2008 video game
Fable II is an action role-playing open world video game in the Fable game series developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox 360. It is the sequel to Fable and Fable: The Lost Chapters, it was originally announced in 2006 and released in October 2008. A compilation of the game, and its two downloadable content packs, was released on 24 October 2009, titled the “Game of the Year” edition.
The game takes place in the fictional land of Albion, five hundred years after Fable’s original setting, in a colonial era resembling the time of highwaymen or the Enlightenment. Guns are still primitive, and large castles and cities have developed in the place of towns. Unlike the original, the player may choose to be either male or female.
- 1 Gameplay
- 1.1 Family and relationships
- 1.2 Character morphing
- 1.3 Jobs
- 1.4 Recreation
- 1.5 Co-operative play
- 2 Synopsis
- 2.1 Setting
- 2.2 Plot
- 3 Marketing
- 3.1 Tales of Albion
- 3.2 Online competitions
- 3.3 Video diaries
- 3.4 Fable II Pub Games
- 3.5 Limited Edition
- 4 Downloadable content
- 5 Reception
- 5.1 Critical reception
- 5.2 Sales
- 5.3 Awards
- 5.4 Technical issues
- 6 Sequel
- 7 References
- 8 External links
There are both interactive and non-interactive cutscenes in the game. According to Lionhead Studios, the non-interactive cutscenes consume less than five minutes of game time.
In the fully interactive cutscenes a player can use their expressions during the dialogue or even run away from the scene, thus skipping it; afterward the player can return to the cutscene location to start it again. If the player runs away from a cutscene which contains important information, the character will await the player’s return.
The player’s companion is a dog which the player befriends as a child. This dog follows the player almost all of the time during the game. The dog can learn tricks, fight enemies and find treasure, and lead the way to quest objectives (when required, though this is rare; typically the player is led to objectives via a sparkling gold “bread crumb” trail). It can also aid in combat situations by attacking downed enemies. The dog cannot be killed, but can become injured and ineffective, requiring healing by the player.
The appearance of their dog will also mirror the player’s choices and changes colour depending on the player’s alignments; if the player is neutral it will remain grey, being good will turn the dog’s coat to golden and evil will turn it to black. There are no other animals in the game, save for neutral rabbits and birds, a fact commented on by one NPC who notices the oddness of carriages with no horses.
In the downloadable content “See the Future”, it is possible to change the dog’s breed with potions. The three choices are Dalmatian, Bloodhound and Husky.
Family and relationships
In Fable II, it is possible for the player’s character to get married, including same-sex marriage, and have children. Divorce with the player’s spouse can occur, and can be initiated by either the spouse or the player themselves. As with a real family, time spent around and interacting with them will keep the bond between them strong and reduce the chance of them leaving. It is possible to become widowed through the death of a partner. It is also possible for the player character’s children to die through cot death or disease, or to run away from home to become an adventurer, in which case the player can rescue them from danger.
The relationships, as in the original Fable, are initiated by flirting, gift-giving, and the common expression. By performing a potential mate’s favourite expressions, or giving them their preferred gifts, they will become infatuated more easily. Beyond a certain level of interest, or payment in the case of prostitute characters, a character may proposition the player for sex. Unprotected sex may lead to the birth of a child, but can also lead to sexually transmitted disease; this does affect the player, as it may lead to sterilisation. If the player has purchased or found a condom, they will have the option of protected sex. No sex is actually shown; the screen is black when the option is selected.
Fable II enhances the system of morphing one’s character based on their actions as introduced in Fable. Character morphing revolves around two major alignment scales: Good and Evil, and Purity and Corruption.
Good players will enable a pleasant-looking Hero, with tanned skin and light hair, while evil players will have a more frightening look, with pale skin and black hair. Pure players will find that their hero will have a clear complexion and a halo, while corrupt players will find their hero with a flawed complexion and horns. These scales are independent of one another, meaning that it is possible to be both good and corrupt simultaneously or any other variation.
