Fable 2 Review

October 22, 2008

Since I've gotten my new laptop and it came with Windows Live Writer which is a fancy blog-a-ma-bob application, I've decided to try a post through it to see how it goes.

Fable 2 is pretty awesome. For once I don't think anyone is going to be disappointed in this title in the way the first game had a few let downs. The only real issues have been the crazy stuff that happened to the Collector's Edition and how it essentially got whittled down to nothing but a bit of downloadable content that even got screwed up this week.


Game Play

Fans of the first game will feel right at home with the sequel. The overhaul to the combat system was fantastically done. One of my gripes about the original Fable was that it was too difficult to use magic in combination with other melee or ranged skills. Fable 2 corrects that by making single button presses (X, Y, B) to handle melee, ranged, magic attacks. The combat is simple to use, but difficult to master. You can easily mash buttons and kill enemies, but there is a lot more involved if you want to pull off cool combo attacks using different types of attacks in combination with each other. You also are rewarded with experience bonuses when you show your prowess with combat.


As you can see from the video there are lots of ways to mix and match attacks and they all work very well and are pretty easy to get the hang of within a few minutes of your first couple of fights. There is also a "cool" factor when you kill an enemy with a single critical hit and the camera zooms in and shows you in bullet time the result of your kill. Also magical spell effects are really well done, they all are very impressive and sometimes I find it hard choosing which spell to use to kill enemies with because they are all lots of fun. So far I've been sticking to shock and fire which are great. Shock will stun enemies temporarily so you can use other attacks to finish them off.



So far the story isn't blowing me away, it's a pretty normal RPG-like plot, quickly sets you up with an antagonist and gives you a reason for not liking that person (they kill your sister). So you grow up and have a reason for vengeance and in addition to that, this bad guy is also trying to rebuild a mystical tower that was responsible for blowing up part of the world back after the first game takes place and so it's probably not a good idea. But really that is all well and good, there are so many Other things you can do in the game to occupy your time with, that you may end up only following the main quest when you get bored.


Other things to do in Albion

I'm hardly sure where to begin with this, there seems to be almost an unlimited amount of ways to entertain yourself within the world of Fable 2. Besides progressing along the main quest line, it's nice to stop a bit and take a look around to just explore the rich environments. The developers and the art direction paid a lot of attention to adding little details here and there in every area you encounter. Also the areas themselves are about 2-3 times as big as they were in the original Fable, that you can almost get swept away off exploring. I took a quick trip to explore the graveyard in Bowerstone and ended up spending 30 minutes looking at gravestones, and even finding a couple of secret treasure chests and on top of that noting some things I will most likely need to come back to later as the story progresses.


Here are just a few other possible things you can occupy yourself with:

  • attract members of the opposite or same sex
  • get married to someone, get divorced
  • purchase a house to live in or rent
  • redecorate the homes you own with different furniture
  • have some children
  • get fat, drunk, lazy
  • take up odd jobs to earn cash, blacksmith, woodcutter
  • play some pub games like keystone or fortune's tower
  • take up side quests for loot and experience
  • play fetch with your dog
  • roam the country side looking for chests and pools to dive in


Those are just a few of the many things I found so far, you can even earn money from the homes you rent out or businesses you purchase while not even playing.


Fable 2 Pub Games Integration

I noticed when I sat down with a game master to play a round of Keystone I had the option of merging with a patron from my Fable 2 Pub Games on Xbox Live. Since I hadn't played the games since they were patched and reset to fix the cheat in Fortune's Tower, I had 500,000 gold available at my disposal to have fun with. There were some consequences for my actions however, while my main alignment of good/evil didn't change, the bar underneath went far down into the "corrupt" level. But the good news is that it is still early in the game so plenty of time to undo the damage and salvage it back to the light. So all in all, there isn't much wrong with cheating in the pub games and then getting that loot in the real game. The pistol I got from the pub games is actually pretty nice. Haven't tried out the fancy bed yet.


Final Thoughts

Well if you haven't gone out and picked up a copy of this game, then do it now! There is really no way you can be disappointed with this game unless you absolutely hate action RPGs or don't even like dogs. I swear the first time your dog finds you some treasure you would have completely wandered by you will wish you had a virtual milk bone to give him.


