Fable: Anniversary The Lost Chapters – Final Review

            The Lost Chapters component of Fable Anniversary exists as a fairly straightforward expansion, though I am hesitant to even apply that term to the added content, which is rather slight; I was able to complete the entire thing in three or so hours, taking in most of the sights and deliberately and carefully exploring all of the available areas. The new game world, a frosty, snowy area north of the game world proper, is very confined in terms of size, and there is almost no diversity to the environments; this stands in contrast, of course, with the whimsical, imaginative, wildly differing regions and environs of mainland Albion. As with the base game, technically it is not particularly impressive, textures lacking at time in terms of quality, draw distance rather low. Still, there is something charming about the world, particularly in its main city hub, Snowspire. It is interesting to consider such a large population could exist in such a hostile area, with frigid temperatures and frost, powerful, frightening enemies roaming the immediate landscapes. This positioning reflects a certain resiliency of the inhabitants, something inherently intriguing, even as they have no detailed, compelling dialogues or anything narratively consequential to contribute. So just as with the base campaign, the world here is creative, though here it is plagued by an overwhelming sense of sameness and mundanity.

The new quests here are very linear – no new notable side content is introduced, so the whole expansion pack is on-rails. This is a good thing, I think, a smart decision. It plays to the original’s strengths, and has a very strong sense focus, which only serves to propel the narrative, it maintaining always a brisk pace. Narratively speaking, though, the game has no real reason to exist. A direct continuation of the base game, the ending decision made regarding the fate of Jack of Blades, primary antagonist, is made completely redundant. Banished and defeated, here in The Lost Chapters it is revealed that he survived his vanquishing and seeks a return to reality and the acquisition of newer, greater powers. The ultimate objective, of course, is to stop his resurrection. That is basically the extent of the plot; there is no real intrigue present here, though the nature of his looming arrival does bring about a sense of urgency, which was kind of lacking in the base game, meandering as it was. Being so condensed, the narrative here is very effective and almost all of the missions are entertaining.

            Part of this entertainment comes from a notable increase in difficulty. There are a great many combat encounters, and the level of challenge on offer here seems much higher than that found in the base game.  A handful of additional enemies are present, from wraiths, to summoners, and even a new variety of troll – the frost troll. While not too dissimilar from the other enemies featured in the base game, there is enough on offer here to keep things fresh; the adoption of newer tactics becomes a necessity, a slight strategic component emerging as vital in correlation to the increased strengths and endurance of these new foes. In a return to the arena, another combat gauntlet is faced. Long, laborious, and challenging, the opposition was quite fierce – at one instance, multiple trolls are faced at one time, a seemingly insurmountable threat. The surest way to success is to focus on one troll at a time, slowly whittling away its massive health bar. Triumph over these forces was very rewarding, perhaps because success implies further hindrance to Jack’s nefarious plans narratively. So while no new spells, weapons, or armor sets are introduced, things are shaken up a bit to distinguish the Northern Wastes from regular Albion, though the increased difficulty is the most marked change.

            So, the primary threat is introduced almost immediately upon the beginning of the expansion – kill Jack. Of course, the ways of completing this are not so obvious from the first, and the plot unravels gradually and logically, though there were a few surprises. Exploring the Northern Wastes in efforts of this final objective, the permanent silencing of a revived foe, is rather satisfying, comprised largely of many smaller acts. Disappointingly, though, much of the expansion occurs away from the northern areas, the newly-added landmass. The player is ultimately tasked with gathering together three specific souls, each corresponding to a unique and powerful Hero. The search for one Hero leads to the mentioned Arena, while another seeks a return to the graveyard, where a minor character from the base game is reintroduced as a boss. There are a few morality choices at work here, with relative flexibility in terms of quest completion. The much revered Guildmaster can be slain in the face of the graveyard foe, for instance. Most of the times, these evil choices seem less elaborate and more straightforward than the benevolent routes, which can themselves be more involved and challenging; here, the evil path is the easy path. Still, as I developed my character into a morally sound being in the base game, I chose to follow that route here, too, embracing happily the increased complexity. Briar Rose, a character from the base game, appears here in a dominant role, as does a new, intriguing character – Scythe, a supposedly ancient being and hero. The greatest failing here, though, is that the Northern Wastes were not fleshed out to any greater degree, beyond mere Snowspire; the battlefield lies largely within Albion. 

All of these smaller engagements are building up towards one breaking point. Once all of the souls have been gathered together, the door protecting Jack broken through, there is a concluding boss battle. As with the overall spike in difficulty, this final boss battle against Jack – taking the form of a massive, fire-breathing dragon – is challenging, victory rewarding. Occurring in a large, open combat arena, he flies all around the level, resting periodically, where he is briefly vulnerable to damage. There are of a course smaller minions to face, acting as annoying diversions from the boss proper. Jack as dragon can deal massive damage with his attacks, so dodging and deft movement are essential, though many attacks seem unfairly unavoidable. I relied heavily upon by bow, charged with multiple arrows by magic, and was in time able to slay him, thanks to the power of patience, my bow and acquired capabilities as an archer. Compared to the Jack fought at the ending of the base game, the fight here is involved, and far more spectacular. As is expected, things conclude with a moral choice: truly defeat Jack and throw his mask into the pits of lava; or retain it, obtain ultimate power and, perhaps, rule over Albion. There is no ambiguity here – just as with the base game – and my choice was pretty obvious. Tossing away his source of power, things came to an end, with a final, striking, creative wood-cut spelling concluding a long, winding journey.

            As an expansion, I was alternately impressed and disappointed with The Lost Chapters. I found the added content to be compelling. The world and narrative are tight and focused, the snowy areas fun to explore, even if they are lacking in diversity or anything to truly incentivize exploration, very removed in this aspect from the base game, where exploration is vital and rewarding, with numerous branching pathways and opportunities for the emergent. My greatest gripe, though, is simply that there wasn’t enough added content – and that’s a great thing to say about a game. I wish the landmass introduced was larger in scale and raw size. The introduction of new armor and weaponry would also go a long ways in bettering the expansion, giving something new and exciting to strive for, obtainable through merchants or, better still, exploration. Appearance and customization options are also left largely unaltered or improved upon. I merely had greater expectations, I suppose, and that is why I am so disappointed; it is an expansion, after all, not a sequel or any other such thing. It didn’t need to exist – Jack was already bested – but I am very glad that it does exist. Snowspire is a clever foil to Bowerstone, and the frigid air offers something atmospheric, and totally distinct from the base game. There is a great deal of potential here, which is never truly capitalized upon. Still, the game wraps together lose ends, and even if it is not revolutionary, lacking, indeed, some of the greatest components of the base game, it is still worth playing, a satisfying conclusion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: