Should I put in spoilers? Ahh who cares... I'll keep em out for now.
So, again, Fable 2. If you don't feel like reading a full review then here is my summary. It's Fable 1 with a terrible magic system and guns. That's pretty much it.
Oh! and a dog.
The combat feels all the same with, perhaps, a greater emphasis on ranged weapons than Fable 1. As far as magic goes... meh... I want to get my gripe out of the way quickly so I can focus on the more positive aspects of the game so I shall now address the issue of the magic system.
I very much approve of eliminating mana/magic points/whatever from games but the "stand-there-and-charge-up-your-spell-and-then-take-3-seconds-more-to-cast-it" system felt out of place in the fast paced combat of Fable 2, especially in the presence of enemies that took advantage of the much improved ranged fighting system. I tried to compensate for this by focusing primarily on the time control magic (bias from Fable 1) but that feels a bit like being painted into a corner in order to cast other level 4 or 5 spells. However, having level 5 shock charged up and ready to go as mobs of undead surround you provides a feeling of indescribable satisfaction. The problem with this, again, is that during fights with tougher enemies you simply do not have time to charge your spells to such a level that they will significantly affect the outcome of the fight. Using time control to slow things down is all well and good but the extra time this frees up is often better spent rattling off headshots or chain attacks/flourishes than charging up another spell. Perhaps my opinion of this will change if I perform another playthrough with a more magic oriented character, but I don't hold out much hope.
The inclusion of rifles, pistols and crossbows (I honestly cannot recall if crossbows were in Fable 1, although I believe they were... in which case throw in repeating crossbows instead) was very much welcome although sometimes I missed some good old fashioned bow and arrow action. Many of the great times I had playing Fable 2 consisted of using a pistol to decapitate hordes of bandits as they charged at me in a rage most impotent and watching the last bandit come to the realization that he was well and truly fucked. The progression of the Skill branch fit perfectly into a steadily increasing curve of enjoyment. Gaining the ability to lock on to targets for improved damage, then the ability to zoom in on those targets, and finally the ability to aim at specific limbs made perfect sense in terms of progression and kept the ranged combat from getting boring too quickly. Combined with the wider range of weapons available for ranged combat you will keep coming back for more and more of those tasty yellow orbs.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM AND TAKE YA MUHNAY
Melee combat I didn't experiment with to such a great degree because upon picking up the controls for the first time it felt immediately like Fable 1. I'm not sure I agree with the decision to make flourishes (heavy attacks) an upper level skill and then also mapping it to the X button (which also handles regular attacks AND blocking) as I did experience some problems with that during game play... It's too much for one little button to do and caused issues with me thinking I was charging up a flourish and really was only blocking and other times when I wanted to do a regular attack and ended up starting to block and then starting to attack only to interrupt myself with more attempts at blocking. While frustrating, these issues were rare enough to not seriously impede my enjoyment of the game, but there was another issue with knocking enemies down that did grate on my nerves a bit. From time to time your hero decides that instead of hacking an enemy into tiny little bits it would be a fantastic idea to instead kick him in the shin or shoulder him into the nearest wall, causing him to slouch to the ground where, especially in the middle of a fight, he is practically invincible. This is due to the fact that the coup de grace maneuver requires a disgusting level of precision to pull off in the middle of a group of enemies and even when it's a 1 on 1 fight it can prove a tricky procedure. Often times your hero will futilely slash the air directly above your prostrate foe as if daring him to stand up and take more punishment. When fighting in narrow passages it is not unheard of to knock down every enemy you are fighting with these annoyingly common shoves and have it break up the rhythm of an otherwise good fight.
The questing system in Fable 2 saw a lot of work and as a result was much improved over that of Fable 1. There was actually stuff to do besides the main quest! Such a relief. It was fun becoming a master blacksmith and earning a good chunk of change at the same time. Buying up taverns and other assorted shops around the many towns gave purpose to your piles of gold and provided an opportunity to show your true alignment by either raising or lowering the prices in those shops. You can even invest in real estate as well as flip houses, as ridiculous as that sounds. Buy cheap houses in the slummier towns and fill them with luxury furniture and then sell the whole thing for a profit... or raise the rent to squeeze all the gold you can from the tenants. Indeed, the economy of Fable 2 is a fascinating beast, affected by the quests you perform in the vicinity of the town as well as factors I assume to be out of your control, it provides a worthy distraction from grinding out quests killing hobbes and balverines yet rewards you for doing those quests at the same time. I'm not sure what the deal was with the clothing but I felt like I should have had more choices for outfits... The vast majority of what I saw consisted of bandit/highwayman gear which got somewhat boring after a while... although after finding an assassin's coat my character looked like an awesome pirate (complete with single shot pistol and cutlass) so I can't complain too much.
Mine looked cooler
The excitement of blacksmithing
All in all I consider Fable 2 to be a great game. Should you get it? Fuck if I know. You want a number/letter grade? Well fuck you. I hate math and grades. Play it your damn self. Or be like my roommate and wake up ridiculously early to play it before I'm awake playing Fallout 3. That way you can get your fix and see if it's worthy of your dollars. I wont say you must own Fable 2 the way I say you must own Oblivion (at least in those early days of the 360 which saw so few worthy releases) but keep in mind that it does come with my recommendation.
I would also like to point out that it is indeed Friday and I do not have my headphones. What the fuck. Although they'll probably be here by the time I wake up and my initial prediction was that it would take until Saturday for this situation to resolve... I will still be pissed