Being good has never been so hard. Lionhead's follow-up to the Xbox action RPG Fable allows you to be the hero of your choosing, performing good or bad deeds, but at times the line is more than a little blurred. Fable II isn't quite the epic masterpiece we and others had hoped it would be, it's got more niggles and glitches than some will find acceptable, but it's also a brilliant game you'll talk about for months to come, comparing your experience with that of a friend, or even showing them your version of Albion in person.
Things begin, as you'd expect in a game about the life of a hero, with your character as a child. You have the option to play as a boy or a girl (we opted to play as a boy), and you're joined by your sister Rose. The next 30 minutes serves as an introduction to the game's story and controls, and acts as a way to demonstrate the decision making you'll have to do in the game. Every decision you make shapes your character, so be bad and you'll start to show it, even growing horns; be good and you'll have a saintly glow about you.
The game's main story revolves around the wicked Lord Lucien and a rather evil deed he performs at the end of the opening section. Mystic Theresa, your guide and narrator, points you in the direction of a magic spinning box, supposed to grant the owner a wish. Lord Lucien becomes aware that you were able to activate it, and calls you over to his magnificent castle.
We won't spoil what is a significant moment in the story, but it's enough to set the two of you on a path to meet again, and on rather unpleasant terms. Sadly your time as a child is over in a flash and you're soon playing as a grown man. We're sure Lionhead wanted to get gamers playing the meat and bones of the story as quickly as possible, but given that character development is so important it's a little surprising that ageing is handled so fleetingly. One moment you're a kid running about the streets and the next you're old enough to have a wife and kids.
A dog you meet in the game's intro goes on to become your best friend and your ever-present companion for the duration of the game. He serves numerous purposes that make him much more than your standard NPC. He acts as a guide of sorts (sniffing out treasure and places to dig), he'll warn you about what lies ahead (barking if enemies are nearby), he becomes a weapon in combat (he'll finish off downed enemies), villagers will think differently of you with him at your side, and he even tries his paw at being a key to a rather talkative door.
You might think that the dog is a gimmick and another of Peter Molyneux's over hyped features, but he's got this one right. After a few hours the dog will dominate all you do, whether it be wandering off the beaten track to find treasure or simply constantly looking around to see where he's gone. Moments where he lags behind suddenly become truly worrying, for fear that he's gone for good, and should an enemy dare to kick him you'll be sure that that's the last thing he ever does. Your interaction with him is fairly limited (he's a dog after all), but the bond is strong. If he's been hurt he'll whimper and limp, so you'll need to heal to him - something you'll do above all other actions in the game, no matter what's going on at the time.