Fable: The Lost Chapters
Let's Get this out of the way immediately - Fable: The Lost Chapters isn't going to be a simple port of the Xbox version. Don't forget, Fable was originally envisaged as a PC title, and it's looking like this might well be the edition that Peter Molyneux and his Lionhead cohorts were planning on making all along. It's around a third bigger, for starters. Sure, Xbox owners are currently turning as green as the light emanating from their console, but c'est la vie. You got it a full year before PC gamers, fellas, and now it's our turn for a treat.
If you're unfamiliar with Fable, it's a combat-heavy action RPG with one hell of a hook: you start off as a child, and can live your in-game life - right up to old age - pretty much how you see Ifit. Any actions you choose to take will slowly warp your character's appearance and the way in which other characters react to him; it's kind of like Fallout meets Black & White with a dash of Knights Of The Old Republic.
I Put A Spell On You
The Lost Chapters is the Xbox version plus a heap of added content. There are more missions to be undertaken, more regions to explore, more spells to fling around and more people to meet. Or kill, if you want - like we said, exactly how you play the game is up to you. New enemies like the Ice Troll (big, white and made, funnily enough, of ice) and Summoner (nasty uber-mage who does a natty line in electric balls) also make their debut.
Both these baddies look fantastic in action, and much of this is down to the revamped graphics engine powering the game's visuals: high-resolution textures, improved draw distance and bumpmapping on characters all come courtesy of Fable's move to the PC.
Also getting an overhaul is the control system. We all know that what works for a gamepad probably won't work for a keyboard and mouse, and Lionhead is particularly keen on making combat feel right for PC gamers. Sword and bow controls will be assigned to your right hand and spell control to your left. This means that you can hack a couple of times, then immediately loose off a fireball or put up a magical shield.
Everybody Dance Now
You can also expect to see lots in the way of what Lionhead calls fun' content: stuff that doesn't really affect the plot, but simply makes Fable more enjoyable to play. You can import images to tattoo upon your character's body, make a photo journal that can be displayed online and prance around like a flamenco dancer. Lionhead is currently polishing the game like mad, and the version we saw looked tantalisingly close to completion. We'll soon know if Molyneux's mob can deliver the definitive Fable it's been promising all along.
Download Fable: The Lost Chapters
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
I'm Stood In the middle of the local town, looking for something to do. On a curious whim, I remove all of my clothes. I'm sporting a set of Union Jack Y-fronts. Spying a nearby crate, I smash it open. A sudden holler goes up from behind me: "I saw that! That's naughty! As I turn around, a small brat is running full-pelt for the nearest guard. An unlucky chicken feels my annoyance as I boot it across the square. Still nearly naked as the guards near, I flip the finger at them and make a mad dash for the other end of town with my entourage in tow. Imaginary Benny Hill music plays in my head. The guards finally catch me, take all my money in fines and dump me outside of town in nothing but my patriotic kecks. A nearby guard calls me "arseface. I fart and laugh to myself.
Welcome, ladies and gentleman to the world of Fable. A world in which the traditional trappings of a fantasy RPG (swords, spells, stats - check) collide head-on with the phenomenon of cause and effect meaning that pretty much every action you take will have some result in game, from your choice of haircut to whose blood you decide to spill. It's a simple concept, but one that's carried off with great aplomb, allowing you to play either the godly hero who gains power and respect through helping out the locals, or the dastardly anti-hero who steals everything that's not nailed down, beats up small children and throws a 'kiss my arse' gesture to anyone pot afraid to look.
Lionhead has always been one to try something a bit new and Fable's no different, starting you off as a wee nipper and taking you all the way through your character's life, right through to the pension and Just For Men' at the end. Over time, your actions will start to impact upon your character's appearance. Enjoy picking fights and stealing stuff? Then watch as your character's skin turns pale, horns start to protrude from your forehead and flies gather around your napper. Prefer helping out the locals? Then your skin will start to glow, you'll get a halo and faint butterflies will encircle you. This is just the beginning as well, with tattoos and different hair, moustache and beard styles all on offer to help you customise your ultimate bad-ass/goody-two-shoes style.
Seek It Out
While the story progresses through the completion of the main missions, there's tons of extra content to be found too: fist-fighting, grave-digging, property development, card games and getting drunk to name a few. Of course, you could just get pissed down your local, come home, throw up and badger your partner for sex. Just like real life really.
