Fable 2 - First Impressions

Been playing for a couple days straight now. Here's what I like and what I don't like. The things I like far outweigh the things I don't, but the things I don't like are major issues with the game. I thought they play tested these things? Sometimes I wonder....

What I Liked
  • The dog. The dog is seriously awesome. It finds treasure chests, silver keys, dig spots.... And it growls anytime an enemy is nearby. Plus it's freakin ADORABLE. I love my doggie!
  • Character customization. There really aren't a ton of different clothing options, but mixing and matching (with the addition of male and female versions of most things) creates some great outfits. The dye system (and there are a LOT of colors) adds a wonderful element of personal customization to the game, as everything can be dyed - clothes (with primary and secondary (like, fringe and hem) color options) and HAIR. Yeah, you can dye your hero's hair! Mine's blue. Plus if you're a girl (or feel like cross dressing) you can wear make up. Add to that tattoos, hair styles, beards, mustaches, etc. It's really great. You can even give your dog different collars. And you can upgrade the furniture in your houses.
  • You can play a male or a female! And the game reacts accordingly.
  • Tons of expressions. They really expanded on this. There's rude, scary, fun, flirty, social, and dog expressions (which are just for your dog). Plus your dog can learn tricks which correspond with some of your expressions.
  • SEX. You can have sex again. If you use a condom, you get purity points and stave off pregnancy and STDs. If not, the opposite happens. Plus the sex noises are a bit dirtier this time around. And you can have sex with pretty much anyone. People in the streets have sexual orientation (straight, lesbian/gay, bisexual) as well as sexual morals (loose or prudish; meaning prudes insist on marriage before they'll get it on with you).
  • Simple, quick combat. Remember in the last game where you had to switch out your weapons? Well this time around it's nearly instantaneous, as each weapon (melee, range, spell) has its own button, allowing you to switch quickly between them.
  • You can buy anything. Stalls, stores, houses...even if people already inhabit them. You don't even have to kill them! You just have to pay them extra, because you're evicting them. You also have control over the rent. You can upgrade furniture in a house to raise its price, and you can also manually lower or raise the rent amount. You collect rent during the daytime every 2 minutes (of real time). So while it's not a lot of money, it adds up nicely.
  • Jobs. There's a set of mini games that allow you to take on a job, get promotions, make decent cash. You can be a bar tender, chop wood, or be a blacksmith. There are also bounty hunting jobs, assassin jobs, slave trafficking. There's also the pub games.
  • Amusing dialog from random passerbys. From, ehm, sexually healthy men letting you know they just had some sea food, people commenting that you'd be prettier if you'd just dress up a little, to people running away screaming from spell use, and masses of people of the opposite gender begging for wedding rings.
  • No mana bar. Less potions to keep track of, less potions to use, unlimited spell usage. Fantastic!
  • The quest trail. It's a yellow line on the ground that leads you straight to a quest's origin (and subsequent sections). You can set it for ANY quest, to lead you to story quests, store sales, jobs, spouses. It's extremely useful, especially since the game lacks an over head map.
What I Didn't Like
  • The dog. It's a little glitchy. He froze on me in the very first dungeon. He also tends to get stuck behind trees, fences, people, corners. Most of the time he's running right along side you though. One thing I didn't like about the dog is that since it changes with your character (if you're good, the dog is beloved by all), people will stop to pet him. The dog will stop in the middle of the street and wait while someone approaches to pet him. So you either run off without him for a bit, or wait until they're done. Otherwise, he's incredibly useful and incredibly cute.
  • The character is a little sluggish. Which you should remember from the first game as well. It's the same issue. They turn slowly, their movements aren't sharp. The upside is the combat refinement, which is faster; although the spells are a bit slower.
  • There's no overhead map! This is my biggest and most prolific complaint. You'll remember from the first game that there was a small map in the top corner that showed you where your spouse was in the area, marked stores and merchants, demon doors and monsters, area entrances. Well, it's gone. There's not even a compass to tell you what direction you're going. It's very frustrating, because the world this time is much larger and more free roaming. You can access a region map from the menu, but it doesn't really show much on there. And the obvious problem there is you have to stop playing and access the menu screen to see it. This also makes the strategy guide pretty much useless. It has maps where dig spots (etc) are marked, but...what good does that do if I don't know where I am?
  • Online co-op. Maybe they should have delayed it after all. It's...interesting, but I wouldn't want to play the whole game that way...or much of it at all, to be honest. It's very awkward. Neither player can manipulate their camera, which doesn't really make sense. You share one camera and essentially one screen...even though you're not using the same TV. Your henchmen, as the extra player is called, can interract with your citizens, but cannot shop from any of your stores or...really do much at all except expressions and combat. I'm a little confused as to why MY character cannot go into someone else's game, though I'm sure it's for simplicity's sake. You choose a pre-made generic henchman character - neutral, good or evil male or female - and then pick a set of weapons you wish you use (based on your level). You have access to your spells and abilities, and things like potions I think, but nothing else. You split experience and money between you. If you had control over your own camera I'd be more inclined to use this feature, but it's rather annoying.
