Peter Molyneux really needs to stop talking.
He seems to have this habit of talking so much, and so grandly, about his games that by the time the thing finally comes out, you’re pretty much expecting the next best thing in open-world game play since Oblivion. And, unfortunately, the end product does not always seem to live up to his vast, possible unachievable, promises.
Don’t get me wrong, Fable 2 is a fantastic game, in its own way; starting off as a somewhat scrawny young hero, sent off on a quest to save the world from a despot that killed your beloved sibling, (seriously, how can one top ‘revenge fallen family member?’) you will encounter many a foe in your travels. Learning new skills, and growing in strength, you will eventually become a tall, heavily muscled doomsday demon… or maybe a really overweight, cheerful brawler… maybe a tall, dark and handsome stranger with a rapier.
The point is, by the time your character has developed, following your stratagem in battle and in social interactions with the villagers, he’s become a representation of the course his life has taken. Bountiful selections of clothing, hair and facial hair styles allow further customizations, as does face or body tattoos.
The battles are crisp and quick, with some strategy in each conflict. With ranged bows and guns, melee swords or hammers, and a satisfying system of magic, you will soon be capable of mowing your way through your enemies, sending them flying in all directions with a swing of your axe or a fire from your blunderbuss. The economic system is also designed to allow you to own and rent out property, which means that if you play your cards right you can eventually become very wealthy, a wealth earned by more than just hitting something with a sword.
The story is quite enjoyable, with fair voice acting (one of the characters is voiced by a Firefly alumnus, which caused me no small amount of joy,) and there are a few side-quests to keep you occupied in between the main story plot. As the game takes place in two distinctive time frames, (three if you count the tutorial/introductory sequence,) the decisions you make and the quests you choose to fulfill will influence the world you’ll find upon your return.
Many side activities, such as the quasi-frustrating hunts for the stone gargoyle heads that joyfully hurl insults your way, getting past the Demon Doors you encounter on your travels, and finding people to be sacrificed in a variety of interesting methods, (anywhere from impalement to sex change,) will further expand the amount of time you can spend on this game. Some of the smaller quests are tied to pieces of property, and as such you won’t be able to complete the quest until you actually own said property.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the problem; it’s not really open-world. At least, not as much as the hype might have led some to believe.
The game advertises that you can go off the path to explore. This is great, except when you do leave the path, most of your journeys will take you to an impassable stone ledge or natural wall that you can’t actually get by. Occasionally you might find a cave with a Silver Key, (another ancillary activity,) or some interesting piece of random architecture, but for the most part it’s not quite as expansive as one could hope. Some of the areas are downright linear, with only ten or fifteen feet of clear space surrounding one narrow path.
This game is still worth purchasing, though; the qualities it does possess are more than enough to redeem Molyneux’s over-exaggerations. If you’re expecting Elder Scrolls V, however, this may not be the game you’re looking for.