Fable II: Knothole Island
Upon first arriving at Fable II’s snow-drenched Knothole Island you learn that its inhabitants are having a fair few problems with the weather. Their lands are enchanted somewhat, with their personal meteorology influenced directly by various shrines dotted around the land: three, to be precise. Your character, naturally, has to roam around each of these shrines, killing monsters, recovering artefacts and getting a feel for each of the few new characters on the island before making – as is customary with Fable – a choice that has a substantial hit on your morality. So far, so Fable.
If my description of the first DLC pack for last year’s stellar RPG reads like it’s merely a quest by numbers it’s because, to some extent, it is. Knothole Island’s creativity leaves much to be desired, with many of the more ingenious quests of the main game being much more interesting to play than the one’s offered up here. And in a particularly obvious attempt at padding out the length of the comparatively limited content, the village chief makes you endure pointless toing and froing to unearth keys needed to enter the aforementioned shrines in the first place. But perhaps I’m being too harsh: Knothole Island is home to three intricate, well-designed dungeons, and there are a couple of hours of decent, wholesome content and visual variety contained within.
But that’s all. The main quest only lasts a minimal amount of time, and after that your ability to play with the island is severely limited. There are ten volumes of books explaining the history of the island to be found, but they’re not particularly difficult to recover with most (in all probability) dug out during the course of the main quest anyway. On top of that there’s the Box of Secrets shop, a vendor that will trade unique items with you for various other possessions acquired back in the main game. This itself leads to a bit of back and forth, but the results are satisfying: the new items are mostly a lot of fun. But, ultimately, many people will have already progressed through Fable II, and as the Box of Secrets is mostly locked until the island’s main quest has been completed, there’s not much avenue of opportunity to use the new weapons and armour to their full potential.
Confusingly, progressing through the Knothole Island quest also requires you to leave the island and return after clearing every shrine. This odd necessity goes unmentioned, which, a third of the way into the quest left me running around wondering how exactly I was supposed to progress. This particular quirk smacks of a bug being labelled as a feature, and I can’t help but feel it wasn’t originally meant to be there.
As will always be the case with DLC, Knothole Island will inevitably invoke questions about its cost. At 800 Microsoft Points (or £6.80 to you and me), the relatively diminutive content will seem vastly out of proportion with the original game itself, a fact further compounded if your copy was picked up in any of the credit-crunch-induced pre-Christmas sales. This is, after all, 2009, and whether the economic climate will allow for such frivolous premium content is a question that is yet to be properly put to the test.
Yet, part of the appeal of Knothole Island, though, is in its exclusivity. It’s the VIP lounge equivalent of Fable II content, and an area crafted especially to preach to the choir. Just don’t expect it to come cheap.
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