Fable II: Knothole Island Review

Fable II was, by and large, a collection of empty promises. The infamous Peter Molyneux hamper of empty promises, washed down with bitter fan-base wine, was once again ruining our picnic. While he did indeed deliver on some new aspects of the franchise, we were still left wanting a Fable title that did everything he said it could, at least by the third time around.

So when I booted up my copy of the sequel, and began the new DLC quest, I was a man of extreme skepticism. Using a character I’d spent the previous day speed-running through the main storyline with, as to emulate a player character fresh from the story, I was already at boredom point, with maximum stats, weapons, and a sizable money pool.

My first task was to journey to a seemingly random riverside location in the main town of Bowerstone, as I was informed someone was waiting to take me to the island choc-full of delectable new items and quests. I was surprised when the boat I was expecting actually turned out to be a submarine — those of you who have played these titles before can identify that anything mechanically complex and slightly past the middle-ages look of the franchise is extremely rare, so you can understand my intrigue — were they bringing Fable towards the future?

After being enticed with a couple of token items, I was thrust onto the island, and began my quests. Knothole Island is a conundrum for a video games critic. At its heart is Fable II, a slightly flawed RPG title with a heart of gold, trying to do all the right things, but failing all of them due to trying to do them all at the same time. A child will never be able to play with all the toys in his sandbox at once, so we might as well make sure his toy car is the best thing in there, surely?

However, the toy car, or should I say, the expansion’s dungeon content, has ten wheels, shoots fire, and can probably turn invisible. The rooms are like something directly out of the Zelda franchise; elementally-based puzzles, claustrophobic amounts of enemies, and of course, special items in chests. This time around, armor is the order of the day for collectable goodies, and although there’s only one set, it’s fantastic that the one key area of attire left out in the old game has finally made a return.

Once you tear your eyes away from the dungeon content however, the world itself changes, notably as you achieve the three significant milestone events on the island. This is an ingenious way of extending longevity, as water levels will rise and fall, exposing new terrain, new chests, and new routes through the weather-harassed landscape.

The landscape itself builds on the bloom-infested Albion, but is more subdued and subtle this time. Less sunlight, and a lot more effort put into textures that we didn’t find over the pond. Ice is a key example, fully reflective and dependent on camera angle to generate said effect. It’s a great example of how Lionhead have really taken a lot of the feedback to heart and are pouring themselves into giving back to the community. Well, for 800 Microsoft Points ($10), anyway.

As with all DLC packages, new items are in abundance, and this is especially true of Knothole Island due to the sheer wealth of categories and varieties of items available to the player. Potions for instant height and weight adjustment make a welcome addition to the liquid-based roster, as it saves many a fattened or short player time from either eating fifty celery sticks one-by-one, or grinding enough Skill experience to become tall through spending points.

However, the one item everyone is talking about is Hal’s Rifle. To cut a long story short, if you were one of the lucky few to own the Spartan armor and the Energy Sword from the Collector’s Edition, congratulations, you now have Master Chief’s Assault Rifle to go along with it. I have neither armor nor sword, but the rifle still looks fantastic, if a tad odd being wielded by a man in a tin suit. However, Lionhead, take note; assault rifles are, generally speaking, automatic weapons. This means that when I click fire, I don’t expect the gun to shoot once every two seconds. Pay attention when you parody items, it’s the difference between a tip of the hat and ripping someone off.

A lot of the weird and wonderful items, like the gun in question, are procured from a shop called The Box of Secrets, which is a bizarre experience considering you’re not allowed to buy anything with money, or even know what your purchase is until you trade whatever exotic (read: Albionian) item the owner is after. There are clues, however; I narrowed the Halo tribute item down by searching until I found a package labelled “Exotic Ranged Weapon”. It’s a good way to get players to head back to Albion and scour the shops, but other than that, it just feels a little desperate.

The content is along the lines of Bring Down the Sky, the extra mission currently on offer to owners of Mass Effect. It’s fun, short, climactic, but with a disappointing final fight. I was expecting nothing, or something original blocking my way to the final goalpost. I don’t do spoilers, but it’s certainly going to make people groan when they realize they’ve fought this enemy at least twice before. And this, not to mention the monotonous simplicity of the way this particular enemy is defeated, serves to kill off the climax a little, which proves to be a great shame.

Overall, it’s a great use of 800 Microsoft Points. If you were a fan of Fable II, definitely pick it up. If you found the main content lacking, it still might be worth taking a look. If the progress displayed in this content is anything of an indication of a start down the road to a better Fable, Molyneux might have just made his comeback.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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