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Review: Fable II: Knothole Island DLC (XBL)

April 28, 2009


Color me disappointed.

Knothole Island, the first DLC released for last year’s acclaimed Fable II, isn’t exactly what I was expecting. It’s especially disconcerting considering the impact that Fable II’s introductory form left on me.

Let me put it like this: If the core content of the original release was a satisfying four-star dinner, then Knothole Island is an insufficient sno cone dessert — bright and colorful, but not much more than dressed-up frozen water sold at a premium.

Still, the expansion has something to offer to the obsessive-compulsive Fable fans who’ve been wanting an out for their previous mistakes, as well as a few new duds along the way.

Access to the mysterious island is available to all manner of characters at any time in their careers, which is admittedly a good thing. After taking a — for some reason — submarine to the island because of some sub driver’s pleas, players begin the one and only quest chain in the DLC. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with a singular objective; however, it’s what you’re tasked with doing that proves tedious.

It’s a rather strange situation Lionhead put itself in: having a boring DLC quest primarily targeted at higher-level characters who’ve accomplished things of note during their playtime. The most excitement found in Knothole’s quest is in backtracking the same path, three different times, to activate three different weather-controlling statues.

There’s just something faulty with travelling to a secluded island to help some cold villagers after you’ve saved the world from Lucien’s evil.

The DLC is certainly looks great

The DLC certainly looks great

Even more bothersome are the dungeons’ dependence upon the color-coded strength, skill and will switches from Fable II. It honestly felt like the only way to open anything throughout the two-hour quest was first melee it, then shoot it and finally blast it with magic. Relying on the switches turned them into a crippling gimmick, and served no other purpose than to prolong the main quest.

Additionally, the chieftain of Knothole Island, and the man who gives heroes their one quest, is incredibly demanding and unlikeable. It’s poor judgment on Lionhead’s part to employ such a boring character as the gatekeeper for the sole plot thread. At the end of the add-on’s quest, players are given the choice to back the annoying leader or support the townspeople. I’d be quite surprised if anyone went with him, even for the sake of maintaining an evil persona. He’s that lame.

While the “plot” is severely lacking, the game world is at least as enchanting as ever. The art team certainly didn’t slack here: Knothole Island retains the beauty of Fable II’s natural environments while adding a bit more to the overall presentation.

Snow falls heavier on the island than in the rest of Albion, and the frozen lakes are quite striking. Even the heat waves seen during the bone-dry version of Knothole Island will raise a few eyebrows. The world of Fable II is as visually impressive as ever, the DLC at least does its part to add some panache in the graphics department.

Angry role-players everywhere rejoice

Angry role-players everywhere rejoice

Consider Knothole Island a boutique add-on, and if that sounds great then this expansion is for you. The new clothing options vary from additional tartish skirts to goth-friendly skulls on black leather. And as cool as a full suit of armor and Flying V-shaped guitar are, shiny content does not a good game make. In some ways, Knothole Island feels more like a microtransaction pack for a Korean free-to-play MMO than a substantial piece of gaming content.

The main draw of Knothole Island is its role as an “out” for the mistakes players made throughout their journey of Albion.

Available for purchase and hound-hunting are skinny potions, fat potions, tall potions, de-scarring potions and so on. Lionhead even added an augment remover in, allowing someone who, for instance, made the mistake of placing a Golden Touch augment in a rust-quality weapon a chance to take it out.

Despite its problems, the Fonz-style wig is amazing

Despite its problems, the Fonz-style wig is amazing

I initially applauded the tabula rasa idea, but in practice the inclusion of alteration items simply negates the tough decisions players had to make in the regular game. I’m actually quite surprised there isn’t another gender-switching potion available.

Moreover, what was the point of watching your character’s figure by eating tofu and veggies throughout Fable II if now you can just drink the fat away? Or, if you wanted a fat avatar, where’s the fun in a potion that instantly makes your hero hefty? Pouring pies and meats down the hero’s throat was part of the fun of the game; knowing that your choices had consequences. Maybe the development team wanted to give players a chance at a fresh start before the next, and more robust, DLC releases in May.

But that’s the overall problem with Knothole Island: Why pay $10 (800 microsoftpointsicon) now for a potentially better experience later? If this add-on did more than give heroes a knight outfit and some potions, it might be worth the asking price.

As it stands, save your MS points for the likely more interesting — and $3 cheaper — See the Future DLC pack.

Recommended for:

  • Extreme Fable enthusiasts who don’t care about substance for their dollar
  • That one guy who complained about no available armor in Fable II

Not Recommended for:

  • The true lack of value available for the $10 price tag
  • Annoying quest, annoying questgiver
  • Over far too fast
  • A complete one-eighty of many defining elements that made heroes in Fable II have real weight to them, literally and metaphorically

Read our policy on reviews here.

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