Fable The Lost Chapters review

PC Gamer finds that they were down the back of the sofa the whole time

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You might never get married, and end the game a 65-year-old battle-scarred virgin. In other words, Fable's rich life might pass you by. It almost feels like there are two parts to the game, that the quests were written separately from the game's mechanics and stitched in later.

The result is certainly not a patchy mess, but the game's overall quality demands a more even texture.

And there's plenty of quality to enjoy. I love the combat system, which keeps things fast-moving, and rewards good timing and strategic thinking without becoming a clickfest.

It's realtime and often a little frantic, but also remarkably intuitive: facing an opponent highlights them and left-clicking delivers a melee blow. At a safe distance, the same system works for ranged weapons, and Shift-clicking fires off your pre-selected spell.

Multiple opponents demand lateral thinking, smart movement and employment of Will attacks to prevent yourself being over-pummelled.

Health and mana work in time-honoured RPG fashion, although each bar swells to maximum size according to how you spend your experience points. Food and potions keep you healthy, but a cunning system of resurrection potions prevents perma-death if you carelessly let your health slip below zero.

Combined with a save-anywhere (except in the middle of 'dungeon'-type quests) policy, this cuts frustrating reloading to a bare minimum, and even the nastiest boss fights can be ground out if you've got enough potions. Which means Fable is not a particularly severe challenge of skill; it's all about the experience.

Most gamers will know Fable as an Xbox game, released to acclaim earlier this year. The good news is that Big Blue Box has thrown in plenty of extras for the PC, such as new items and spells to play with.

Most notable is the sizeable new storyline that takes off after you finish the Xbox version's main quest. The entire plot can be skipped through in around 15-20 hours of game time if you ignore the fun, peripheral stuff, but that would be missing the point.

The visuals have been deliciously revamped with large resolutions, anti-aliasing, big textures and a few other bells and whistles that make the PC version a graphical feast.

The bad news is that, like Knights of the Old Republic, Xbox's memory limitations are still with us. Conspicuously small load areas mean you can sometimes trot through an entire area in seconds just to be faced with another loading screen.

Happily, the frequent loading times are mercifully brief, providing your PC is up to the task.

The control system hasn't come through entirely unscathed either. Every item, emote and spell can be dragged to a shortcut key, 1 to 9, for quick access.

Unfortunately, you'll want ready access to more than this even after a couple of hours, especially if you're specialising in Will attacks. The F1, F2 and F3 keys activate supposedly context-sensitive actions (a health potion if you're low on health) but the game's choices aren't terribly helpful.

You'll find yourself repeatedly trawling through the game's slow-to-respond main interface in search of the action you need, all for the want of an extra bar of actions. World of Warcraft has already shown how this should be handled.

The last of the conversion niggles is the camera that jerks if you turn it while running. I felt the odd moment of seasickness until I got used to it.

These criticisms might suggest I haven't enjoyed Fable - but I have. The longer I played and the further I explored, the more I enjoyed it. The game's reactive nature creeps up on you pretty slowly, but discovering each new feature is like having a chain of fairy lights wink on in your head.

It's a delight to see the way you interact with the world; to unlock new emotes as you progress; to glimpse the appearance of a halo over your hero's head, and to see children run screaming when they see your new face tattoo.

Fable doesn't really do complex morality: you could say its world is black and white. Actions have clear outcomes, and some optional quests are actually available in two flavours: protect the traders from the bandits, for example, or help the bandits rob the traders.

But while the moral choices seem pretty simplistic, they do tie in with Fable's stylised world. The game wants you to swing to the extremes: to either be a vicious monster or a saintly saviour. In this, there's definite replay value.

Whether your previous RPG experiences are of the modern Western variety (Ultima, Baldur's Gate), Eastern (Final Fantasy) or nonexistent, Fable The Lost Chapters delivers a novel experience.

Its social systems are a masterpiece of design, and if the story and dialogue tend towards the prosaic, the compelling action and delicious presentation boost the experience far above the ordinary.

Fable just misses out on our 'Must Buy' award because it lacks consistent excellence, but the gaming landscape is much enhanced for its existence.

Fable The Lost Chapters is out for PC now

More info

GenreRole Playing
DescriptionThere's a lot to like about Fable, but at the same time it's not all it could have been.
US censor rating"Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"16+","16+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)