reviews\ Sep 15, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Fable: The Lost Chapters - PC - Review

Last summer, I worked part time at my local GameStop store. As part of being a “proud” associate of such a “established” and “excellently managed company” that I “did not want a horde of angry Mongolian barbarians to set fire to,” I was required to get a certain number of game reservations a week (Apparently the challenge was my own reward, because my paycheck sure didn’t see anything friendly attached to it). However, one game stood out above the rest in my reservation list as what I believed to be the number 1 XBox game of the year, Fable.

The promises escaping out of Peter Molyneux’s mouth about a living, breathing world where every choice has a consequence with features beyond gamer comprehension were too much to handle, and I became addicted to the idea of Fable. Want to own your own business, good luck Mr. Entrepreneur. Create an army of children spawned from your own likeness, why not? Peter was like a third-grade kid preparing the whole class for what he thought would be the ultimate show-and-tell experience then showing up with his pet rock, Pebbles, on the big day. To give credit, Lionhead Studios did deliver a solid RPG title unlike anything seen before where good and bad deeds affect how your character looks and how NPC’s interact with you. Now, Fable is hitting PCs everywhere, rehashing the XBox version while adding new storyline content, conquests, weapons, and accessories. Although the control system is awkward compared to the controller, Fable: The Lost Chapters continues the exciting adventure through the world of Albion and is a welcome addition to the PC-RPG genre.

In Fable, you start out as a young lad living the simple life with your family in a quiet but busy town. Right from the get-go, your father sends you on a chore to earn money for good deeds around town. A young girl asks you to find her teddy bear, a young boy (who coincidentally has stolen the teddy bear) asks you to protect him from a bully (who coincidentally is the brother of the young girl who asked you to find her teddy bear). Essentially, you will need to smite the bully to protect the boy who will give the teddy bear to the girl (earning you two good deeds for two gold coins). These are the most basic quests you will engage in, although there are more interesting ones like discovering a cheating husband behind the local pub engaging in “extra-marital activities” then taking his bribe not to tell his wife just to turn around and leak the info to the Misses.

Before enjoying your home town too long, armed robbers raid your village and kill your father while taking your mother and sister (to add vinegar to the wounds, your dog dies). A mysterious warrior saves you and introduces you to the Heroes’ Guild to train you in the arts of swordsmanship, archery, and magic (the tutorial is long and unfortunately mandatory). Once you graduate from the Heroes’ Guild, you will work to perform some truly heroic quests (all the while gaining more magic abilities and weapons) like rescuing civilians from giant wasps, destroying thief clans, and cutting down armed castle guards…yeah, you heard me right. In Fable, you have the opportunity to be a good hero or a bad hero. Oxymoronic yes, but giving the player a choice opens up new opportunities and paths you never thought possible. This is what makes Fable such a unique title, where the way you behave through the quests affect how you character looks and how people act around you. Good guys can easily woo damsels in any city (the ability to have multiple wives in multiple villages isn’t a dream, but a reality in The Lost Chapters) and young children will imitate and look up to you as you grace them with your presents. Conversely, bad guys can strike fear in peasants walking by and children jeer you from far distances (apparently having a black soul is a major turnoff for woman because I remained an eligible bachelor through my game experience).

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what has been ported from the XBox to the PC, it’s time to get to the meat of what makes Fable: The Lost Chapters so different from the original. Lionhead Studios’ designers boast that the new missions and quests that have been integrated to the original storyline as well as the special ending that delivers a level of heroism they had wished had been there in the first place. Having played the original XBox version, I can say that although the new missions don’t cause the main story to fumble, they don’t necessarily propel the storyline to new levels of greatness. It’s essentially the same stuff re-loaded with a sprinkling of side quests that will add an additional couple of hours of gameplay to the mix.

Difficulty levels were tweaked so those ever-impossible scenes of heroism in conquering large numbers of foes were made easier. This, however, only compensates for the plain awkward control system that has transferred from the simplicity of the XBox controller to the mouse and keyboard. The style works for many PC games because of the type of gameplay that occurs. Fable often becomes a challenge between you and a dozen enemies that move and attack quickly. With such a cluttered control system for movement and aiming, I sustained more damage than I should have. Lionhead Studios also neglected the possibility of using a gamepad for The Lost Chapters (furthering the false belief that PCs are superior to game consoles). Besides the addition of new levels, little features like the availability of new types of clothing (what’s a hero without a good hat: Indiana Jones…Ashton Kutcher...Gilligan…Woody…um…), the option to ink up your body with customized tattoos, and a more diverse menu screen to keep track of your character’s statistics have been added for more gameplay value. The option of modifications soon to be released is quiet exciting, especially the thought of bringing the world of Fable online.

Graphically, the PC version is far superior to the XBox in delivering great quality textures at high resolutions. Fable began development before the XBox was released, so the capabilities of Microsoft’s machine were unknown. Upon its release, Lionhead Studios had to bring down the quality of how the game looked. Now, all limitations have been dropped and Fable: The Lost Chapters excels graphically because of it. The world is vibrant and alive in spite of simplistic and overused character models spread through Albion. Sound has also been improved, with added voice work from the same actors that performed in the original title. The sound effects and soundtrack hasn’t really been touched, but improving on Danny Elfman’s main theme would have been a mistake anyway.

When Fable was released on XBox, the videogame industry was expecting a revolution in interactivity and gameplay never before seen. Apparently Peter Molyneux has a doctorate in Marketing with a concentration in Over Embellishment, because Fable wasn’t as impressive as he hoped it would be. Nevertheless, Lionhead Studios saw the need to deliver it to personal computers everywhere. No, none of the things that were originally left out appear in The Lost Chapters. And if you already own the original title, there are no big reasons to add this to your cluttered PC hard drive as well. But for all its worth, Fable: The Lost Chapters holds its own as an innovating role-playing game and deserves its place in any new player’s collection.

Review Scoring Details for Fable: The Lost Chapters

Gameplay: 8.5
Innovative role-playing on the XBox that continues forth on PC. The control system is a little difficult to handle, however, and doesn’t quiet fit the gameplay mechanics.

Graphics: 8.8
Besides the simplicity of NPC models, the graphics excel from the previous version with higher resolution capacity and environments.

Sound: 9.5
I’m a big fan of Danny Elfman and his main theme is awesome. The ambiance of Fable comes alive through the voice acting, sound effects, and soundtrack.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
Fable feels quiet natural on the PC and the ambitions of what Fable: The Lost Chapters is and what it can be are closer than ever. Peter, you are on your way to bringing us YOUR Fable.

Overall: 8.7
I was once obsessed with the idea of Fable. Now that a new version of it has been released and still hasn’t delivered on the promises of Peter Molyneux, it’s a tad disappointing. Regardless, Fable is something that simply must be played in one form or another. The choice is yours, what path will you take?


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