Proper DLC that adds to the core single-player experience is something we get quite excited about. It's the kind we don't get too often though, with new multiplayer maps usually being highest on the agenda, followed by new characters and outfits. So when Lionhead announced that it was to release a new island and new quests as part of its first DLC for Fable II we couldn't wait. The problem with the Knothole Island DLC isn't that it lacks quality (it would likely have fitted into the main storyline that shipped with the game without any issues at all), but that for a lot of people it will seem largely pointless.
Of course, how much value you place in playing through the Knothole Island quests will depend on more than just if you want to hack up some more monsters. Part of the draw is a number of new potions, weapons and clothing items. We can see some people buying it just for the ability to trim the fat from their obese hero or to get hold of the special armour. Halo fans will also probably want to get their hands on the Assault Rifle - something that is undeniably bizarre but a brilliant inclusion all the same.
This is all secondary to the actual quests though. By taking a homemade submarine from the docks in Bowerstone you're transported to Knothole Island, a place where snow is most definitely its key feature. After a brief chat with the Island's chieftan you discover that the villagers are suffering because the sun has left the island, sending it into what is essentially its own ice age. As the hero you're hired to find the weather stones and return the island to its natural state.
This is your lot. There are three stones to retrieve, each controlling one type of weather, meaning you get three new quests. The final quest certainly feels longer than the first two and sees you fighting some of the toughest enemies found in the world of Albion, but the whole thing can be finished in a couple of hours. There's a moral choice to be made, which we won't spoil, but it's not really a difficult decision, and you'll be rewarded with the ability to more or less reverse a choice made in the original quest line. This is something we're not too keen on, although if you were one of the greedy, soulless cretins that made the wrong choice to begin with, you'll probably love Lionhead for it.
As we said, the quality of the adventuring, while it lasts, is good. The production is in line with what we saw elsewhere in the game, the little touches are still here to be found if you look for them (reading the gravestones made us laugh out loud), and the core gameplay hasn't changed, but something doesn't fit. Knothole Island feels like it's been bolted on in a fairly crude way, meaning most fans won't feel like they're missing out if they give it a miss. There's nothing essential about it, which in our books is a real shame. At the end of Fable II there were definitely plot points we wanted expanding, but you get none of that here.
As a Fable II fan you'll get a solid few hours from the new island, more if you hunt around for treasure and try to get all the new achievements, and it looks very pretty (the snowy scene greeting you on your arrival really is quite stunning and the drastically different looking sun-drenched version looks pretty great too), but we won't be alone in wanting more. After Fable II left many players emotionally attached to the characters they'd met, simply playing new quests with your dog might be enough of a reason to hand over the 800 Microsoft Points, but for such a great game Knothole Island feels a bit too workmanlike. Knothole Island is a good effort but far from the standard the full game set.