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Whose co-op is best?

The Players: Lizzie, Joe

Basic Intel: Fable II offers two-player campaign co-op. It was developed by Lionhead Studios for Microsoft.

Joe: When someone joins a co-op session, the players first decide on a loot/xp split.

Lizzie: I think that’s fair, but I think it sucks how whoever is hosting gets to do all the actions, ie. open chests, steal, accept missions, etc.

Joe: Yeah, the 2nd player feels like an unwanted appendage, even if he/she is getting half the loot.

Lizzie: But the XP split is good because you might want to increase your XP by a lot and the other person might not need it much.

Above: Resisting arrest in one of Fable II’s cute little towns

Joe: Once you drop into the world, and you start exploring together, you're stuck on the same screen with the same camera. If you go opposite directions it just pulls back to try to fit you both until finally it just locks up.

Lizzie: Yeah, and then it gets confusing because the golden trail has to readjust.

Joe: If you're trying to look at different stuff, or think you caught a glimpse of a treasure chest or something, it makes a big kerfuffle every time someone changes directions.

Lizzie: Oh yeah, but on the bright side, if the other person has gone too far, they can press the back button to regroup, even during combat.

Joe: I thought the combat felt weird and impersonal, because inevitably we'd lash out different directions, and then the camera would flail around trying to keep us both on screen. It'd pull waaaay back and then you'd feel this incredible distance from the action, like "I'm just mashing the attack button, I wonder what's happening."

Above: Button-mashing co-op combat

Lizzie: That's exactly how I was feeling - I didn't really know what I was hitting, I just kept pressing A.

Joe: And then there were the glitches. All sorts of collision detection problems, and that time the guards suddenly became invincible and wouldn't stop chasing us.

Lizzie: Yes, very glitchy, it seems like you miss a lot when attacking. One time I stabbed the ground and blood came out of the enemy across the screen. And it was very laggy, with annoying freeze-ups.

Joe: I understand that they're working on a patch, but I think the problems are more in the overall design. Even if those glitches are fixed, there's the problem of forcing both players into one screen, which eliminates the joy of exploration. I appreciate what they were trying to do conceptually with the "henchman" and his ability to affect the host's game world but it didn't quite come together in a satisfying way.

Above: The “Walking on Sunshine” glitch

Lizzie: Yeah, it got kind of boring watching the other person open all the treasure and steal all the stuffs. Oh, also, sort of off topic, but I noticed when we were fighting - I got an achievement for fighting as a team, but you can also get all the achievements just by WATCHING your co-op partner get their own achievements. For example, the host performs "perfect expression" and both people in co-op get the same achievement. The second person doesn't even have to do anything.

Joe: Wow that's the opposite of Saints Row 2, where the second player gets no achievements at all. That just adds to the feeling that you’re lurking in someone else's game.

Lizzie: In which case you should just play alone.

Joe: With all this badmouthing of the co-op experience we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the single player game is quite good.

Lizzie: Co-op should be like Animal Crossing though!!! You could explore all around the world and meet up with your friend again later, not having to share the screen.

Above: Hope you don’t want to interact with anything in this town!

Joe: I also thought it was funky how the henchman could do expressions at the same time as the hero, that directly counteracted what the hero was doing. Like the ghost mission where you try to make the girl fall in love with you – I was trying to do the seduction moves while you were taunting some other villager, but everyone was reacting to both of us. The girl hated me and the villager loved you.

Lizzie: Oh yeaaah. But then if I couldn't do that, then it seems like the only thing the other person can do in co-op is fight. It’s already such a borefest for the second player until a fight comes along.

Joe: There isn't really a compelling reason for the second player to be there. The missions don't change at all, they can barely interact with anything… expressions and combat are it. And because the camera is so screwy, the “special co-op combos” are just meh. I didn’t even realize we’d done one till the Achievement popped up. Final assesment: don't get Fable II for the co-op.