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ups: beautiful graphics and musical score, great customization features, sweet new additions to gameplay
downs: still a hack and slash, too short, NPC's can get a little repetitive

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Fable: The Lost Chapters
game: Fable: The Lost Chapters
four star
posted by: Eric Bodrero
publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
developer: Lionhead Studios
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 02:23 AM Tue Sep 20th, 2005
last revision: 09:47 AM Thu Sep 29th, 2005

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Click to read.Fable has been out for about a year now on the Xbox, and by now you\'re probably one of three parties: you either love it, hate it, or you\'ve never played it and/or really don\'t care. But despite what camp you belong to, there is no denying the popularity of Fable, and the fact that Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios certainly have their cult followings. In Fable: The Lost Chapters, we get what one can view as an expansion pack of sorts for the original game including greater customization of characters, new weapons and armor, new expressions, new enemies, new areas to explore, new quests, new spells, and basically a whole chapter that didn\'t make the cut before the Xbox version was released. In other words, we get a \"director\'s cut\" of the Fable that Molyneux wanted to release in the first place with a third more content than the Xbox version, and it doesn\'t get much better than right here on the PC.

First, a remark I need to make to those who have played Fable on the Xbox, or are currently playing it: stop what you\'re doing, sell your Xbox copy, and go buy this version ASAP. Others may say (and have indeed said) it\'s not worth purchasing a second time, but I disagree. Everything is bigger and better in the Lost Chapters and at the very least, the graphics have been beefed up quite a bit, depending of course on your graphics card of choice, and everything is quite crisp and clean. Colors are more vibrant, landscapes more lush, particle effects more shimmering; everything visual-wise is generally better looking. I guess that\'s to be expected to a certain degree. However, the gameplay has been beefed up as well, with more side quests and a longer main storyline, adding around ten more hours of your time spent in the world of Albion. Not too shabby.

For those who for some reason still have no clue as to what Fable is all about, let me briefly fill you in. Fable allows you to create a character, whether good or evil, based on your actions throughout the game. You start as a child, and age as the game progresses, until finally waxing to a ripe old age. Everything you do, whether good, evil, or in-between, influences what you look like, what you act like, how you interact with others, etc. Choose to be good and people talk about your successes and may even follow you around, clapping and praising you, and you\'ll gain a heavenly aura which shines about you. Choose to be evil and people will turn away and cringe at the sight of you, boo, call you names, and other such things. You\'ll also start walking with a hunch, gain glowing red eyes, grow horns, and leave a trail of red vapor behind you. It\'s all up to you. And while the game didn\'t quite live up to everyone\'s expectations in this regard (what game ever does?), Fable still does a great job at letting you become who you want to become and doing whatever you want to do. And believe me, when Molyneux said every action you take garners you good or evil points, he meant every action!

During the game, you collect green experience orbs by killing enemies, which can be accumulated and used to boost one of three ability disciplines: physical, skill, and will. Physical enhancements make changes to everything, well, physical, such as physique, strength, and toughness. Skill makes you more cunning, a better barter, and quiet thief, faster, and stealthier. Will has everything to do with magic: how much magic you have, what kind of spells you can cast, etc. Each category has its own specific experience points, along with a fourth, general category in which you can use towards any discipline you choose. As it goes, you\'ll have plenty of points to spend however you feel like, and the game makes it quite easy to start customizing your character. You can spend these points only at the Hero\'s Guild, which is also the place where you\'ll accept all quests in the game. However, you\'re more than likely to end up with some type of hybrid fighter/mage character, as the game is a tad on the shallow side and not quite as deep as it first seems in leveling up characters. It\'s not a big gripe however, and is still an above average part of the game.

The game allows you to warp to any location in the world of Albion that you\'ve already been to instantly by the press and hold of a button, which is a good and bad thing. It\'s good in saving you the headache of having to travel through multiple levels to get where you want to go, thus having to fight all those levels\' enemies over and over again (Morrowind anybody?), but bad in that it takes away from the experience of traveling the world and exploring each intricately detailed environment, which is arguably one of the best things Fable has going for it. Despite this \"flaw\" (if that\'s the way you look at it), using either warp or foot travel will give you a great gameplay experience.

Around the game\'s various locations you\'ll meet traders who have differing things for sale or trade including potions, armor, clothing, weapons, tattoo and haircut cards you can redeem at the local tattooist or barber shops, gifts such as chocolates and wedding rings, and other such goodies. The game does a nice job of not overloading you with meaningless junk you have to carry around with you everywhere, and the economy system is solid in letting you buy and sell things at will. There are also plenty of traders wandering through backroads, off beaten paths, around various camps, etc. that usually have plenty of what you need or want. Of course if any given trader doesn\'t happen to have what you\'re looking for and you\'re an evil character, you can always cut him down with a cleaver, which is one of the quickest ways of rising to the top of your evil empire.

Throughout various levels are demon doors, which allow you to (usually) do some kind of evil deed before the door will open, in which you\'re treated to a (usually) valuable reward inside if you\'re successful in opening it. Some of these challenges are more difficult than others, and some are more trouble than its worth, but all are fairly varied in type. You\'ll encounter other unique puzzle-like elements in the game that give it depth and something else to do besides battling enemies.

The sound in games like this is essential, and Fable nails it in every single way. The orchestrated score is absolutely phenomenal, and the sound effects are near perfect as well, all the way down from clanging weapons, breaking barrels and dying creatures to the opening treasure chests and even navigating the interface. Lionhead went balls to the wall in this regard, and it brilliantly pushes this game over and well beyond the edge. The voice acting in this game is extremely well done (all of it of British origin). Every single character is portrayed flawlessly, and while there is a certain amount of repetition in what the characters say, it doesn\'t detract from the game in any way.

All the new material in Fable: The Lost Chapters is integrated into the game itself, and there is no option of completing just the new stuff, as some have initially thought. This gives gamers (and completists) that reason to go ahead with a PC version purchase, and gives this complete version a \"thrill of the hunt\" feel to it. And of course, all of the stuff you loved in the original game is here, like the ability to marry and raise a family, buy a house, recruit allies, decapitate enemies, etc. With Fable, it\'s really the details, or the journey itself, rather than the destination that gives you the greatest satisfaction. If you\'re the type of gamer that races through each title just to be the first one on your block to have beaten it, you\'ll be missing most of what makes this game so great. Little things like playing blackjack with campers and other mini games, the way characters glow a certain color regarding whether they are enemies or otherwise, the intuitively built levels and how they are chock full of interesting things to find and see, the ability to drag and drop spell or gesture icons into your toolbar on the bottom of the screen to correspond with specific number keys, and all the interesting people to meet, marry and mingle with, there are things in this game that players of all types will enjoy (granted you\'re seventeen or older of course, as this is still a very violent game with adult situations and language). The game is also overflowing with great production values, and everything connects together quite nicely. Even the load times for levels have been shortened significantly from the Xbox version.

So, is this a worthy purchase? Of course it is. Is it a worthy purchase if you already own the Xbox version? That depends on what kind of player you are I suppose, but I would still say absolutely. You\'ll be getting things in this version that I dare say are almost essential to the game, and are surprising they were left out at all. The new quests are fun, the new weapons and armor kick tail, the new spells are neat and fun to cast, and the added enemies are imaginative and creative. Of course we\'re talking about stuff that has supposedly existed since the beginning anyway, but it\'s cool nonetheless.

But, if you haven\'t played Fable at all yet, now is the perfect time to jump in and start. You won\'t be disappointed in the slightest with the overall experience that this game grants you, and with all the new additions and material, you should be busy with this game for hours and hours; around twenty-five to thirty to be specific, and even more if you\'re the super explorer type that must see every square inch of every area and collect every single item in the game. Fable: The Lost Chapters isn\'t exactly an innovative game, but it certainly perfects the RPG genre and sets a worthy standard that all RPG games will undoubtedly benefit from should this same standard be implemented, and adds a significant amount of material to an already incredible game.

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