What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this game is rated "Mature" for good reason. Along with the violence and blood (though nothing out of the ordinary or over-the-top for a role-playing game), players might see things like someone killing your spouse in front of your child, having sex with partners (though no nudity is in the game; the screen fades to black), gay and lesbian marriage, and sexual relations (where unprotected sex between people of the opposite sex causes pregnancy). Some foul language can be heard but nothing overly inappropriate.
What's it about?
With all the economic instability and political uncertainty around us these days, the timing couldn't be better for an open-world fantasy game where you can lose yourself in it for a few weeks. Microsoft Game Studios' ambitious FABLE II is now available for the Xbox 360, and while not a perfect role-playing game (RPG) it delivers a deep and detailed world for mature players.
As with its four year-old predecessor (which sold 3 million copies on the original Xbox), much of Fable II is about choices and consequences. At many times throughout the game, players will be faced with moral decisions that will help shape their character and his or her future interactions in this huge world of Albion. For example, early on in the game you're asked to deliver a love letter to a heartbroken woman. When you walk into her home, however, you're offered a gold piece by her nasty mother, who doesn't want her daughter seeing this man. You can take the money or run or walk upstairs to deliver the letter to its rightful recipient (she also gives you a coin for your trouble, by the way). A traumatic event concludes the first act, where you're still a child, and sets the tone for the majority of the game that takes place when you're an adult. (Don't worry, we're not giving away any juicy story elements here).
Is it any good?
While accepting missions and exploring the lands, players can do just about anything in this virtual world. Accompanied by your loyal dog (who can help sniff out treasure for you and ward off enemies) you can buy, sell, or rent out properties; take on jobs (providing an additional revenue stream); fight enemies and recruit others to aid in your cause; learn new skills and acquire better weapons and items; get married and have children, and so forth. While not available on the disc at launch, Xbox 360 owners can download a patch that offers the promised "co-op" multiplayer mode, so at any time you can jump into a friend's game and play along (and then bring the experience points and items back to your game).
While certainly a well-crafted quest, combat is too simplistic (whether you choose to specialize in melee, range, or magic abilities or fight with a combination of all three); the characters don't look nearly as good as the impressive environments and weather effects; and the map is horrible, so players will likely rely on the shimmery breadcrumb trail instead. Overall, though, Fable II is an enchanting fantasy with clever (and quite humorous) dialogue, expansive locations, and non-repetitive missions to suck you deep into this mature tale.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about whether games that ask players to make moral choices -- such as Fable II, BioShock and Mass Effect -- are a good way for gamers to learn by "role playing" through the dilemma. Is it healthy? Should games be entertainment or tap into some inner desires? Should a game that makes us feel uncomfortable at times -- as many books, TV shows and movies do -- be acceptable, as well?