  • Bonus DLC for the collector's edition. Congratulations! You paid 10 extra bucks for some Halo Spartan armor (most of which looks fine, except the helmet; btw, make sure you're not wearing any of it at the end of the game, because it will probably cause a crash), an energy sword which becomes obsolete almost immediately (even the "championship" weapons from the pub games are pretty weak), and a dungeon I haven't even seen yet. So unless the extra dungeon is just fantastic (2-week-later edit; it was meh. Mostly hollow man killing and some weapon which I never used because you can't access the dungeon until Bloodstone, which is the last city near the end of the story), I gotta say, the extra 10 dollars isn't really worth it. I miss my nonexistent Hobbe figurine.
  • Inventory management. I should clarify. The game lets you purchase multiple copies of items that it didn't in the first (like clothes). However when you go into shops, it doesn't inform you of how many copies of any item you currently have in your inventory. It leads to a lot of accidental repeat buys of books and things. Expression books can only be used once (and disappear if you try to use them again) and dyes do not disappear after use so you can keep coloring things to your heart's content. I'd really like it if I knew I already owned a particular dye so I didn't waste money on buying it again. Your personal inventory screen in the menu works fine, though it would be helpful if there were a couple more additional layers (like separate drink and edible foods under the food label). I also really miss the ability to access my inventory from the d-pad panel (which used to and still does perform specific expressions), and being able to customize this wheel.
  • Enemies don't drop items. They don't drop money, food or potions like they did before. Wandering merchants are a bit more abundant, and you can teleport to any place in the game whenever you want (as long as you've been there before), so shopping is easy. But I miss not having to invest loads of money in healing items.
  • Single Save File. This is both a blessing and a curse. By giving each hero a single save file, the game makes your decisions final and the consequences real. If you made the wrong decision and got a bad result, there's no reloading to try again. The game auto saves at the end of every quest (and other places). Unfortunately this means that instead of making the player FEEL like they made a real decision with a real consequence, it's forced on you through the save function. But it's biggest downside is simply that you only get one save file per hero. The game is full of bugs and glitches (some of them game ending), and if you run into one, well, too bad for you. You can't reload a back-up save and try it again. Which is horrible if your save file gets corrupted; wow, sucks to be you, man. It is a healthy gaming habit to create multiple save files, not for the purpose of cheating the system or whatever (though you can use it for that too of course), but so that you have a backup in case something happens to the file or the game. It's "healthy" because when these things happen, the anger and frustration it produces is not at all good for your body. Or likely your game system, controller, or game disc. :)
Bottom Line
The game is fun. There's a ton of stuff to do and lots to explore. It's what the first game should have been. So more than just a sequel, it's like Fable x 100. But, it IS a sequel. It takes place 500 years after the first game's story. Bowerstone is there, but it's completely different. There's a town called Oakfield, which I suspect was built over Oakdale. Your guide in the world is oddly suspicious, though (so far) it's not spelled out if she is who she appears to be (she'd be ridiculously old by now). There are books and items in the game that make reference to events from the previous game, and your character is supposed to be a descendant of the Hero (if I understood correctly). The guild is gone (remember, it burned down in the last game and everyone was killed), which has streamlined the game a bit. You can level up your abilities anywhere and anytime, and quests appear automatically in your menu instead of having to report back to a base to pick them up.
The graphics are better. It still has a cartoonish look to it, but there's a lot more detail, and the cut scenes have gotten a nice upgrade. The music is familiar but unobtrusive, though to be honest some of the sounds are a bit unbalanced (even after adjustment). The dog is a bit hard to hear sometimes.
But it's worth playing, and it's worth buying (though I'd forgo the LE unless you just really want to look like Master Chief...particularly since not all copies of the LE had the included DLC code cards, and it will be at least a week before there's a resolution to the problem). Don't bother playing online though unless you want to show off your Hero or homes or something, or you just want to randomly kill some bandits or something with a friend. It might also be useful if your partner is of a much higher level and you're having problems with an area; but overall it's not very well implemented. The full game though, is well done, and plays well, and it's entertaining. And in the end. what makes a game is if it's entertaining; if its positives far outweigh and overshadow its (relatively few) downfalls. And Fable 2 does that. It can be as short or as long as you want. Molyneux himself said it lasts around 15 hours. I've clocked in close to that already, and I'm far from being finished with the story or the game.