Review of Fable II Knothole Island DLC

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So, Fable II has been out for about two-and-a-half months now, and Lionhead have just dropped the first piece of Downloadable Content, which takes the form of a whole new island. It’ll set you back 800 MS Points (£6.80), but is it worth your virtual bucks? Read on to find out…

Upon entering Albion after downloading the DLC you’ll see a new Quest appearing on your Quest Log. You’ll find the shy and awkward inventor Gordon awaiting you alongside his home-made submarine at the Bowerstone Docks. After enticing you with a few gifts (which are actually available free to anyone with the game) he’ll take you to Knothole Island itself.

There you’ll meet the self-centred and self-appointed Chieftain who ends up roping you into sorting out the Island’s problems. The Knothole tribe used to have control over the weather through the use of some magical totems, but this allowed them to become lazy and complacent. The tribe’s elders decided to seal the totems away in three dangerous shrines so that their warriors would be tested to retrieve them each year, and thus stay strong.

Unfortunately, the tribe no longer has anyone left who is adventurous enough to face the trials in each cave, and Knothole Island is stuck in an eternal winter. Of course, it falls to you, the Hero, to save the people, whilst the Chieftain tries to take the credit. Sadly, although this Quest is split into three parts, it’s the only actual proper quest that the DLC contains.

Combat on Knothole Island is the same as the main game, and battling through the Ice, Sun and Storm shrines you’ll see all the same Hobbes, Balverines and Hollow Men that you fought in the main game. This DLC does introduce some new Shadow creatures that actually do manage to be more interesting to fight than the usual enemies.

It would be a stretch to say that these shrines contain puzzles, as apart from a couple of hideously easy expression statues, you’ll be seeing a lot of irritating flit switches. If you remember these devices from the main game, these are the orbs that must be hit by either melee, ranged or magic attacks depending on their colour. The flit switches found in Knothole Island leave little margin for failure, so there will be much trial and error trying to activate long sequences of them within the allotted time. These parts of the game end up feeling like glorified QTE’s, and it’s disappointing that they appear to be all that Lionhead could think of.

If you go directly through this main quest, it will literally only take you an hour or two to complete, and you must leave the area and return to prompt the next section of the quest to begin, something that is never made clear. The changing weather really does change the aesthetic style and layout of the island greatly, and it’s good to see little touches like the villagers changing their clothing appropriately.

Without following the ‘golden trail’ though, Knothole Island can be quite frustrating to navigate. This is something that is compounded by that fact that there is no map of the area available on the pause screen. The quest also ends with the typical moral choice, but it’s one of such shallow depth, and with such disproportionate rewards, that you won’t even need to think about it.

Besides the main quest, there are two other activities that this DLC offers. Finding the ten books that chronicle the history of Knothole Island is fairly straightforward, with only one being in a less-than-obvious place. The more interesting diversion is the mysterious Box of Secrets shop, which is staffed by the lovely Jessica (who wouldn’t marry me despite my concerted efforts at wooing her.)

Unlike an ordinary store, all items in the Box of Secrets are a mystery until purchased. And they can’t be bought with Gold, they must be traded for with items that can’t be found on Knothole Island. If you’ve already completed the game then you may have a few of them already, but searching around to find two puny carrots, or a pot of Purple Regal Dye is actually quite enjoyable.

None of the items will be that useful to someone who has completed the main game, but the chance to dress up in an Elvis-style outfit (complete with wig), and wield Hal’s Rifle (a carbon copy of the Assault Rifle from Halo) will be irresistible for some.

The shops of Knothole island actually include a whole range of potions, hairstyles, augments and clothing that cannot be found elsewhere. There’s even a suit of armour that has to be found piece by piece, and although it doesn’t protect you whatsoever, at least it alters appearance depending on your moral standing.

There are potions to make you fatter or thinner, taller or shorter that come in handy. And seemingly determined to remove any possible consequence for any actions in Fable II whatsoever, Lionhead now even allow you to buy potions that remove those ‘permanent’ scars you may have gained from battle, and you can purchase an augment remover that allows you to separate those augments that you ‘irreversibly’ attached to weapons…

Ultimately, if you’ve exhausted all the content on Fable II’s disc and still want more, then you’ll benefit from this DLC, but otherwise you’d be better off spending your 800 points on one of the many excellent Live Arcade games out there.

5/10

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