In Fable 2 things are different. This stuff isn’t part of the game; in a way, it is the game. Earning money as a blacksmith, woodsman or bounty hunter isn’t just a sideline activity, it’s entertaining in its own right. What’s more, without the extra cash you’ll struggle to achieve some key objectives. Most of the employment opportunities really come down to very simple tests of timing, but it’s surprising how compulsive these can be when you’re running short of gold. I knew I was hooked when, at around eight hours in, I’d virtually forgotten about the current main story mission because I was too caught up bounty hunting in order to get enough dough to buy a new home so that my new found wife would stop moaning about our current habitation and settle down and have some kids.
This isn’t a game where you’re obsessing about your next sword of awesome valour or bracers of intransigence, +1. No, it’s the sort of game where you’re worried that a diet of pies has made you fat and earned you the title of ‘Salad Dodger.’ Your reputation matters. Your clothes and hairstyle matter. What people call you matters, and what your family (or families) think of you matters. Outside of a handful of MMORPGS, where the social element always has an impact, I can’t think of another game where this is the case.
And while the effect of hero on world and world on hero works in much the same way as it did before, with fairly simple binary good or evil choices that move you in one direction or the other, it’s all a bit more convincing this time around. The moral dilemmas actually make you think a bit harder, and there are times when the consequences of an evil act actually make you feel slightly bad about the result (though, personally, I can eat as many crunchy chicks as the Temple of Shadow can dish out). Shout-outs, taunts and acclamations are a little more varied and believable, and the system of mimed expressions you use to communicate with your fellow man and woman give you more options and work more effectively. Whether you’re chuffing, grimacing, slapping, posing, seducing or dancing a jig, there’s a lot of fun to be had just messing with the local population.
All of this stuff is very exciting, and the development of storyline and missions and the development of your powers are incredibly satisfying. Yet what I think really makes Fable 2 stand out is that it’s a game designed for everyone to love. And by that I don’t just mean ‘everyone who likes action RPGs or fantasy adventure games’ but your partner, your casual gaming mates, your Mum and Dad – everyone. It seems that everything is tailored so that you don’t have to sweat about the small stuff – the intricacies of the combat system or inventory management – leaving you to get on and enjoy all the big stuff.