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The truth of 'Fable' is that it is not as open as it could be

February 28, 2006|by ROWAN COPLEY

Video game review: "Fable: The Lost Chapters"is available for PC and Xbox.

"Fable: The Lost Chapters" is one of the few adventure games where you can enter a chicken-kicking contest, marry almost anyone you meet or complete a quest by killing all your friends.

However, for all the options that "Fable" provides, it comes nowhere near to breaking the standard, linear nature of console adventure games.

Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios, famous for "The Sims" games, over-hyped its original "Fable" by calling it the most open-ended game in history, but it's another linear adventure game with fewer-than-expected cool, open-ended features. "Fable: The Lost Chapters," released in September for PC and Xbox, restores content cut from the original "Fable."

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Once I accepted that "The Lost Chapters" isn't nearly as open as I wanted it to be, I learned to enjoy it for what it is - an entertaining and rich adventure that's really a joy to play through.

The combat is always fun, but it's mainly a cakewalk because of the ability to replenish health by eating stuff. During one fight I had late in the game, I was unable to stand for several minutes because of a barrage of stones being thrown at me. However, I didn't die because I had a healthy supply of apples, meat and health potions.

The overall flavor of the game is great. The graphics are pretty and slightly cartoonish, reflecting medieval German design. Characters are quirky; their voices are caricature-ized - in a good way. There are humorous jabs at modern culture, like the spaced-out hippies looking for their lost Mushroom of Truth ("If you stand really still, I can see your skeleton. Far out, man!").

Maybe I'm wrong to judge a game by what I was expecting from it, but I'd been hoping for a feeling of freedom, of exploration - unlike the console adventure clich of fencing in a player using objects or invisible walls.

It's true that there are various side quests, but unlike truly nonlinear games such as the "Grand Theft Auto" series, "Fable" doesn't give you much incentive to finish these. Instead, there's a system in which your character will eventually develop a little halo around his head if he does good deeds, but bad deeds lead to a more sinister complexion. It has little effect on the progression of the story, which is fun anyway.

I had a great time for the short 12 hours it took me to beat "Fable" the first time. But for a game that is supposed to be so much about free choice, I'd hoped for something more open-ended, a game that begs you to explore its details.

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