Everything looks pretty tasty too running through the upgraded graphics engine and Lionhead's seen right to not only give the graphics a swift boot up the arse, but also extend the improvements to new spells, expressions, missions, regions and more.
These aren't just crappy tacked-on extras either - an in-game brothel (where you can choose to man-whore yourself out for extra moolah) and a massive extra section based after the end of the original are just some of the fantastic extensions to the tale.
One of Fable's most refreshing facets is its attempt to tell an RPG tale in a lighter and more humorous style than normal. Its use of strong British accents, bizarre side quests (magic mushrooms anybody?) and a liberal sprinkling of humour throughout may not be to everyone's tastes, but it does make for an experience that's far from dull.
Having so far sung its praises, we should mention the drawbacks too. If you play games just for the challenge, you'll be disappointed - Fable's not set to tax either your grey matter or your fingertips (although the 'lost chapters' at the end definitely provides much more of a task). Also, despite having the extra third, it's still a tad on the short side for an RPG. Morrowind's endless expanses this definitely is not.
Fable may not have reached the lofty heights of Molyneux's original vision, but the result is still a hugely amusing and entertaining waylo fritter away the hours. If you're looking for a highly polished RPG in which to exorcise your inner demons (and kick defenceless farmyard animals), Fable tells the right story.
It's Always a pleasure to chat with Lionhead, so this month we were delighted to get together with Guildford's finest development house to hear the tall tale behind Fable: The Lost Chapters, one of the studio's most hilarious and bumpkin creations. We put on our robes and wizard hats to take council with brothers Dene Carter (designer, left) and Simon Carter (lead coder, right), the minds behind all the brothels, phallic hedges and chicken football of Albion...
Dene: "When Simon and I were kids, we were kicking around the idea of something we called 'The Game'. This was going to be an RPG where you could do pretty much anything you wanted in the entire world, including taming your own horses and mixing your own potions from everything. In short, it was just ridiculous. Simon: And very, very dull!-"
Dene: "Imagine Morrowind, but multiply the dullness by an ultralarge factor. It wasn't on any specific platform, the idea was just 'The Game' in our heads and it kept moving onto whatever platform we were on next. 'Wow, 256k of memory! That'll be perfect'!"
Dene: 'There were frankly buckets of really stupid ideas we had throughout the development of Fable-, things like chicken-kicking competitions and brothels. The nice thing with Fable is it's the sort of game where, when you have an idea or when you think about something in the normal, everyday world that strikes you as a bit ridiculous, you can think, 'I wonder what that would be like in Albion?' So anything from, 'What would a games magazine be like in Albion?', to, "What would it be like to go on a historical tour in Albion?' That's why you have all these very bizarre, almost recognisable characters - Jack Sparrow in our original arena, for example."
The West Country
Dene: (In a stern voice) "We'd like to feel that Fable has a very deep, philosophical message. It's actually ripping the piss out of the culture of celebrity greatly. We really liked the idea that these heroes were frankly, stupidly blown-up, horrible characters you'd find in Hello!, and all the people would pander and cater to them, and clap their stupid hands with glee every time they did anything: 'Oh look, it's a hero wiping his nose!' This is really ripe to rip the piss out of. Simon: "We were watching a lot of Big Brother" Dene: "We were trying to differentiate the accents so that the country yokels were very obviously overt country yokels. So we took the most strong, unpleasantly horrible regional country accents we could and blew them out of all proportion, so you really knew who you were supposed to care about and who was a clapping monkey. They were all caricatures intentionally though, so if ever I visit Northumberland, for example, I hope there's not a gang of pissed off people gathered outside my hotel..."
Simon: "I think if yon were to ask our artists, the bit they were most pleased they (jot away with was the topiary cocks." Dene: lf you were to hang around the guild in the northern part of Bowerstone, you'd have all these bushes which arc very strangely phallically sliaped, and we only realised this fairly close to the end. Basically, it was late and they were a bit pissed off that they were working late, so they decided to make things sha|)ed out of penises".
Simon: "Yeah, I think they're actually in the north part of Bowerstone. But if you asked them on another day, they'd just say that it was in fact a complete accident and there's nothing even remotely phallic about the shape of those bushes."
