A number of staff at Lionhead Studios were notified Wednesday of upcoming redundancies, following an announcement on October 16 that Microsoft would be downsizing the studio by ten percent.
Microsoft explained that the reduction in workforce at the Guildford-based studio is a “common” practice, occurring when a project comes to an end. Lionhead Studios recently completed work on Fable: The Journey, which has struggled to excite at retail.
Peter Molyneux, the creative mind behind the Fable series, has spilt the beans on his decision to step down from his positions at Lionhead Studios and Microsoft.
Molyneux founded Lionhead Studios in 1997, the studio was later purchased by Microsoft Game Studios in 2006.
He announced in March that he was to step down after completing the latest in the Fable series to set up his newest developer called 22 Cans, with former Lionhead Studios CTO Tim Rance.
Often the turnaround for gaming sequels is all too quick, in the time it’s taken to complete the first title the second has been announced. It’s welcome then that Fable 2 has taken it’s sweet time, the original was a breath of fresh air for the role playing game genre, it followed the life of an individual and their subsequent decision to follow a good or evil path. But will the wait turn people from the newest instalment or will it turn out that the old phrase it true? Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
It’s been a while since a title has put cinematic to such good use, the sequence that opens Fable 2 is impressive to the point it almost resembles film standards, even the bird poo that lands on our possible hero’s shoulder is remarkable. Pair that with likewise impressive orchestral music it makes for quite an introduction.
The training portion at the beginning sums up Fables premise, in which the games central character, a male or female street urchin depending on your choice at the beginning, carries out tasks set to him (or her). However there is a twist, each task has two outcomes either good or evil and the choice made has an outcome on the character and how the people around react to him. Make the moral choice and the character earns positive points turning him into a hero, make immoral decisions and negative points are earned transforming the once urchin into a villain who the townsfolk dread. This time around though our protagonist is accompanied by a canine companion throughout who will assist in finding treasures, secrets and alternative quest routes, which can prove to be useful although this does mean looking after it.
It’s in the training that the plot develops, after making a wish with a magic music box the protagonist and his sister are summoned to see King Lucian at Castle Fairfax, the two obliged believing it to be their wish coming true. But after some insane rambling about power the King injures our protagonist and kills his sister, cue a decade later and the imminent quest for revenge follows. Developers Lionhead Studios haven’t taken the realistic route in character or level design, instead characterized Victorian fashioned townsfolk and foes populate the fantasy world that is Albion, all which helps to envelop us into the to fairytale that is Fable 2. Environments are lush, grand forests, beautiful lakes and towns all built with superb detail make up a world that is ten times the size of the original. Journeying through Albion is simple and is made easier through the golden path that indicates the direction to take for quest based objectives however it doesn’t mean that it has to be followed, it’s there purely as an indication so the world is free to be explored. In fact some areas require certain criteria to be met before they can be accessed so exploration is actively encouraged.
Like all good RPGs Fable 2 is rich with options, of course there are the usual quests that see the plot through to its inevitable finale, these are supplemented by additional optional quests that can be found through talking to Albion’s various inhabitants. When participating in combat during these quests, experience orbs can be earned. Strength through melee attacks, skill through long-range weapon attacks and magic (called ‘will’) through magic attacks. Orbs are used to purchase more abilities. Combat takes form of hack and slash action and while it doesn’t take much skill, it doesn’t need to be, it simplicity makes it more fun.
As per all RPG’s equipment such as clothes, weapons, potions and titles (such as ‘chicken chaser’ or ‘nobhead’) can be purchased, but to do that cash is needed. Cash is earned from quests but it can also be earned through employment, these take the form of mini-games, the more the job is performed the more cash is earned. Real estate is another valid form of income, but for those who don’t want to sell their house then it can always be filled with a doting wife or wives (that’s correct, bigamy is an option) and screaming kids. All of which makes for a deep filled delicious experience.
Fable 2 is a game that does very little wrong, sure, with such a large world it would have been nice to know where each town is in relation to another, the menus are a little bland but that’s clutching at straws. Fable 2 is a fantastic game, the plot, while not ground breaking is enough to be drawn into, the added sheer size of the world it’s set in, the lush environments and brilliant voice acting (which seems to include a cast made up of nothing but British actors including the wonderful Stephen Fry) it makes for one of the most immersing games on the Xbox 360. A pure refinement on the original and that by a long shot is no bad thing. So what’ll it be? Good? Or Evil?