Fable 2 Preview - 04/07/2008

Ever heard the fable about the Molyneux who cried wolf?

There was once a young developer named Peter Molyneux who loved to tell porkies. One day, the scamp decided to stir up mischief with a special announcement. ‘Come quickly, come quickly’ he cried ‘there’s an upcoming game called Fable where you can go anywhere and do absolutely anything. There’s even real-time tree aging!’ The people bought the game in droves, expecting the best RPG ever made, but alas, in place of Molyneux’s outlandish promises all they found was a mildly entertaining Xbox game.

Years later, the developer’s cries again caught the attention of game fans. ‘Fable 2 is coming in the Autumn of ‘08, and this time you can become ultimate ruler of Albion – all in co-op!’ Again, boys and girls across the land rushed to their newsagents and computers, eager to find information on the magical adventure. Again, all they saw in the screenshots released were a few uninspired characters in familiar settings. However, the fable about the Molyneux who cried wolf has not yet ended, and there is still time to change its moral message from one about a developer who loved to disappoint people by heralding the false dawn of another mediocre western RPG to one about the greatest game that was ever forged.

The graphics look great – this is a completely original art style.

For those of you who want a more contemporary summation of the legacy of the Lionhead game factory, here goes: in 2001, the release of Black and White, a game where players control the disembodied hand of God and chose to either destroy or protect various villages, struck a chord with gamers everywhere and proved that putting the player at the exact centre of the game world was actually a pretty good idea. Cut to 2004 and Fable, which gave players the avatar of a humble village squire rather than God’s almighty limb, found giving the the same depth and customisation as Black and White a mammoth task. Molyneux, with his over-enthusiastic bigging-up of features that were A) not actually included in the final build of the game or B) rubbish, ultimately proved he’s a different variety of developer; one who’s passion actually lies in making games and not money. Plus, he’s shown himself an excitable little chap, but maybe this time his excitement is warranted. It’s not every day a man with the resources of an emperor and the enthusiasm of a 12-year old gets to play with the power of the 360...

Controversy surrounding the failed realisation of Molyneux’s ambition on the original Xbox ultimately boiled down to the machine’s limited power. However, less blood-thirsty fans could be inclined to let the development team, Lionhead, off the hook. After all, George Lucas had to release numerous enhanced editions of Star Wars to include ‘all the stuff that wasn’t possible before’, and with expansive games such as Oblivion and GTA IV, the Xbox 360 has proved capable of rendering fantastic and inspired landscapes that just weren’t possible on the before. Don’t fret though; Lionhead won’t be milking the Fable 2 cash cow by squeezing out special edition, secret-ending DVD after DVD (not yet anyway). Rather, the features they’ve revealed so far actually make Fable 2 look worthy of the next gen tag. Take that, revised ending of Return of the Jedi featuring Anakin Skywalker’s ghost dancing.

Pure escapism!

Fable 2 has moved on a bit from the original, 500-years in fact, and although the story hasn’t been revealed yet, almost everything else has (or so we think!). Perhaps the most significant next-gen feature is the co-op system (all the cool kids are doing it), and here it’s the equivalent of eating Chinese noodles with a knife and fork - while the RPG is a Japanese invention, the recent trend of co-op in titles such as Army of Two, Gears of War and Halo have proved popular with western audiences. Drop in/drop out co-op is standard (just be sure to trust your buddy before you let them in as it is possible for them to slaughter everyone you hold dear) as is the Rainbow 6-coined ‘constant player progression’. In other words, whether you’re playing on your or your mates saved file, the gold that you earn and the creatures you slay will count towards your own personal Fable 2 experience.

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