Once Traitor’s Keep had finished downloading, I figured it would be a smart idea to get reacquainted with Fable III. It’s been a good few months since I last played it, after all, and doing a quick quest or two before getting stuck into the new content seemed like a sensible way of refreshing my memory.
Five minutes into an outstanding quest, my save game data bugged.
For the benefit of the blissfully unaware, I should explain that Fable III gives you a grand total of one save game per character. Additionally, Fable III likes to autosave often. If you get hit by a bug – if you were to find yourself in a room you couldn’t leave, to pick a (less than) random example – you may have to start from scratch.
While this left me an incoherently howling mass of rage for most of the following week, it might’ve been a blessing in disguise. You see, Traitor’s Keep is the first set of post-game DLC for Fable III, requiring you to have completed the base game’s main questline before you can get stuck in. As such, without having to worry about rose-tinted glasses or the folly of memory, I can authoritatively proclaim that Traitor’s Keep features one of the most enjoyable questlines in Fable III.
I know it’s one of the most enjoyable questlines because I just played through them all again. See? A blessing! A blessing that was very bad for my blood pressure!
After fending off the looming threat that dominates most of Fable III’s endgame, life in Albion settles down once more and our monarch Hero is resigned to dealing with mundane issues (like the matter of a new head gardener). Things perk up when an assassin breaks into the throne room and tries to off the Hero while spouting anti-monarchy rhetoric. This, in turn, leads the Hero to visit one of Logan’s dirty little secrets: Ravenscar Keep, an island fortress built to imprison vocal dissidents and the truly dangerous alike.
This is is where things kick off proper. A former general of Logan’s army has escaped with a number of dangerous inmates, and together they appear to be plotting the end of the monarchy. Since you are the monarchy, it’s in your best interests to track them down and make sure their plans don’t come to fruition.
So what’s new, and what makes it so enjoyable? Well, there are three rather large new areas, including the brilliant (robot-populated) Clockwork Island – a sort of futuristic theme park with a satirical ‘Street of Tomorrow’ as a centrepiece. Each area features new enemies, ranging from palette swaps (like new types of Hobbes and Balverines) to entirely new foes (like clockwork dogs), and most of these foes add little twists to the combat, forcing you to play in a slightly different way – something Fable III’s simplistic combat sorely needs. For example, the clockwork dogs carry grenades that explode when they get close, while the Hobbes split into multiple, smaller Hobbes when you hit them. Button mashing isn’t as much of an option as it used to be.
In fact, this is where Traitor’s Keep surprised me: it’s actually rather hard. There’s still no real penalty for dying and you’re unlikely to get knocked out if you pay proper attention, but you might be in for a surprise if you try to just mash your way through every encounter. Because this is post-game content, Lionhead have assumed that you’ll have at least one weapon skill at full, and so enemies are not only more plentiful but are also faster, tougher, and more capable at dishing out the pain (and that’s without taking into account the new enemy types that make combat a little more interesting).
As you track down the escapees, you’ll find a few new side-quests (ranging from rounding up convicts to helping a lonely robot build a friend) and a whole mess of cosmetic tweaks – like a potion to transform your pooch into a clockwork dog and a range of new clothing (including a prostitute outfit which is a must for any male character).
There’s nothing all that major, but the new clothes lean towards the outlandish and the desire to track down a whole set is absorbing, while the side-quests are well-written and definitely worth a bit of time.
But the primary questline is the main draw, and it provides a marvellous bookend to the game proper. Barring one or two conversation-based asides, Traitor’s Keep doesn’t really draw much attention to the ironic dichotomy of you (a former rebel turned ruler) tracking down rebels, but that’s fine. It’s Fable. I wouldn’t expect it.
Instead, there’s an enjoyable trek around some well-designed new areas that are populated with some unique encounters, a story that unfolds nicely and an end boss fight that provides a more memorable climax than Fable III’s ever did.
Traitor’s Keep isn’t ground-breaking and if you were disappointed by Fable III it’s certainly not going to change your mind. That said, anyone after more locations, more quests and a main quest more involving than pretty much anything Fable III managed will find two or three hours of solid enjoyment here.
For 560 Microsoft Points, it’s a steal.