Here is are some tips on making money in the game. I found the two for upgrading your dog's treasure hunting ability very useful. There is one note they don't mention in the video. You have to find the first book upgrade before your dog can sniff out the 2nd one. I had trouble finding the first book so I went after the 2nd (very easy to find the location) but the dog couldn't find the spot without the first upgrade.

Fable 2 is almost here!

October 20, 2008

Well just a few short hours more to go until I get my hands on a copy of Fable 2. Supposedly it will ship overnight through and the street date delivery garuntee. We'll see if they can live up to the promise.

A couple of things to note:

I have not patched my Fable 2 Pub Games so I'm wondering if I can still merge the hundreds of thousands of gold I have gotten through the cheat into a character in Fable 2. I'll let you know how that goes.

It also has been mentioned that we will be getting the multiplayer co-op patch tomorrow upon release which is great. Although from what I've heard, the single player experience is really well done and we wouldn't have missed the co-op anyways. Still it's good that it won't be missed from day one of the game's launch. It's a little more surprising that consoles are electing to pull the old PC release game tossing out patches on or just after release in order to make release dates.

XPlay has also reviewed the game today, getting a solid 5 out of 5 with only one small gripe about the cutscene animation. Looks like another must-have title for the Xbox 360. I know my Xbox blog has been complaining of me not spending much time with it, but now I'm sure I will be spending a lot of time in Fable for the next couple of weeks.

Update: Seems there are still troubles for the Limited Collector's edition. It's been reported that some of the copies that were distributed by one publisher did not include the cards that allowed access to the exclusive downloadable content. Supposedly the copies that have the orange LIVE sticker on the package do have the cards, so if you are going to purchase one, you may want to check the packaging. Microsoft has stated they are looking into the issue and expect to resolve it for customers by the 28th of Oct. As for me, I didn't bother with the collector's edition and after all the issues it's had, I'm really glad I didn't.

Dell Customer Service Sucks Big Floppy Donkey Dick

October 17, 2008

Never order anything from Dell period.

I've made a few purchases from Dell in the past, and everything worked out as expected. In the past the process was painless and items were recieved as expected.

Unfortunately, Dell now sucks.

Needing a new laptop, I decided to purchase a XPS 1530 system this week. I modified the base system to include a slightly better processor, better graphics card, the max ram the system would take, and also the larger faster hard drive. Then removed all of the extra junk they pack on in the customize section like the virus software and Microsoft Works.

The system ended up being around $1500. 

I logged onto their site today with a pleasant surprise that the order was shipping today and I would get it early next week, much sooner than anticipated. 

In my email, a special offer from Dell, in which I noticed that the system I just purchased may be on sale even more than it was at the earlier part of the week. Thinking it's probably a special build of the system they are offering at a cheaper price, I go ahead and customize it the same as the one I purchased on Monday.

Lo and behold, the price comes in at about $1300. Same system, 4 days later $200 cheaper.

At first I figured I probably missed something that would make my system a bit more expensive, so I compare my build out confirmation email with the one on the web page, and everything is the same. So I decide I would contact customer support to help out with this, I choose the chat method from the page.

I only need to wait a bout 2 minutes to get connected with someone, so far so good, but after explaining the issue, they tell me all I can do is call XSP Customer Support. I thank them and pick up the phone.

This is where things take a turn for the worse.

After navigating their voice menu to get to a human that can help me, I give the order number and verify shipping information and explain the issue about the lower price. I immediately get transfered to someone else who tells me there is nothing they can do about the price, and that the "prices change everyday".

I simply tell them that this is an unnacceptable level of customer service, and I should not be penalized for purchasing an item not 4 days earlier at a higher price. Furthermore, since my system is shipping today, the start of the sale, they should honor the lower price for me since this is when I am actually being charged. Still they explain to me that there is nothing they can do to the price once the order is placed.

Furious, I yell a few obscenities at them about how prepostorous this is and hang up. Drinking a shot of vodka, I calm down and then decide this is not over.

I call back, this time I don't get transfered and the idiot on the phone tells me the same thing as before, they can't credit me the difference in the price even though he agrees with me. I ask to speak to his manager to which he informs me that no one, not even the manager can change this policy. So I continue to speak with him, explaining similar circumstances with other companies always result in a way to make the buyer happy within a time frame of a new sale price on recently purchased items. Hell I used to do that sort of thing all the time when I was in retail. If you make a purchase on something within 30 days, there is a cheaper price, then bring in the receipt and we will refund the difference. Why not? Why punish the consumer for being a little early.

