength and stamina as well as your effectiveness in melee combat. Skill manages your proficiency in ranged combat, while will governs all magic. The magic system in Fable II is quite inferior to the one from the previous game, featuring significantly less spells and abilities as well as just feeling generally not as useful this time around. The way you use your spells is also quite clumsy and it's difficult to explain the way the game maps the spells to the magic button but they'll definitely have to improve this for the next game because it makes magic seem extremely unwieldy and almost pointless to even use when there's literally no easy way to switch between spells during combat.
Fable II's co-op is also one of the most absolutely ridiculous attempts at co-op I have ever seen in a game in my entire life. To put it bluntly, it's quite ridiculous that for a game that centers around creating your own character that you can't even use them in your friends game. Only one of you can use your own character, while the other person is stuck using some lame generic henchman. You're also both stuck to the same screen, making navigating and exploring together frustrating, annoying, and limited. Fable II's co-op is honestly completely abysmal and it is highly suggested that it simply be avoided altogether.
In spite of all these flaws, Fable II is better than the sum of its parts. It's an insanely addictive game that's just really fun to play. It's a significantly flawed game in numerous aspects but most of its flaws are not game breaking. It is highly recommended that you install Fable II to your hard drive though because the load times are extremely long without an install and even opening/navigating the menu lags if the game is not installed.
It would be great if Fable II didn't have a lot of the issues it does have because they're fairly easy to ignore in the grand scheme of things, but it would have been such an even better game without them. It's hard to care about it though once you get absorbed into the absolutely magnificent game that's buried beneath all of the minor annoyances.