Also related to character morphing is the character’s slimness or fatness, determined by what foods the player eats; fruits and vegetables (mainly celery), make the player thinner, while alcohol, meat and pies make the player fatter. In addition, fruits and vegetables give the player purity points (because no animals are harmed in their creation/consumption), while meats and alcohol give the player corruption points (because animals were harmed in their creation/consumption and they can cause drunkenness, respectively). This has no effect on gameplay other than attractiveness or the lack thereof in the eyes of NPCs.
Levelling up stats will also alter the player character’s appearance. Increasing the Physique level will make the Hero more muscular. Increasing the Skill stat will make the Hero taller. A high level of Will power and spells create glowing blue markings, called Will Lines, all over the body.
Unlike Fable, the player does not acquire money through doing quests, but by doing jobs around Albion. These are Blacksmith, Woodcutter, Bartender, Assassin, Civilian Displacement (Slaver), Bounty Hunter, and Merchant. The first three involve correctly pressing the A button during certain times, and the latter three are combat related. Merchant, however, is done by taking advantage of the economies of each town, buying low and selling to richer vendors for a profit. The jobs become available depending on how much renown the player has and story progression. The trade skill jobs can be done over and over again for a certain number of days, but the side quest jobs are single use, requiring the player to wait for another task to become available. The trade skills can be leveled up to five stars via promotions, allowing for more money to be made.
Exploration plays a primary role in the game. As in the original Fable, gameplay is very linear; however, main story-advancing missions may be performed whenever the player chooses and there are additional missions that do not affect the storyline. The player may also choose to perform any of the many different jobs, gambling-based mini-games, participating in the arena-style minigame called the Crucible, explore dungeons, tombs, and caves, or roam the countryside. The player may even choose to kill innocents in town. All of these optional diversions can result in rewards for the player in the form of additional wealth, items, experience points, or character-altering attributes. Exploration is essential to discovering much of the game’s hidden content, in the form of 50 silver keys, special treasure chests, 9 Demon Doors, and 50 gargoyles that can be destroyed.
Players are able to drop in and out of other players’ games at will. The host player can set certain rules; e.g. how loot gained is split between the players and if friendly fire is active. The joining player cannot load their custom hero; they must select a premade male or female character. This “henchman” cannot buy property or gamble in their friend’s world, nor can he/she accept quests. Co-op can be achieved through Xbox Live, System Link, and by playing on a single console.
Fable II did not ship with online cooperative, but a free patch has been available from Xbox Live since the European and American release date which adds this functionality. Without the patch, players cannot play online due to being disconnected from Xbox Live.
On 14 July 2008 at E3 2008 lead designer Peter Molyneux demonstrated ‘Albion Orbs’. These orbs show where other players are in their worlds and allows bringing them into their world to co-op with. Only orbs for friends are initially viewable, with all players viewable if an in-game setting is changed. Online chat is automatically enabled between players that can see each other’s orbs.
While on the same console, a second player with their own account can drop in and out as a “henchman” to the first player. If the second player on the same console does not have an account of their own, the henchman is made in a brief character-creation screen that pauses the game. Henchmen created this way are not saved into the main player’s game. The first player also decides how much bounty the henchman will obtain, e.g. gold and experience. The second player is also able to port any experience, renown and gold to their own Fable II Hero via a memory card if they have imported their character and not created the henchman from scratch. Also, it is possible to use a profile on the Xbox 360 itself to create a henchman, the earned gold and experience being transferred there.
Like the first game, Fable II takes place in the land of Albion, but about 500 years later in a setting resembling the early modern period. The Heroes’ Guild no longer exists; after the defeat of Jack of Blades, Albion entered a period of relative safety and stability during which the increasingly corrupt Heroes were no longer needed. Ultimately the people of Albion revolted against the Guild and destroyed it. Firearms of exotic design now dominate the art of war. Cities such as Bowerstone have now greatly expanded, and the old ideas and religions of medieval Albion have since been ousted by modern ideals of science and philosophy.
There are fewer locations than in the first game, however they have been expanded upon greatly. The islands of Witchwood and Hook Coast, as well as the Northern Waste have been rendered inaccessible. There are also many references to the land of Samarkand in the game, though the player never travels there. At the beginning of the player’s childhood, they start out in Bowerstone’s slums, then grow up in a Gypsy camp near Bower Lake.
