Developer: Lionhead Studios
Macintosh Developer: Robosoft Technologies
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4, 1.6GHz Intel Mac, 512MB RAM, 64MB video card, 3GB hard disk space, DVD ROM, mouse
Review Computer: 2GHz 20″ Intel Core Duo iMac, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon X1600
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Universal
ESRB Rating: M
Official Website: www.lionhead.com/fabletlc/
It’s not long into Fable: The Lost Chapters before you realize you’re in for something different. As if the words “Action/RPG” aren’t already enough to warm the soul of Mac gamers everywhere (oh, we’ve tasted action and we’ve tasted RPGs, but we rarely have them served in the same meal), the dramatic conclusion to the otherwise light and cartoony introduction will let you know that maybe this game is special.
And it is.
First off, I’m not sure what’s “lost” about these chapters. The original version of Fable was for Xbox, and the original version of Fable: The Lost Chapters was for Xbox, so it appears as though this was basically the same game with some additional content thrown in. I only bring this up to let you know this isn’t a sequel. There’s nothing out there you need to play first to avoid being lost in The Lost Chapters.
Now, Fable: The Lost Chapters comes to us via Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios, the guy and the company that also developed the over-hyped Black & White and the under-hyped The Movies, both of which found their way to the Mac. Fable is quite a different from both, and is quite a bit different from pretty much any other game available for the Macintosh. It plays more like a console game than Mac game; more like The Legend of Zelda than Tomb Raider: Whatever. Fable is very big in both gameplay and in the world it creates, and those who play it will find themselves immersed for quite some time.
As with most role-playing games, you start out as a young lad completely unaware of who he is and what he’ll become. Indeed, your first quest is to buy your sister a birthday gift. How quaint. It’s not long, however, before destiny leads you to one of those Harry Potter schools so you can learn to fight and use magic and gather fruit. At this early stage, the game does unfortunately bog down a bit as it seems you’re just going through the motions to master the controls, your inventory system, etc. Pay attention, though; the relationships you form here, good and bad, play a part not only in the game’s plot, but in who your character will grow to be.
What’s more impressive is that this customization of character not only happens naturally throughout the game, but is reflected in how your character looks. If you fight most of your battles with melee weapons, he’ll become muscular. If you prefer archery, he’ll remain slim and dress in brown. Focus on magic, and he’ll…grow old? I guess using magic is the fantasy equivalent of having kids. No worries, though; looking old doesn’t change your ability to fight or remain attractive to non-player characters (who don’t seem to age, by the way, while you do…which is a welcome design choice when you enter the brothels). Although it’s fun to watch your character grow, it’s purely cosmetic.
Your decisions throughout the game, however, are cosmetic. Everything—from how to talk to/deal with people to what tattoos you wear to your haircut—affects how others react to you. Hell’s Angel, metrosexual, or anywhere in between, you pick the outfits (and obtain the scars) to play the part. Likewise, if you generally run around doing good, you’ll acquire a nice glow and people will dig you. Behave poorly, and you’ll grow some devil horns and get those shifty eyes that spell trouble. Would that real life worked the same way, we’d all know from whom to buy our cars.
The dilemmas that affect all of this are presented to you almost immediately, and continue throughout. But that’s not the focus of the game. This isn’t The Sims, thank goodness, it’s an action game, and there’s plenty of fighting to be done. The control system for this, unfortunately, is awkward and quite rigid. You pretty much need a multi-button mouse if you want to be any good, and that’s not even enough, by default. The game maps your block maneuver to the click wheel of the mouse, which is all well and good, but I have my click wheel mapped to duplicate the “double-click” command of the side buttons, so it doesn’t work. Fable seems to base its commands on the button’s assigned function, not on the action of clicking the button, so you my find yourself facing some messy reprogramming to get the controls to work properly. For a game that was originally released for the Xbox, you’d think the controls would be much simpler to manage.
Despite the epic feel of Fable (epic, in the RPG use of the word, meaning to grow from boy to man and exact some revenge along the way), there’s no real sense of urgency. With the wide availability of health and resurrection vials, dying is both avoidable and pointless. The main story is fine, if a bit tired, and the side quests seem to be there solely to extend the life of the game. This is all okay, though, because the real joy comes from watching your character grow and seeing how he interacts with others. It’s just as much fun to find a wife as it is to chop off some monster heads, as fun to explore new lands as it is to accomplish the quests when you get there. That’s what the RP in the G is all about, after all.
And to top it off, the game looks fantastic. Again, as with Tomb Raider: Anniversary, the folks over at Robosoft Technologies have done a fantastic job of porting the game to the Mac, taking advantage of the Mac’s strengths. The animation is smooth and the environments are wonderfully detailed with great lighting effects, which is key in a game that wants you to buy into a mystical world. It may take a bit to get used to the cartoonish appearance of the characters, but it’ll happen. It doesn’t hurt that the ambient sounds are very natural sounding and effective, and the music score is the type you could listen to outside the game and still be impressed.
Arriving late as it did (the PC version was released nearly three years ago), I’m glad Feral stuck with Fable: The Lost Chapters to bring it our way. I’m hard pressed to come up with a Mac equivalent, but there’s really no need to, considering how generally well this one was done. The story is a bit tired, the quests can get repetitive, there are some control issues, and character management gets burdensome, but the game’s atmosphere and the connection you’ll develop with your character and the world around him create an immersive gaming experience we haven’t had for quite some time.
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait this long to experience it again.