Fable: The Lost Chapters
Fable: The Lost Chapters is an innovative RPG that is a lot of fun to play. The view is third person, over the shoulder, and although the game does allow some choices, it is quite linear at its core. It does not take long to complete even if you choose to do most of the side quests. I completed it in about twelve hours but it can take between eight and fifteen.
Fable really is a hero simulator. You start off as a young boy in your own village. As the story progresses you find yourself in a training academy. It is here that you will learn combat and spell casting and is an effective way of including a game tutorial. Here you will reach your teenage years and you will continue to age throughout the game. Many of the game's characters including your character's wife, fortunately, do not age.
You cannot name your character anything you choose but you can buy names. You start out the game as 'Chicken Chaser', and the locals remind you of that quite often, but you can purchase more heroic names such as 'Avatar'.
Even at this early stage you can make changes between good and evil. As in other games by Lionhead Studios the choices are fairly 'black and white' (pun intended). If you take your time in this area you can gain some upgraded weapons that are useful until you can purchase something better.
Once you have finished your time at the training academy you reach the outside world. Here you can access many missions. Main quest and side quest missions are easily identified and your geographic goal is always marked on the map. Mapping is done rather well save for the fact that the actual interface gets in the way when you want to view the whole map.
Successful missions give experience and gold. The experience allows you to level up in various skills such as melee, archery and upgrading spells. I kept my character as purely a warrior with only a little skill in attacking spells and the ability to heal himself. From what I have gleaned from other players the game is easier if you specialize rather than being a 'jack of all trades'.
I also kept my character in the game's good books the entire time. At the end he was an attractive hero and even had a halo in the right light. If you turn to the dark side your character's appearance is much less attractive and this is the path I will have to try on my next run through of the game.
During the game you will learn new skills that include flirting, dancing and a touch of flatulence. These are not really that important and are only used to impress the ladies (well, not all of them). Other skills such as fishing and digging are needed to complete the game.
Combat is fast and furious. The left mouse button is used for normal attacks and the right one for block and for 'powered up' special attacks. Spell effects are very impressive and varied. There is a ghost sword spell which is lots of fun to cast. This spell manifests a disembodied sword that attacks enemies foolish enough to approach. The higher the spell level, the more swords it conjures up.
Combat can become demanding at times and there are some excellent battles along the way. I found my toughest challenges to be in the middle of the game as by the end my hero was too strong, even for the final boss. Potions and a heal spell are available during combat at the touch of a button and if you run out you can also have a quick snack on any food you have purchased or gathered. There are also resurrection potions which work automatically if you are felled in battle.
In Fable: The Lost Chapters your inventory is unlimited and takes the form of drop down menus. These are accessed whilst the game is paused avoiding the need for panic in times of trauma. You can also check quests, your hero's status and your statistics which include strength, health, attractiveness and 'scariness'.
The game keeps track of everything from monsters killed, favourite area, number of times married, to the number of times your character throws up. I assume by drinking too many barrels of ale purchased at the inn. My character never experienced this last event and remained slim until the end. Even so he munched down about 24 apple pies during one battle when he ran out of potions. Shop keepers and wandering merchants are fairly frequent but I found it necessary to buy as many health potions as possible early in the game.
There are no difficulty settings in Fable: The Lost Chapters. As a frequent action game player I found the game challenging enough to be fun, but never too hard. The same can be stated for the puzzles which are really action game flavoured and are often just 'where do I go next.'
However there are a few demon doors scattered throughout the game and you need to complete a challenge to gain access. These are generally explained clearly and can require some lateral thinking. You do not need to open these doors to progress but they do contain useful items. You will also discover treasure chests, some of these open easily whist others require rare silver keys. Parts of a treasure map are also hidden in the game.
There is one puzzle sequence that is timed, involving a series of five small logic games that aren't too challenging. I solved them first time as 'good' and I suspect they are much easier to solve if you are 'evil'.
The game looks good on a moderate system and gorgeous on a top end one. Visual effects abound and environments and characters are very detailed. Water, spell effects and creatures all look great. Keep an eye open and you may see a dragon.
The voice acting is solid and I'm sure many of the voices will be familiar if you have played other Lionhead games. Villains and villagers are British and almost 'pythonesque' at times. Sound effects sound good and are very immersive, and the music includes an excellent orchestral score.
I did find the game to contain large portions of the elusive element of fun whilst I was playing, and a sense of exploration and wonder at some of the environments and events. The architecture of many of the more important buildings is fantastic and the cut scenes look great as well as helping the story progress. These can be skipped if you need to repeat an area which is always appreciated. If you enjoy rpgs with an action element such as Morrowind, I believe you will enjoy Fable: The Lost Chapters. It may not have the depth of that classic, and takes a more light hearted approach, but it is a classic none the less.
In my final judgement of this game I have chosen to ignore the fact it has been released on XBox for quite some time and that some of the original claims by designer, Peter Molyneux never came to fruition. Fable: The Lost Chapters does have some content that was not in the XBox version and has been enhanced for PC release.
Copyright © Clint Mullins 2005.
All rights reserved.
Win XP 1.4 GHz equivalent or higher processor. DirectX 9.0 DirectX 9.0c is installed by Fable: The Lost Chapters. 256 MB RAM. 3 GB of available hard disk space. 32x speed or faster CD-ROM drive. 64 MB shader-capable video card. Sound card. Mouse.