The world in Fable II is fully dynamic, interactive and mostly free roaming with no set quest path to take. Since the game takes place over a hero’s lifetime, many things can change; Molyneux gave an example of a trade camp that the player could either help or destroy. Trading in such camps would increase their profit, resulting in a small town growing around them.
Additionally, every accessible property (those that can be entered by the player) in the world can be purchased (except for the Tattered Spire), and ownership of unique buildings can unlock further quests. In addition to purchasing and renting homes, businesses and stalls are now available for purchase. These businesses produce income for the player every 5 minutes, depending on the quality of the business, the economy level of the town, and the opinion of the shop owner for the player (a shopkeeper with a high opinion will work harder), and the rent or goods prices set by the player; this happens even while the Xbox 360 is turned off. Rent is also accumulated every 5 minutes. Also, if the player visits his own shops, the quality of their goods will improve, and improve the quality of the shop. Players are able to furnish the houses with furniture and other items available for sale. In addition, titles will be awarded for buying property; if one were to buy every building and piece of land in a town he/she may become the mayor of that town; owning more land leads to higher titles such as king/queen, and eventually Emperor of the entire land of Albion. Players can become more Pure by setting prices and rent low, or more Corrupt by increasing them.
The environment in Fable II features trees with branches and leaves that are individually animated according to their own physics, each tree having roughly 120,000 leaves. There are also around 15 million poppies in Albion.
The game begins in the city of Bowerstone, where the protagonist, a young child known as Sparrow, lives in poverty with his/her older sister, Rose, and dreams about living in Castle Fairfax, the home of Lord Lucien. Their fantasies are cut short when they hear a commotion at the market. A man known as Mystical Murgo is selling ‘magical’ wares and a magic box that grants a wish. Convinced by an old woman named Theresa, Sparrow and Rose decide to collect the five coins required for the box by completing jobs. During this time, they save a dog, which later takes up residence with them. When they finally collect the money needed, they buy the box and wish to live in Castle Fairfax. However, the box disappears in a flash of light, seemingly having failed to work.
In the middle of the night, they are awakened by a guard, who escorts them to Castle Fairfax on Lucien’s order. Overjoyed at their wish coming true, the two follow eagerly. After meeting Lucien and telling him of the box, he asks them to step in a circle on the floor, which emits a blue light but turns red, to Lucien’s anger, upon his touch. Proclaiming that they are not any of the three “Heroes” he is seeking, and one of them is a fourth Hero, he kills Rose and wounds Sparrow, who falls out of a window. Upon waking up, Sparrow learns that they survived the fall due to their heroic line, and was rescued by Theresa and the dog.
Ten years later, Lucien has been rebuilding the Tattered Spire, which grants the user enormous power. Sparrow is told by Theresa that they are the descendant of a great hero, and destined to bring Lucien’s downfall. However, they must first find three heroes in order to defeat Lucien with their combined powers. Given the quest to stop Lucien’s plans, the Hero begins a great journey, enlisting the aid of Hammer, the Hero of Strength; Garth, the Hero of Will, and Reaver, the Hero of Skill.
Reaver, who is a former pirate living in Bloodstone, tells the Hero to take a Dark Seal to his friends in Wraithmarsh. The Seal turns out to be an item marking its bearer for sacrifice to the Court of Shadows, allowing Reaver to stay young forever. The Hero has a choice of either sacrificing their youth or the youth of a young woman trapped in the Court. The Hero then returns to Reaver at his mansion, which turns out to be a trap as Reaver has brought Lucien to attack the Hero, aiming to collect the bounty on them. However, Lucien turns on Reaver, causing him to rejoin the Hero.
The Heroes perform a ritual near the old Guild of Heroes, but are attacked by Lucien, who kills the Hero and their dog and captures the others. The Hero is taken to a dream-like paradise, set when they were a child. The Hero forces their way through the nightmares, arrives at the Spire, and defeats Lucien with a music box from the nightmares. Lucien is killed by either the Hero or Reaver.
