Review | 10/27/2008 at 9:00 PM

Fable 2 Co-Op Review

Peter Molyneux is famous for a lot of things.  He was part of one of the most popular PC Gaming companies of all time in Bullfrog.  He's had a hand in designing some of the most original games to date like Populous, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, Black and White, Magic Carpet, and of course Fable.  Every game Peter creates is more ambitious than the previous, and with Fable 2 this was no exception.  In fact, when it was announced the game would have a cooperative mode, I knew it would be something new and fresh and different.  And while Peter may have delivered on some of his promises, the co-op mode misses out in a ton of areas that we've come to expect as a standard feature in cooperative gaming.

I'll preface the rest of this review by saying the following.  Fable 2 is an AMAZING game from start to finish.  Whether you complete that journey with a friend or solo, it doesn't change the fact that there's a very deep experience here.  That being said, co-op appears to be more of a hindrance than a benefit. 

The great part about Fable 2's co-op is it's completely drop-in/drop-out.  This goes for both online and offline.  Your buddy simply needs to pick up a controller and press the start button and away you go.  From there the host player can decide how to split gold and experience with his partner, and the co-op partner can big from a bunch of preset characters for his player.  Which brings us to our first problem, the co-op player has no vested interest in his character by jumping into a game with someone else.  Sure your gold and experience will transfer back to your single player character, but you don't get the luxury of items, customizations or any of the like.  Let's face it, one of the coolest aspects of online play is showing off your loot and cool character, and having only one player able to do this is just plain silly. 

So off you'll go adventuring through the gorgeous world of Albion together, completing quests - and hacking and slashing your way through monsters.  Your co-op henchman's magic and skills will be brought up to par with the host player; which is a good thing - you'll stand a fighting chance.  It's also nice to even see the earnings the host player gets from his economic investments in houses and such split with the co-op buddy.  But when the host goes to spend this gold, we hit the next problem. 

You see, whenever the main character is in a shop or a menu, the guest simply sees a screen that says "Player 1 has Paused the Game."   You've got to be kidding me.  So yeah, Player 2 is stuck there staring at that screen while his buddy is deciding on whether or not to get the lavender or forest green fluffy pants.  They could have at least let you watch the menu screens the player is cycling through.

The last nagging issue is the camera.  Players are bound to each other by the same screen in both local and online co-op.  There's no free camera control while in co-op either, instead the left bumper is used to recenter the camera behind the main player.  Numerous times you'll find players getting stuck in the environment because the characters are too far apart.  LuckilyLionhead implemented a warp henchman button, you'll become quite familiar with it.

Ok, it's not all bad.  Really it's not.  It's just we all had such high hopes for Fable 2's co-op mode.  We were promised an experience that would "change the way we play co-op."  And it's there.  Sort of. 

Lets talks about the orbs.  While playing Fable 2 you'll see these orbs floating around the game world; these orbs represent your friends currently playing the game.  You'll be lolly gagging aroundBowerstone, showing off your hero muscles and all of the sudden someone will call your name.  Not your in game title, no, your gamertag .  These orbs allow you to chat in real time in proximity to each other.  It's an absolutely wonderful feature that I hope more and more games adopt.  So not only can you see stats on your friends, send your friends items, or join their game as a henchman through the orbs - but you can easily and uninhibitedly chat with them.  I've even seen this breed a new form of co-op play. 

I'll explain.

One of my friends was looking to do a quest, but did not know where to go.  He had mentioned that he was off to go to a certain place, but did not know where to go.  Another one of my friends has just come from there and said - "I'll show you, follow my orb."  And off they went.  Like I said before, I hope to see this feature implemented in more games in the future.

Despite the flaws in co-op, Fable 2 is still a lot of fun to play with your friends.  I even got my wife involved and she's perfectly happy with what's presented and available to her.  She doesn't even realize what she is missing from the experience, and you know what?  That's OK.  If you are looking for a deep experience, the Fable 2 co-op willdisappoint .  As a henchman there's very little vested interest in going along for the ride.  As the host, you are forced to deal with an unfriendly camera.  But if you just want some mindless fun, the co-op should hold your interest for a bit.