Even though this customer service rep still agrees with me, he won't connect me with the manager who is apparently busy with "3 other calls at the moment". I tell him this is not surprising considering how poorly they are handling this issue.

The rep then comes up with a brilliant plan. He tells me that while he doesn't want me to return the system that was shipped today, I could return it, get a refund, purchase another system today with the sales price and then everything would be fine.

I explain to him that I don't want to spend $3000 just to have $1500 refunded back to me so I can save $200, just credit me the difference and there is a lot less work involved for everyone, no reason to build 2 systems, just let me use the one I have not yet recieved and don't make me jump through all of these hoops to save a few bucks.

He remains steadfast that this is the only option I can proceed with. I ask yet again to speak with the manager who is now on "4 concurrent calls". 

I ask, what the hell kind of bullshit is this? You mean to tell me that if I purchased this system yesterday at $1500, there is no way you can today give me the $1300 price on the same system? The only way to make this work is to buy yet another system at the better price? 

He replies "Yes..."

After a few more obscenities, I hang up the phone. Why the hell do consumers get the shaft all of the time? How hard is it to help ensure that the customer is happy and will continue to return to the company for future purchases? While faced with an opportunity to make a customer for life, they have lost a customer for life instead.

The moral of the story, don't buy a Dell. "Dude you're getting the shaft!".

Been Busy

October 9, 2008

Whew! Been a busy past 10 days or so, haven't hardly had time to even update this blog at all. Just wanted to post a couple notable things that I've seen lately.

Fable II Co-op patch
It looks as if we will be getting the Co-op patch on or near release day for Fable II which is great. I was really worried that we wouldn't be getting it until a week or 2 later. I'm also a little more relieved by this news as maybe the game won't be lacking the polish I previously thought. It's going to be tough to play the game and forget all of the hype and look at it from a fresh perspective as it is, lots to live up to in this game.

Richard Garriot in Space
Sunday is the big day as Lord British himself will be making his way into space. You can watch live coverage of the launch and ISS docking events on TV if you care to stay up late enough. 2:00 am CST on Sunday is the launch and Tuesday at 3:00 am will have docking coverage. Maybe he'll play some Tabula Rasa from space? Maybe that will boost the failing MMO? Doubtful.

New Xbox Live Experience
It's finally been announced that we will get the new Xbox live experience on Nov. 19th. I'm looking forward to pretty much everything that it has to offer, the avatars are a bit meh and I will not be spending money on getting new "clothes" for it. Actually it might be fun to create the worst looking avatar on the system.

Creative Xdock iPod System
I recently purchased a Creative Xdock iPod system and reciever off and I have to say it is a pretty cool product. It ran $50 new on Woot, and usually retails for $90 or so getting a main dock and a reciever. Basically the product allows you to wirelessly stream music from one source ipod dock to any number of reciever docks in a 100ft range. It supports a digital out on the base station which I have plugged into my home theater and then the recievers can plug in to a speaker system via RCA or standard mini-jack. There is absolutely no delay in the music transmission and the included remotes work well. I was even able to program my universal remote to work with the system right out of the box which was pretty awesome. If you do any playing of your ipod on a home theater and want to also be able to pump it through your house, this is a great setup and well worth the $50 price if you can find it. The regular sales price is a bit up there, it's a good product, but you really need to be pretty hard up for the solution.

Palin email hacker to face up to 5 years
Man this kid was dumb. I knew this would happen as soon as they announced they were going to get the FBI and secret service involved in the investigation. The guy should have just keep access to the email a secret, done a thorough search for a while, archived anything incriminating and then unleashed his own version of an October surprise to smash the McCain/Palin campaign if that was truly his intent. If he had found anything really bad, people mainly would lose sight of the fact that he hacked the account and maybe even branded him a hero, or if jailed, a martyr. Either way he'd probably end up more famous instead of a soon to be forgotten felon.

More XNA 2.0 Development
I've been working a lot on learning the XNA development framework. So far I like it a lot, the objects are really great and always seem to have the properties I'm looking for in order to accomplish some kind of effect. I'm currently working hard at getting particle systems going and have a pretty good base particle system engine object. I will be trying to refine it a bit and then probably moving on to developing a pac-man game using the knowledge I have just to solidify everything I've learned so far. Back in college I had to write pac-man (then called Slackman) for homework in CSE 142 so all the game rules and everything is old hat. I do get to make it look much nicer with some high quality sprites though. Once I start developing my real game I will start a new blog dedicated to it's development, I'll need a name for it though and that may take the most time to come up with.

