Varicose veins ripple across my entire body. Seismic red cracks split my gray skin into continental shelves. A nuclear green glow pinpoints my toxic stare. And just in case no one gathering around me has gotten the point just yet, two horns have thoroughly twisted their way out of my skull. Not to mention the fact that my faithful canine companion – I named him “Dig Spot” in praise of his buried-treasure-finding ability – has devolved from having a nice chocolate coat and puppy-dog stare into something more of a blackened scruff with blood-red irises.
“You’re so well beyond salvation,” says a passing villager.
“Aaauuugh!” says another.
People can be so critical sometimes.
But I’ve persevered down Fable II’s particular road to Hell, despite the harsh but well-earned commentary, and it’s safe to say that none of that road was paved with good intentions. The choices that lend themselves to your personal fairy tale will rarely be ambiguous, yet they create personalized anecdotes in the way they present widely-divergent paths. The pendulous decisions between good and evil – which ultimately boil down to selfless and selfish – are always deceptively drawn up with only a thin line between them. Press right on the D-Pad to do a good thing. Press left to do a bad thing.
The little day-to-day decisions you make can be that simple. But chaining those little day-to-day decisions together eventually adds up to your final countenance. The summation of your behaviors, be they benevolent or malevolent, by accident or by design, for the greater good or for the lesser evil, will perceptibly take their toll or lend their blessings upon your physical appearance.
But who you are in the world is even more apparent in how people react to you. While it’s indeed rewarding to put another star’s worth of experience points into your physique, or speed, or inferno spell, the greater reward lies in citizens’ reactions to your presence. While you execute nothing more than a (sizeable and amusing) display of The Sims-like grunts, groans, and emotes, the non-playable characters you encounter will remark on absolutely anything and everything about you – the least of all being your physique, speed, or inferno-casting ability. No one will ever accuse Fable II’s denizens of keeping their opinion to themselves.
People will know if you’ve been an upstanding citizen, or if you were responsible for that slaughter in a neighboring village. And they’ll be sure to tell you about it. They’ll ask you to spruce yourself up if you’re wrapped in pauper’s rags, or gush over the magnificence of your magistrate robes. They’ll intuit if you’ve run into financial hard knocks, or if you’re sitting on a Scrooge McDuck pile of money. You’ll gain renown if you hold up trophies from your latest quest, or you’ll garner snickers if you run around in your underwear. Live the life of a do-gooder celebrity and you’ll find out what it’s like to have people fawn over you and follow you all over town. Live the life of a no-good villain and you’ll find out what it’s like to have people cower from you and sprint in the opposite direction if they see you coming.
But you operate on more than just a good and evil scale: Another slider deals with purity and corruption. The two are difficult to separate at first, but to illustrate: A corrupt landlord would raise a citizen’s rent, while an evil one might sacrifice the tenant at the Temple of Shadow.
That’s a bit cart-before-the-horse though. Let’s back up.
Fable II crochets a worthy tale of revenge (or compassion, depending on your bent) stemming around the nefarious Lucien. With your coming-of-age set during your childhood, Lucien takes something very dear from you although, as you’ll learn, it is similar to what was taken from him during his childhood. The parallels are drawn, and now it’s up to you to decide how you handle it. Lucien, though sharply-dressed and eloquently spoken, is a monster; a monster that seeks to extinguish the will of the people in order to impose his own law upon them. You, still, are capable of becoming much more: Either much more vile or much more noble. And while the final decision is life-changing for your character, the journey is lush and enduring.
Fable II’s full-bodied experience is far removed even from its own basic premise. Sure, it all begins innocently enough with a death in the family and a lifelong emotional scar. But as affecting as that singular death may be, you will bring death to many, many more before the final chapter is penned in your little tale. Surprisingly, the journal writings of your nemesis may very well prove to be an even more poignant collection of lamentations than your own. And your tale will weave through the lives, families, homes, cities, dungeons, and countryside drawn up by the best artists this side of Blizzard Entertainment.
There are craggy Oregon Coast-like beaches and cliffs, stands of pine indelibly tied to the rains and the high ground, scarecrow-patrolled rows of oak-dotted farmlands, and ruins steeped in watery shallows or perched on sun-blinding overlooks. The nooks and crannies carry the charm, while the daring vistas propel an unmistakable level of majesty.
Architecturally there are a stunning number of memorable locales: Brightly-colored gypsy camps, Lincoln Log hermitages backed into wild lands, tombstone-riddled roadways, places of ancient good and newly-cobbled evil, a multi-tiered arena carved out of a mountainside, and a castle fit for he who would be king.
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