Theresa then appears and grants the Hero one of three wishes: “Sacrifice”, which will resurrect the thousands of people killed during the construction of the Tattered Spire; “Love”, which will resurrect the Hero’s dog, sister, and family (if the Hero was married); or “Wealth”, which will grant the Hero one million pieces of gold. The Heroes then part ways and Theresa tells the Hero that while Albion is theirs to enjoy, the Spire is hers.
In the DLC See The Future, the Hero visits Theresa once again at the Spire. Theresa shows the Hero a vision of the future showing them as King or Queen of Albion, and also a child in the crib by the throne who will become a great hero, setting the background for Fable III.
Tales of Albion
Lionhead Studios released a section on their website entitled “Tales of Albion”, which provides a back-story to Fable, Fable: The Lost Chapters, and Fable II. In “Fragments of the Old Kingdom”, it details how the Archon came to power in Albion, and how the Heroes’ Guild was founded. “Tales” also chronicles the end of the Heroes and ruin of their Guild in “Fall of the Heroes”, and “Travels in Today’s Albion” (which has been completed since its release) describes where some places are and has a little description of each notable area/artefact.
Just as Lionhead has done with The Movies, online competitions were made available through Lionhead’s forums. One such competition was naming a title to be used in the game, similar to the first game wherein a character was addressed by various titles that the character purchased from a “Title Vendor”. Lionhead has stated these titles would be bought but they have to be earned first. They are bought from a town crier in Fable II; the winning title was Lionheart, which can be bought for 2000 gold or earned for free by winning in The Crucible. An “insult the hero” competition also took place and the winner is yet to be announced. On 30 May, Lionhead held a competition for artwork that would be used in the game; there has been no winner announced to date.
- On 24 May 2007, episode one of The Lionhead Diaries, examining the love and emotion aspect of Fable II was released.
- On 30 July 2007, episode two was released, highlighting the one button in the combat system, and featured the Lionhead staff playing a game of football against fellow Microsoft satellite Rare and winning. It also included a professional combat specialist instructing the animation staff.
- On 8 October 2007, episode three was released, going in depth about the Central Technology Group, and featured Lionhead’s 10-year Anniversary.
- On 11 January 2008, episode four was released, focusing on how the graphics department made the world of Albion.
- On 19 March 2008, episode five was released, looking at magic, GDC 2008 and co-op.
- On 22 June 2008, episode six “Art and the Hero” was released, looking at the artwork of the Hero, Albion, and many different characters in Fable II.
- On 2 October 2008, episode seven “Music and Audio” was released, showing how and where the main scores were made, where the voice-overs were recorded and taking a brief glimpse at the various voice talents for the game.
- On 8 January 2009, episode eight “Finishing Fable II & Creating Knothole Island” was released, detailing the Lionhead Team’s euphoria over having finally completed Fable II, and giving a brief look at how Knothole Island was made, and why it didn’t ship out in December 2008.
- On May 2009 episode nine “See the Future”
Fable II Pub Games
Main article: Fable II Pub Games
In August 2008 Lionhead Studios released Fable II Pub Games. This includes three of the games that can be played in pubs throughout Albion: Fortune’s Tower, Keystone and Spinner Box. For 800 Microsoft Points all three games can be downloaded on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Alternatively, some video game retailers offered a product code when a pre-order for Fable II was made.
Before the game was released, there was a production problem resulting in the Hobbe figurine, special box, and fate cards being removed from the collector’s edition package. Due to the loss of these items, the suggested retail price was decreased to the normal game price in some stores. As an apology, Lionhead Studios created a free music album available for download over the Internet (not Xbox Live) that contains several songs from Fable and three songs from Fable II, as well as printable pdf versions of the fate cards to be released. There was another supply chain issue that occurred in North America that caused some Limited Edition games not to have the token card for in-game content.
A Limited Edition was available on its release date with the following extra features:
- Alternative packaging including cardboard slip cover
- 1 token card code for in-game content (downloaded over Xbox Live)
- Bonus disc containing the “Making of Fable II”
There was also a 2nd European release of the Limited Edition game which featured the extra features minus the token card code for downloadable content.
