Fable: The Lost Chapters is basically the original Fable turned up to eleven. Many, many different elements coalesce into a game that, overall, manages to be quite fun. There are hiccups in that fun, but, like a drunken hiccup, the memories of such moments quickly fade as you indulge yourself in more and more. Soon you’re passed out on the floor and your family is staging an intervention, and you’re like, “Come on, man, I just want a little more and then I’ll give it up forever.” It’s a lie, though. Somewhere between the interesting art design and the campy voice overs, this game manages to be strangely addictive.
Part of that is the fact that there are consequences to a lot of the things you can do. Want to eat nothing but unhealthy food? Okay, but you’ll get fat. Want to cover yourself in scary-looking tattoos? Go for it, but villagers will panic and flee at your presence. Want to kill a bunch of people? Slash away, but be aware that you’ll eventually grow horns and have (awesome) red glowy eyes. For the most part this is all just superficial—though there are areas housing interesting weapons and items that can only be accessed if you meet certain criteria—but fortunately, there’s much more to this game.
Like amusing voice acting. It’s all the good kind of campy: Even if you’ve just committed unspeakable, murderous horrors on the residents of a village, the guards will, provided you’ve paid the fine, speak to you in the same tone one could expect were they making trouble in a chocolate factory. There’s a flip side to that lightheartedness, however, and certain points of the game can manage to be surprisingly dark. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, especially given the fact that the art maintains its cartoony kind of look even during these sections.
Combat is where this game falters. You’re given the ability to shoot arrows in long-range combat, wield a sword/hammer/whatever for short-range combat, and cast spells. While in the beginning it’s quite easy to rely on one of those things exclusively, later sections seem to force you to use all three. That wouldn’t really be a problem if short-range combat wasn’t so ridiculously stupid. Shooting arrows is fine except for the occasional moment where your shot will fail because you hit an invisible barrier (whyyyyyyyyy?), and magic works wonders for crowd control most of the time provided there aren’t any friendly characters to be damaged by it, but if you’re facing more than four enemies in close quarters and have friendly characters nearby, you’re basically forced to use a sword.
Short-range combat is so painfully stupid that it irritates me just to think about it. See, you can attack and dodge and block, but dodging and blocking is clunky. It just doesn’t feel natural, partially because the weapon and character motions seem to have no weight behind them. Because of that, it’s hard to get a good idea of when to dodge or block, or even be sure whether or not dodging will actually get you out of harm’s way (more often than not, the answer is a resounding “no”). Attacking isn’t much better, because enemies can block your sword attacks (while they don’t seem to be able to block arrows or magic). Fortunately, after a few hits you can do a weapon flourish which is unblockable. Unfortunately, this usually knocks your opponent down, which leads to my biggest frustration with the whole thing: You can’t damage enemies who have fallen to the ground. Why the hell not? They’re right there, and having them become invincible (forcing you to turn your attention away to more immediate threats, at which point they stand up and attack you from behind) rather than allowing you to finish them off is beyond irritating.
Magic and archery are much better, though there’s one irritating problem with magic: The lightning spell. Once upgraded it can hit multiple targets and it really works wonders for keeping enemies distracted, but once one of those enemies dies the whole thing resets for some inexplicable reason. Sometimes it doesn’t catch an enemy fast enough, so despite the fact that you’ve been shooting lightning nonstop without letting up, an enemy could suddenly break through and hit you for no reason other than the fact that one of his buddies died. There’s no logic behind it. There are very effective area spells that can damage friendly units, but that’s obviously intended and adds to the game rather than being a negative.
Don’t take any of that to mean that the game is difficult, however. It’s frustrating that some aspects of combat have the flaws that they do, but the game is still pitifully easy. Even in the unlikely case that you’re overwhelmed, you can buy and carry around 9 “Resurrection Phials” that bring you back to life on the spot. You can basically be as careless as you’d like, because it’d take actual effort on your part to lose all nine of those against any enemy in the entire game. Still, for all of my issues with combat in this game, shooting arrows at unaware enemies is surprisingly fun. Getting to the point where you can take down bandits with a single shot to the head and take down an entire group before they reach you is more fulfilling than you’d probably think.
The art design is fantastic. Though it’s a bit on the cartoony, whimsical side of things, it never ceases to be pretty. There are lots of colors at play and each area has its own unique identity to the point where teleporting around (made easy by one of your items) never turns into the kind of guessing game that some fast-travel systems do. The game world may not be the biggest, but it’s certainly large and well-designed, and running around rarely feels like a chore. Music is also good, though very much a background thing. Sadly, it’s frequently interrupted by comments from the Guildmaster, a mentor of sorts, who speaks to you far too often to offer advice. It gets… really grating after awhile. It might be best to just turn off the volume and avoid the whole thing.
Ultimately, Fable: The Lost Chapters ends up being like a mix between an action game, an RPG, and a sims game. You can take a husband or wife, attack random people, level up your stats and spells, and even, if you desire, become a paragon of virtue who shows kindness to everyone you meet. This isn’t a game for those searching for a deep, twisted story (because the actual story isn’t very interesting at all, honestly), but anyone else will be able to find plenty to love.
Here’s what you should do: