Clearly, Fable II has to tell a story. Unfortunately, the designers are so intent on telling this story that everything else becomes secondary.
Fable II is the first game I finished after my vow to actually finish games I started playing. I thought it would be a good idea to write reviews of those games as well, as a way to analyse its strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengthening my own analytical eye.
Fable II is one of the games my brother left me when he gave me his Xbox 360. Since most games by Peter Molyneux are highly praised, I decided to give it a go. And indeed, the first impressions are marvellous. The world is lush and richly coloured. The game features a day-and-night cycle, resulting in breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. You clearly get the impression of a world of wonders, made for you to explore. This first impression is not entirely wrong; in fact, it is wise to keep remembering that later on.
Oh, Stacking. If only I could love you more. You seemed so promising, but yet ...
Okay, granted. I only played the demo, available on Xbox Live Arcade. Maybe that was not enough. Maybe I should play further, so I you could reveal more of your depth. But – do you possess it?
The concept of Stacking sounds brilliant at first. You are a little russian doll, a matryoshka. You are very small, just a child, so you can't do much else. But you can stack into other dolls. And while being in those dolls, you can control them. And, most importantly, use their specific abilities. This is the key point of the game. Every doll has a specific ability. Some drink tea. Some pass gas. Some shout. Some shake their booty. These are the tools you can use to solve puzzles.
The problem is ... it feels more like searching for the right key for your front door at 4 in the morning while drunk and without any light. There is exactly one key that will work. And it is somewhere in a flurry of other keys. This is how I felt when playing Stacking. Since you only know a doll's ability when having stacked into it, you spend most of your time stacking into other dolls, activating its ability and pondering its usefulness. The fact that you cannot just stack into any other doll, but only dolls of a specific size relative to your own does not help matters.
The designers tried to mitigate that fact by allowing several solutions for each riddle. It aspires to be like Scriblenauts, but falls short, because it is just not as free-form – the solutions are all pre-scripted.