Big Blue Box and Microsoft teamed up to release Fable for the Xbox in September of 2004. Now, one year later, Lionhead Studios (which owns Big Blue Box, and is therefore roughly the same developer) has created a stand-alone expansion pack for the game called Fable: The Lost Chapters. Like all expansion packs, The Lost Chapters adds more stuff for you to do, including a new last act for the game, but the most interesting thing about it is that it is available for the PC as well as the Xbox. This review covers the PC version of The Lost Chapters, and it is mainly aimed at PC owners who might not know much about the game, but I’ll also try to indicate what’s new in the game, so you Xbox owners can get something out of the review as well.
Fable: The Lost Chapters does not have any sort of character creation system. You start out as a young boy in a peaceful village, but then one day bandits come to town, and, as bandits are wont to do, they start burning and pillaging. Your father is killed, your sister and mother disappear, but a wandering Hero arrives just in time to save you. You’re then invited to train at the Heroes’ Guild, and thus starts your journey to make yourself more powerful so you can take revenge on the bandits who attacked your village, and so you can hopefully track down what happened to your sister and mother.
Oddly, The Lost Chapters is almost exactly the opposite of Dungeon Siege II, the last action role-playing game I covered. Dungeon Siege II is a party-based role-playing game where you simply click on an enemy to attack it, and where the emphasis is on grinding away to collect levels and equipment for your main character. In The Lost Chapters, you control a single Hero, and you have to maneuver yourself during combat. The WASD keys move you around, the left mouse button causes you to attack with your wielded weapon, the middle mouse button controls blocking and dodging, and the right mouse button allows you to “flourish,” which is a powerful, unblockable attack you can unleash if you’ve managed to attack without being damaged in return.
Then there’s the campaign, which has little to do with gaining levels or finding equipment. Instead, the campaign in The Lost Chapters is basically just a collection of short quests. Some of the quests are required, such as when you infiltrate a bandit camp to learn more about your sister, but most are optional, such as when you take part in a “chicken kicking” competition to win fame and fortune. Experience is gained in the normal way, but instead of using it to collect levels for your character, you spend the experience to learn skills. There are three melee skills, three ranged skills, and 17 spells for you to master in the game. However, if The Lost Chapters has a weakness, it’s that you can master way too many of those spells and skills, and so you don’t have to make many choices during character development.
If I had to pick whose decisions I liked best, I’d have to go with Lionhead’s choices for The Lost Chapters rather than Gas Powered Games’ choices for Dungeon Siege II. It’s more fun when you take direct control of your character and lead him in battle, and I always prefer smaller, more meaningful battles to larger, more repetitive ones. I also enjoyed the offbeat humor in The Lost Chapters. The dialogue is well written and often amusing, you’re allowed to “boast” when you accept quests (to brag that you’ll complete the task without wearing any armor or taking any damage), and the character panel keeps statistics for things like how many enemies you’ve decapitated and how many townspeople have fallen in love with you. There’s also an entry for how many people you’ve married and had sex with, so be aware that The Lost Chapters has some adult content and drug references to go along with the expected violence and bloodshed.
New in The Lost Chapters is a little bit of everything. There are new quests sprinkled throughout Fable’s original campaign, and there is a new last act for the campaign where you get to visit the Northern Wastes and finally put an end to the game’s bad guy. There are new spells to cast and tattoos to wear, new silver keys to find and demon doors to solve, and there is a bunch of new equipment, including a couple new suits of clothes and half a dozen new hats (my favorite is the pimp hat). If you’re an Xbox owner, I don’t know if the new content is enough to justify the purchase -- the new content is nice but it’s more of the same, and even with the new stuff the campaign still tops out around 20 hours -- but at least the Xbox version of the game is supposed to be fairly cheap.
If you’re a PC owner, then the decision is much easier. Fable: The Lost Chapters is a polished and entertaining ride, jam packed with people to see and things to do. The graphics are nice, the voice acting is superb, and the combat is a lot of fun. If you’ve been disappointed by recent role-playing game releases like Dungeon Siege II and Dungeon Lords, then The Lost Chapters is a game you should definitely purchase and enjoy.