Dissapointing Fable 2 News

October 2, 2008

As the Fable 2 launch is fast approaching we are starting to hear some disturbing news about items not in the final version of the game that will be shipping on the 21st. 

The first of these is the online multi-player co-op mode will not be available when you put the game disc in your Xbox, but will be released (hopefully) that week as a patch. I'm pretty worried about this fact since in all of the most recent demos of the game since E3 have shown the multi-player working in the game. They've been touting it being so special and revolutionary, and now it looks as if the first "patch" that actually will add the feature may be a bit buggy. I've been worried that something like this would happen since the announcement of a patch that fixed the Pub Games cheat in Fortune's Tower, starting to make it seem like we may not get everything we were promised in Fable 2 right out of the box. I hope that whatever is lacking from the finished product is put into place asap after release.

Also the limited collector's edition has had some issues. It was just announced yesterday that due to supply issues, the collector's edition will no longer include a fancy tin, the printed "fate" cards, or the Hobbe figurine. To make up for this, they are knocking $10 off the price putting it at $70, but it hardly seems worth getting in the first place. I have been known to snag the collector's editions of some games because of the offerings of great extras. I have the Warcraft III collector's edition, World of Warcraft Collector's Edition, and the Burning Crusade Collector's Edition. Coincidentally, they are all from Blizzard, but Blizzard always does a good job of making them worth the extra money. The art books that came with them are just simply amazing, and worth the price alone. Suffice it to say, I didn't order the Fable 2 Collector's Edition and I'm glad I didn't. If anyone hasn't already done so, I'd change your pre-order to the regular version and save yourself another $10.

XNA Game Studio 2.0
Instead of just playing games, I've decided to try my hand at making games. I've always had a few good ideas for different types of games, but really didn't have the time to invest in all of the development. Besides being able to do the programming, there are lots of additional resources necessary for putting together a gaming experience. It can all be a very daunting task to start with, deciding what platform/language to develop in, look and feel of the experience, artwork & sounds to build.

While I have heard of the XNA Game Studio, I hadn't really taken too deep a look at it until recently. The XNA framework really does a good job of making some of the more tedious game development tasks easy. Handling resource based content loading pretty much all automatically and allowing you to take advantage of very rich classes that expose useful methods that work on either Xbox 360 or Windows platforms. In fact, one of it's greatest strengths is that you can develop a windows or 360 game and change the project to the other rather easily. You do need to take into account some coding differences with pre-compiler directives, but once you know which areas you need to watch out for, that is easy to accomplish.

I went ahead and got the Visual Stuido C# 2008 Express product and the XNA Creators Studio 2.0 (3.0 is currently in beta and also available) and picked up a couple of books to go along with the tutorials they offer online. The first book "Beginning XNA Game Programming From Novice to Professional" is a decent book but I do have some gripes about it. The title of the book is a little mis-leading. This really isn't a book for someone who considers themselves a novice. You need to have a good grasp of programming concepts and some background in C, C++, or C# or you will be quickly lost as you progress out of the first chapter. The code examples in the book are good, but also lack some important information and have some errors as well. They have corrected these issues in the online source code available for the book, but stuff like that can cause real headaches for someone who is a novice. For me, these mistakes of omission actually help me to learn, because it forces me to think ahead of what the book is telling me and decide if I have to do anything else on my own to make a sample project work, which in turn reinforces what I'm learning, but without having 8+ years of real-world programming experience in a variety of languages, I would be frustrated by the missing information in the book. Consider this a book for the intermediate/advanced developer and not for someone who doesn't know anything about programming.

The 2nd book I picked up, also by Apress, was "XNA 2.0 Game Programming Recipies: A problem-solution approach". This book is much better, but it also geared more towards someone who has already got some development experience with XNA. The problem/solution approach provides real world examples of things you need to accomplish for different game types and while I've only glanced through a few chapters so far, I find it to be a good no-nonsense type of approach.

So now all I need to do is solidfy my gaming concept and get cracking. Unfortunately this is the busiest time of the year for me work-wise which means I won't really be hard at development until sometime in November, but until then I'm open to any game design ideas any fledgling game developers out there have in mind.