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Fable II: See the Future

Wossy was onto something.

1,539,100 gold coins. That's the amount of money my Albion property portfolio accrued in rent from the moment I last switched off Fable II, having completed its first DLC release, Knothole Island, to the moment I sat down to play this, its second. It was deposited as a lump sum, having accumulated in even amounts every hour for the past four months while I was away. I mention this fact not as a boast (although you should check the hell out of these kickass solid gold trainers) but rather as evidence that innovative systems designed to draw players back into a game in the short term can present unforeseen problems over the long term. In See the Future, every bag of gold coins in a hidden treasure chest and every ruby gemstone my trusty dog sniffs out is worthless: time and distance already made me a millionaire.

While Knothole Island was pieced together in a matter of weeks by a team weary from the crunch of delivering the main game, the time leading up to this second add-on has evidently been used to regroup, refocus and decide where Fable II's future lies. Unlike the first add-on, See the Future presents three distinct, small mini-adventures as oppose to a single medium-sized one, each one tied to a different mysterious trinket on sale from a newly-installed Bowerstone market trader, Murgo.

The first object Murgo sells you is a cursed snowglobe that whisks you away to a black and white village drained of all colour and inhabited only by ghosts and the ghosts of ghosts. Just as your job was to restore balance and order to Knothole Island by solving its small-town politics-cum-weather problems, so you must restore colour and life to this more esoteric community. However, in contrast to Knothole Island's yarn, the story surrounding the snowglobe village's misfortune is told in whispers of dialogue, and half-clues scrawled in dusty diaries: it is mystery piled upon mystery and the resolution, when it comes, is both fleeting and unsatisfactory.

Offering players the chance to upgrade those last remaining abilities, See the Future is chock full of battles.

In essence, the mission consists of two small dungeons, one underground, accessed via a well, the other inside a haunted house. Both locations are inhabited by a new kind of enemy, a Tron-like apparition, which comes in three varieties, colour-coded as being susceptible to one of your three types of attack: melee, ranged or magical. There are no bosses to defeat here; you simply follow Fable 2's sparkly breadcrumb trail, and kill everything on sight while keeping a lookout for collectables along the way. Once colour is restored to the village there are a couple of secrets to tie up but, otherwise, there's nothing to stop you leaving the snowglobe forever.

Murgo's second item, a golden skull, transports you to a deserted graveyard, the kind of cemetery found in every one of Albion's nooks and crannies. Here you must aid a spellbound necromancer by fetching him various types of ghosts to free him, and herein lies See the Future's most enjoyable challenge as, to access the graveyard's various areas, you'll need to suit up in a range of different costumes, switching between dressing as a skeleton, a Balverine and, finally, a lumbering, obese Hobbe. Lionhead capitalises on the opportunity the costume changes offer with some gentle puzzling, and while this mission is just as brief as the first it's the more enjoyable.

The final item in Murgo's inventory is given to you gratis (because it gives him the willies, "and not the good kind"). Again, it transports you to another faraway location, this time to meet with an old friend, who offers you the titular glimpse of the future. Two minutes later you're back at Murgo's stall, having borne witness to a barely interactive cut-scene whose window onto the future transpired to be little more than a diluted announcement, a whisper through a crack in the fourth wall confirming what we already guessed: that a sequel is inevitable, although it probably won't appear for years...

While See the Future's new environments offer little that distinguishes them from the rest of Fable II's gameworld, their quality is consistent and consistently beautiful.

It's a stylish way to make an announcement, for sure, but one that's been sold, at least in part, under false pretences. Nevertheless, the thud of this anti-climax is softened a little by the immediate presentation of the Coliseum, a new high-score combat arena that offers the most enduring component to the package. Here you must fight wave after wave of enemies, pausing only to knock flick-switches and boot chickens for bonus points. It's a compelling race for a high score, rewarding speed over style but, while it does keep a record of your top score, the lack of a wider Xbox Live leaderboard diminishes its power.

The core DLC elements are seasoned with new items and trinkets: a Crayola range of new dyes, face paints and expressions as well as potions to turn your mutt into a pedigree Huskie or Dalmatian. As with Knothole Island's page-collecting mini-game, here you must track down ten golden statuettes, the location of the final object providing no end of trouble.

A slew of enjoyable new Achievements reward past accomplishments as much as new ones, awarding gamerpoints for performing 25 groin shots, or making love 25 times (or, er, watching someone else make love 25 times). These meta-challenges draw out the experience a little but, for most players the package offers little more than two hours of new content. Of course, at just 560 MSP (GBP 4.76 / EUR 6.72), that's reasonable value, but buyers should be aware that, while See the Future certainly lengthens the Fable II experience, it does little to expand it.

6 / 10