The first downloadable content (DLC), “Knothole Island”, includes the ability to resurrect the player’s dog by sacrifice. It was released 13 January 2009, and features a new map, with new items and quests. The DLC includes 3 new achievements worth 100 points. A free update allows players who haven’t purchased “Knothole Island” to still play online with others who did. “Knothole Island” is available for 800 Microsoft Points. The DLC was awarded positive to average reviews. It holds a score of 66/100 on Metacritic. Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer awarded it a score of 6/10 while Tom Orry of VideoGamer.com awarded it a score of 7/10 saying that “Knothole Island is a good effort but far from the standard the full game set.”
The second DLC, “See the Future”, includes the ability to change the player’s dog’s breed. It was released 12 May 2009 The DLC includes a quest based around three cursed items from Murgo the Trader. In addition to these new quests and items, one new area is included and players have the ability to change the breed of their dog as well as the ability to get their dog back if players chose not to resurrect their dog at the end of the main storyline. The DLC includes 13 new achievements worth 250 points. It is available for 560 Microsoft Points. The DLC was met with positive criticism: “[See The Future] should be an essential purchase for Fable fans. It doesn’t change things enough to win over anyone who didn’t enjoy the main game, but as an expansion it extends the game in ways that are certainly worth experiencing.”
As of September 2009, the entire Fable II game is available for download through Microsoft’s Xbox Live Game Marketplace. When first released, the downloadable version of the game was broken up into 5 game episodes that play identical to the disc version of the game, and the first episode of the game was free to download, while Episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5 could be purchased within the game. Any player who purchased the disc version after the first episode can transfer all save data.
Currently, only the entire game can be purchased, and Episode 1 is no longer available as a demo. The downloadable version features the complete version of the disc-based game, as well as full compatibility with the previously released game add-ons, “Knothole Island” and “See the Future”.
On 7 September 2009, a compilation of the Fable II disc with all the downloadable content was made available in Europe, sold as “Fable II – Game of the Year Edition”. On 5 January 2010, the “Game of the Year Edition” was made available in North America using the Platinum Hits branding.
Fable II received critical acclaim from critics citing its adherence to the original, while praising the changes that redefined the game system.
Eurogamer welcomed the “bread crumb” trail feature in the game, “as leads you ever onwards to your next objective, but even though you can’t get lost it still allows for deep exploration.” OXM lauded the game as “probably the most consistent sequel ever made” and suggested combat is “great when you’re winning and nothing but irritating when you’re losing.”
Edge ranked the game #52 on its list of “The 100 Best Games To Play Today”, stating that “With a quest that tugs you through to the plot and a bucolic paradise ripe for exploration, never before has so much work been put into making sure the humble player feels special.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) praised Fable II for its animal-friendly nature, giving it the Proggy Award for the most animal-friendly game of 2008, saying they enjoyed the game’s pro-vegetarianism, giving the player purity points for eating non-meat products and corruption points for eating meat. However, there are also achievements encouraging players to hurt particular animals.
According to NPD, the game attained the status of best-selling title in the United States across all platforms for its debut month of October 2008 with 790,000 copies sold. Such sales volume occurred despite the game’s release on 24 October consequently allowing only nine days of sales before the end of the month. The game received a “Platinum” sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 300,000 copies in the United Kingdom.
Fable II was a success, and, with approximately 3.5 million copies sold as of 11 March 2010, it is a best-selling RPG title for Xbox 360.
- IGN Best of 2008:
- Best Original Score (Xbox 360)
- X-play’s Best Game of 2008 award
- Joystiq’s Best Game of 2008 award
- Best Action and Adventure Game of 2008, British Academy Video Games Awards
In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
A number of users, writing on the Fable II message board, have experienced technical issues with the game. The most notable were the freezing, progression bugs, and incompatibility with standard-definition television screens.
Fable III was officially announced at Gamescom on 19 August 2009. It was released on Xbox 360 in October 2010 and on Microsoft Windows in May 2011.
- Official Lionhead Fable II site