Welcome to In Retrospect, a weekly segment in which I will be jumping into older titles, some that I’ve played before and some that I’ll be experiencing for the first time. But no matter what, it’ll all be a good time, so come have a read!
To celebrate the start of what I think is an exciting weekly feature (I get to play some golden oldies, what’s not to love?), I’m revisiting the wacky world of Albion in Fable 2. This is a special one for me, as it’s actually the first Xbox 360 game I ever played! Before this, I was Pokemon crazy (nothing’s changed really), but I remember going to a friend’s house and watching him play Fable 2 and begging for a go. I played the game myself not long after and now it’s an absolute classic of mine. And what better time to revisit it than now, a few days after Fable was announced to be coming back for the Xbox Series X!
So join me, The Games Freak, as I take a stroll down memory lane and look, in retrospect, at the crazy world of Fable 2.
‘Childhood’ is the game tutorial, briefly introducing you to various in-game mechanics such as combat, quests and, of course, choice and consequence. It wouldn’t be Fable without the ability to shape the world through your actions, and this game realises developer Lionhead Studios vision much better than the original Fable, AKA Project Ego (the name it was given in development because of Peter Molyneux’s habit of over-promising).
Whilst wandering the streets of Old Bowerstone looking for 5 measly gold coints to kickstart the main quest, the player character ‘Sparrow’ is faced with many choices: kill some bugs for a merchant, or just completely destroy his stock to help the local thugs instead; help a woman make her alcoholic husband go sober, or reunite the man with his missing booze. I have something of a Hero’s Complex, I always like to play the good guy in these games, but for a change I’m going to be evil, with the dream of sitting on the throne of Fairfax Castle myself, enacting a reign of tyranny upon the people of Albion. Admittedly, this tutorial section doesn’t do a great job of showcasing the consequences your actions have, but it’s a quick section to get through and before long I’ve managed to scrounge up some gold to buy the music box and make a wish. This kicks off the main quest, leading to an invitation to the nearby Fairfax Castle. The Lord invites you in, but upon realising your heroic ancestry he kills your sister and shoots you, sending poor Sparrow flying through a window (good thing he’s got hero’s blood!).
Theresa, a mysterious blind lady who believes in magic, saves our hero and raises him in a gypsy camp near Bower Lake. After ten years, Theresa decides the time is right to avenge your sister’s death, and she orders you to meet her in Bowerstone Market. Upon arriving there, I am told to enter I must deal with the local thieves. Time to establish myself as the true Bandit King around these parts I think as I wander over to the nearby bandit camp. Thag the Impatient and his crew aren’t a tough fight. Combat never is tough in Fable 2, which is one aspect the game does become repetitive. Fighting usually comes down to mashing one of either B, X or Y, with no real skill involved. They could have had a system like Assassin’s Creed, with parrying and defense crucial to not getting overwhelmed. New abilities don’t make you more capable as a hero. Instead, they just let you finish your enemies that little bit quicker, as there’s never a doubt you’ll win.
Regardless, I triumphantly return to Bowerstone to continue my journey. Consequences finally become apparent as you explore the city ten years after you were last here. Young children come running up to you, asking for your autograph since you killed the fearsome bandit Thag. Holding his head out for all to see as a trophy of your victory, the townspeople will thank you for your service with applause. Continue to befriend the people of Bowerstone and shops will you charge you less for goods, people will give you gifts and homeowners will give you reductions if you want to buy their property.
Theresa contacts the hero about a delay and asks you to wait for her near the clock tower. I quickly get to work and in true Fable fashion within five minutes I became a professional blacksmith, did a bit of flirting and got engaged – and 20 minutes later my hero was married with a baby boy! The townspeople cheered and congratulated my hero, and it felt great!
The world of Albion is full of quirky characters, each one a loose cannon of cheeky double entendres that never fail to make me laugh. They really make Bowerstone feel alive, with each person having a home, a family and even a favourite place to go in the world. Some of them have jobs working on the market stalls, others in shops or serving drinks at the local inn. Relationships, good and bad, can be developed with every character, and they remember whether you were nice to them or not. Fable 2 does a great job of making the world feel bustling with activity, and earn enough renown and you’ll be at the centre of it all, being cheered on like I was. It’s a crazy world, but it’s so funny and weirdly immersive.
Theresa informs me of another hero in the local town of Oakfield, and so I set off on my quest to find her, taking the path through Old Bowerstone where I come across the gang I helped as a child, who are now running the place! They remember me and let me know they’ve always got work if I need it, and with a baby to support and no gold in my pockets I’m open to anything! Mister Blank greets me in a dark alleyway, hands me a scroll and tells me to come back once I’ve finished the job. The scroll tells me to go to the gypsy camp I was raised in and kill one of the women, Anne. Off I pop, and one slaughtered gypsy camp later I return and get my whopping 900 gold. Easy peasy. I leave the Old Town in my dust and get on the road to Rookridge. I arrive to the screams of a merchant who has been attacked by bandits – well that just won’t do I think to myself, I’m the only bandit around here. I’ll show the bandits who’s really in charge of the place!
After a few small skirmishes, they have me beat. Oakfield is across a small bridge, but those pesky bandits have destroyed it, forcing me to jump into the river below and take another path through a nearby cave. Walking towards the entrance I meet a man whose son was taken by foul creatures inside which he calls Hobbes. We enter the cave and search for the boy, but we were too late as the boy has been turned into one of the monstrosities himself! I make quick work of this one, but Hobbes are all over the sprawling cavern, and with the man gone I need to fight my way through the caverns and find my way out. I work my way through the cavernous walkways, sending the Hobbes plummeting to their deaths. As I leave, I see the bandits who destroyed the bridge and teach them a lesson, letting loose some fireballs and crossbow bolts to send them flying into the river – have fun in the cave lads!
Oakfield is a vast, lush environment, filled with greenery and cottage houses, accompanied by a soothing theme and the sound of tweeting birds. It’s a very peaceful village… only thing is they have a bit of a problem with these bandits too! The monks ask me to become more well known before they’ll offer me the chance to continue my quest, and I have a personal mission too – I want to be the most powerful bandit in Albion! So, I go find Dash, the bandit leader, to kill two birds with one stone! I move through the Rookridge area, slaughtering bandits left and right, forcing Dash, their leader, into a corner where I finish him off with one crossbow bolt to the head, and establishing myself as the only bandit in town!
In retrospect, Fable 2 is every bit as fun as I remember, and what it lacks in combat depth it more than makes up for with it’s great sense of humour and vibrant world packed full of fun activities! That’s where I’m going to leave my adventures in Albion this time, but there’s plenty more to discover, so whether you’ve played it before or not, go lose yourself into the world of Fable 2 – you won’t regret it!
What did you think of my first In Retrospect segment? Let me know in the comments below, or over on my social media accounts, and suggest some games you think I should do in the future whilst you’re at it! You can look forward to another In Retrospect segment next Sunday!