Dene: "We were trying to be extremely politically correct with Fable, in that we were very proud of being one of the first games where you could have a gay relationship. By default, the code was obviously politically correct in that you could get married to anybody and have sex in the game. So we then went down the route of thinking that if you're a man and there are sex scenes where you can have sex with your wife, then there should be sex scenes where you can have sex with your husband as well.
"However, when we recorded the sex scene between two men it was embarrassing and truly awful - everybody was shocked and appalled by this really badly judged, Carry On-style gay sex scene; it was just insulting. So we dropped it without a second thought."
Simon: "Originally, we thought we'd only put about three or four days into it and then Adam - one of our brilliant artists - came back and had completely made over the brothel. The fabric that's in there at the moment is this obvious porn-palace kind of look - in fact, we originally had a flashing sign that had 'GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!' outside. Then, when it came to scripters, they put a similar level of love and respect into it. We originally had them as generic GM-style brothel women; characterless, with standard lines for all of their interactions. Then we ended up with a 75-page script, and I thought 'My god, you've given these characters more background than any of the heroes'!'' Dene: "I think the original idea for the brothel was from Peter (Molyneux). At the end of Dungeon Keeper, Peter also came up with the idea of having a brothel in one of the expansion packs, and then I think at the end of Black & White he had this remarkable idea of having a brothel in Black & White. So I think that at the end of a game, Peter thinks, 'I know what will make this better - a brothel'!''
Dene: "We had many problems with the prison. We started off with the whole prison outbreak tiling, referencing things like The Count Of Monte Cristo and various other bits. It was supposed to be a very dark, very serious and very moving part of the game, but we realised that we'd created such a strange, silly bird of a game that it didn't quite work. Every single time we tried to get very leaden and moving like: (gravelly voice) 'I've been here now for... Ten whole years," we just started giggling because it's just a very silly game. The whole Vogon poetry recital came up during one very late coffee-fuelled session, where we were desperately trying to think 'if we can't do it seriously, how can we make this absolutely ridiculous?' It was more in a sense of ridicule and the desire to try and undo the situation we'd got ourselves into at that point."
The Chicken Hat
Dene: "It may be completely stupid, but I love the idea that you can completely undermine the heroic experience when you play Fable." Simon: "The idea for the chicken hat came from Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In that game you could have the rabbit ears, and in the time-travelling cut-scene it was just fantastically funny. So we talked about being able to play the entirety of Fable while wearing a chicken hat; having all these emotive cut-scenes while you've got a big chicken hat on would be quite funny.
Dene: "Noooooo! Mother! Cluck, cluck! Simon: "People have said that it's almost like Fable was written by Gonzo from The Muppets, because it has this strange obsession with wild foul."
A big hit on the XBox recently, Fable now makes its debut on the PC with The Lost Chapters. With a load of added features, items, and a level not previously on the XBox version, Fable hopes to make the transition more successfully than earlier console ports have.
First off, I need to stress that while Fable: The Lost Chapters looks like a port, it doesn't feel or even play like one. The storyline is the same as the original: Play the life of a character from early youth to wizened veteran. Each decision you make, bad or good, affects the growth and development of your character. Choose good, choose evil, or something in between, and your character will develop into whatever you wish to make of him, and with all of the respective auras and characteristics of good and evil avatars. Shades of Black and White? Maybe, but it's still done elegantly in Fable.
Controlling your character is quite easy, since controls match configurations found in most FPS titles. It's only a matter of a few tweaks to the options to get the configuration that suits you, and exploring the vast world Fable has to offer is quite easy. That being said, the towns, cities and other areas in Fable are richly drawn and well laid out, much like their historic counterparts. Audio is also well done, though someone needs to work on the voice acting a bit. This is, however, a weakness many games have had in the recent past.
Rather than discuss too many of the same things as earlier Xbox reviews, let's discuss the new features: the PC version of Fable offers new levels previously unavailable on console, as well as a host of other items, charms, tattoos and items designed to make your character unique. Whether this is simply eye candy or a nice addition to the game is merely a matter of opinion, though this writer leans more toward the latter.
The only complaint I have is that the game tends to be fairly short, easy to complete rather quickly. However, with the many variations and options you have to create an original character every time you play, it does tend to add to the replay value.
All things being equal, Fable: The Lost Chapters does something I never thought possible: It brings the excitement and life of an excellent game on the console to the PC, and does it well. You can tell the amount of love poured into this game, it really shows. An excellent title for anyone who enjoys adventure games, especially those who like the less linear feel that Fable has to offer.