Fable II Retrospective

Kotaku UK has republished a recent EDGE retrospective that focuses on Fable II, the sequel to Lionhead's first RPG and arguably their most famous and well-received title. The writer at EDGE doesn't disagree, going as far as calling it "Lionhead's finest game." A snippet:

Albion more specifically, Fable II's Albion is almost certainly Lionhead Studios' greatest achievement. The original Fable established a pleasantly leafy, pastoral setting, but it was comparatively flat and benign. Fable III's vision of an industrialised Albion, meanwhile, gave us the grime but not the greenery; a world reluctantly caught up in the middle of a revolution without being quite ready for it. The in-game history books suggest a world in almost constant tumult, but in Fable II we find it enjoying a rare spell of peace, the calm before a gathering storm.

Not everything there is entirely green and pleasant, of course. There are plenty of Hobbes, Hollow Men and Balverines, and also moments of genuine tragedy the haunting, mist-shrouded Wraithmarsh induces shivers rooted in sadness but in the main there's an undeniably appealingly upbeat, convivial atmosphere. Unless you're behaving very badly, there's usually someone happy to see you. And if not, well, at least they're visibly and audibly aware of your presence.

Much has been written about the absence of most orthodox methods of punishment in Fable II, in particular the removal of death for player characters. Yet as convenient as it is not to return to distant checkpoints, nor to witness a boss you'd almost vanquished re-emerge with a dishearteningly full health bar, this is perhaps the least interesting way Lionhead chooses to empower you. Albion is a reactive world, one that yields to your presence in ways small and large environments change according to the choices you make, and people change, too. In most games, you'll recognise the impact of significant decisions, but in Fable II this happens on a moment-to-moment basis, with the slightest shifts in your physique and stature affecting how the populace responds to you. Fate's designs may have cast you as the Chosen One, but it's a chastening moment when your behaviour on the road causes townsfolk to greet you with a cheery (Hello, Knobhead!)