So what has changed? Well, clearly the graphics have had a major lift from the move to the 360. The characters are more cartoon-like than realistically detailed, but this is the most breathtaking fantasy world I’ve seen since Viking: Battle for Asgard, with gorgeous, deliberately overdone lighting that changes to reflect the time of day, rich vegetation and lovely, gleaming water. From the opening winter scenery it’s a feast, and Albion rivals Azetoth as a place where you just want to get out, explore and see the world. It’s the difference between technical skill and genuine artistry. That’s good, because there’s a much bigger world to see. Fable 2 doesn’t throw it all at you at once, instead drip feeding you new areas as you grow in strength and experience while giving you ample reason to return and see the old ones. Between a useful quest journal and a brilliant trail effect that leads you to your next objective, it’s practically impossible to get too lost. Don’t worry. You’ll still want to get off the beaten track from time to time. Part of the pleasure of the game is finding your own way around and – unlike so many other RPGs – the world is densely packed with villains, varmints and treasures to discover.
This is partly where your dog comes in. Lionhead and Molyneux wanted man’s best friend to engage your emotions and give you an experience of unconditional love. That’s probably going a bit far, but the dog is certainly a smart and useful little critter, warning you of enemies, fighting at your side, seeking out hidden treasure chests and finding you worthwhile spots where a little digging might bring a big reward. Of course, it helps if you treat the little fellow well, heal him, give him praise and read appropriate canine training literature – you’ll be surprised what he can do with a little education. Whatever the dog’s value as an emotional focus, he’s certainly one of the most ingenious in-game feedback mechanisms I’ve ever seen.
On top of this, the structure of the game just seems to work better this time around. One of Fable’s problems was that all the stuff about living the hero (or antihero) lifestyle still felt a little peripheral. Yes, you could get a wife, buy a house, have kids and treat the family with respect or downright meanness. Yes you could earn a reputation as the saviour or scourge of the common man, making friends or spreading terror wherever you went. But at the end of the day this seemed like the background to a slightly short main storyline which went in much the same direction whatever you did.