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Having poured so many hours into the first Fable game I was finding it difficult to enjoy this sequel. Every aspect of the game appeared to merely iterate on the original and I struggled to see how it could be rated so highly. Only after changing my usual habit and playing as an evil character did the real magic of Fable 2 reveal itself to me. Having such a different perspective really showed me what effect my decisions had on the world of Albion. Although it wasn't perfect I couldn't help but fall back in love with Lionhead's fantastic and funny fantasy world.
When it comes to videogames with moral choices I always take the good and heroic option. For some odd reason I feel there's something illicit or dangerous about going over to the dark side. But I found that playing as a good hero in this game seemed very boring. Part of that feeling comes from spending so many hours in the first game doing exactly the same types of quest.
So after wrestling with my consciousness I restarted the game and set about becoming the most evil and heinous hero to walk Albion. I was instantly hooked by the opening section of the game. Playing as a child and acting like a street urchin was very entertaining. Smashing up a shopkeeper's stock or forcing a doting lover to marry his sweetheart's mother was made to feel fun rather than vindictive or evil.
But the entertainment of this section seemed appropriate. After all, I was only a little kid and the consequences in the short term were suitably insignificant. The big change arrived when the timeline moved forward and the real results of my actions could be seen. The fall of Old Bowerstone into slums and the gleeful attitude of the crime lord at my return started to give me a guilty feeling. I wasn't completely hated though, I may have plunged the town into disrepute but I was still welcomed by some (rougher) members of the community.
Slaughtering the entire town in the process really made me think twice about going down this evil path and I came away regretting my actions
Although my choices affected the town over time I felt that other parts of the game ignored this aspect of gameplay completely. I had people cowering in fear as the game went on but the real effect of being evil seemed to be restricted to a few arbitrary situations. That's not to say those moments weren't meaningful and the most impressive came when I aided in the destruction of Oakfield and the Temple of Light.
The precursor to this involves sacrificing people at the Temple of Shadows - a quest that is made close to hilarious with the witty script and voice-acting. But moving from this to an all-out assault on pacifist monks is a big change. Slaughtering the entire town in the process really made me think twice about going down this evil path and I came away regretting my actions, even with Fable's cartoon fantasy style.
My regrets always came back every time I passed Oakfield in the future. Instead of verdant meadowland and earthy farm fields, the sleepy village turned into a dark and oppressive place with a ghostly ruined temple leering back at me.
Even starting a family didn't reach the same level of emotional depth as the relationship between me and my dog.
What I found disappointing was the same level of good/evil effect never really manifested itself in the main storyline. There are small decisions that changed my overall morality level but there was never one big decision that affected the world until the end. I would have loved to have seen something a bit deeper that involved my family or the fate of an entire city hinging on my actions. Instead the game offers up character's attitudes as a more obvious consequence of being a nasty piece of work.
Despite all my evil acts the game still managed to keep the strong connection between myself and the dog. It was amazing how different the game was when I couldn't have him with me. Traipsing through the countryside and seeing him run ahead or uncover treasure for me is what made this connection the strongest in the game. Even starting a family didn't reach the same level of emotional depth as the relationship between me and my dog.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at the end of the main story and my attitude after its conclusion. I had renounced my evil ways and had decided to revert back to being good. But standing in the middle of Bowerstone I saw one of the villagers kick my dog and I snapped right back to evil. I might have been punished with an extortionate fine but wiping out the marketplace with a high level fireball was worth it to get revenge.
The new content of Knothole Island and See the Future offered a little more adventuring for my evil heroine after the main quest had been completed. Knothole Island showed some excellent variation in the environment as I sought to restore the weather back to normality. Rain, sun, and snow extremes were fun to experience but the quests themselves were pretty dull and short. The small moral choice at the end seemed very minor as well. Maybe it's my desire for dramatic destruction but I would have liked something a bit more critical than balancing the villager's love for me against the opportunity for gold.
See the Future was a much better set of quests. Buying cursed items from Mungo the trader transported me to two different locations. The second one felt very ordinary but the cursed snow globe did a fantastic trick by sending me back to Oakvale - the original village where the first Fable started.
But standing in the middle of Bowerstone I saw one of the villagers kick my dog and I snapped right back to evil.
I remember this being one of the most beautiful places in the game and to see it drained of colour made me change my evil ways at last. Restoring the colour to the village and fighting off apparitions and ghosts whilst saving the children reminded me what Fable had the power to do. What made this quest stand out more than any others was how the story was told in whispers and snatches of dialogue. Whereas most of the game is very obvious in its delivery of narrative, this was much more ambiguous and consequently far more compelling way to tell a story.
The final part of the DLC hinted at the future and did a great job in making me impatient for the sequel. I loved playing through Fable 2 as an evil character and was surprised how enjoyable and effective the moral choices were at certain times. It hasn't had the same effect as the original game on me but I'm in love with Albion just as much as I used to be.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: