Peter Molyneux has a horrible habit of promising gamers things he can't possibly hope to deliver. It's like telling us the wonders of rainbow-hued unicorns who speak by spewing out delicious candy that cures all disease and lets you live forever, only to scale back our expectations at the last minute when he realizes the best he can come up with is chocolate in funny shapes. Many are aware of all the advanced features that the first Fable was supposed to have that ended up being cut by the end of production, leaving an enjoyable action-RPG with some nice ideas that were immensely limited from their original scope. In retrospect, we should have realized that it would be near impossible to pull off what he wanted to do with the level of technology at the time.
Fable II, then, could be seen as a way to atone for Molyneux's discarded promises from the first game. Many features have now made their way into the game, and even if his ambitions are still limited by technology, they are much closer to what he wanted. Molyneux appropriately promoted the game this time and managed to only sell features and gameplay options that he knew would make it in. It's a shame, then, that Lionhead Studios has overpromised something else instead: the game's special edition.
Take a good look at the header image, which is the proposed version of Fable II Limited Collector's Edition. Originally set to retail for $80, the game was to include a collector's box (likely similar to previous boxes from Microsoft), a bonus disc, printed Fate Cards, a Hobbe figurine, and exclusive downloadable content. Supposedly due to "supply issues," Lionhead ultimately decided to cancel much of the Limited Collector's Edition and drop the price to $70. As of the time of this post, the game is still available from Amazon, Gamestop, and other retailers. So what did we end up getting? Well...
That's it. Pretty slim, huh? The only special packaging you get is a cardboard slipcover. Doesn't look bad, but it looks very plain. It reminds me of how the regular versions of many DVDs often come with a slipcover by default, thus making it more of a commodity and less of a bonus. I do like the silver background better than the default art, but otherwise it's very plain. Ho-hum.
This is the back cover. There's not really much to say about it.
Removing the slipcover, we see the actual DVD case, which is...a sideways reordering of the front slipcover. It's nice to see some atypical box art, harkening back to the SNES days when boxes were more horizontal than vertical, but I don't really see the point of it if they're just going to reuse the art on the outside cover. What I do like is the back of the case, which shows an evil character to counter the normal hero on the front. I say "normal" instead of "good" because he really looks more like a rogue-ish character instead of a heroic character. It's nice art, but if they wanted to draw this parallel, I would have tried to create more of a "good" character.
Opening the case, you'll find a standard two-disc case. The game is a regular copy, while the bonus disc once again features the evil character from the back of the DVD case. The manual, thankfully, is in color, which is more than can be said for some special editions, but in the end, this also looks like the regular manual, just with a silver background on the cover.
The bonus disc "fixes" a widespread problem with most 360 bonus discs that I ranted about in the last review; that is, it is a 360-certified DVD that won't play in a standard DVD player and thus offers HD images and controller functionality. This is the way things should be, in my opinion. The content on the disc is standard fare - a Making Of documentary (different than the developer diaries released on Xbox Live), a high-res gallery of concept art (handily organized into varying categories). However, there is one other feature on the disc called "Travelling Hobbes." This spiteful feature showcases video of a Hobbe figurine - the one not included in this version anymore - as it travels around London. And to piss you off even more, this feature ends with a message to send in pictures of your Hobbe figurine to Fable II's website. You know, that Hobbe that you don't have. Way to kick us while we're down, Lionhead.
Beyond the bonus disc and cardboard slipcover, the only other remnant left over from the original Limited Collector's Edition plan is the exclusive downloadable content. This is the card you receive the code on, along with a 48-hour Xbox Live Gold trial. This content covers a special dungeon (the Hall of the Dead), a legendary-class cutlass (found in said dungeon), and an "otherworldly bonus," a Fable-redesigned armor and weapon resembling Halo's Master Chief and an Elite's Covenant Sword. Not having played the game, I can't comment on how worthwhile this content is, though I can provide some speculation beyond the card's information on where to find the content. I'd assume that the Halo armor/sword would be cool to have in the game, but I doubt that you'll want to keep using them all the time; it's unlikely that they're very strong in the long run. The dungeon sounds like substantial additional content, but since it contains the legendary-class cutlass within its walls, it's not really fair to give the cutlass its own bullet point, as though it was additional content.
(Of note for you DLC critics is that the limited edition content is merely an unlock key, and as far as I can tell, the game disc is a regular copy, implying that this content is on every release of the game, just hidden. This also means that I wouldn't hold out for additional DLC down the line if they felt the need to integrate it with the main game before release.)
Is the Limited Collector's Edition worth the extra $10? Honestly, I don't think so. The box packaging is simply standard at best, the bonus disc is expected but not exciting, and the downloadable content does not offer enough to do compared to similar additional content, like that of Fable: The Lost Chapters. It's not a horrible value for $10 extra, but it also isn't all that necessary or collectible. Feel free to give this one a pass unless you're a diehard Fable fan.
On a scale of one to ten winged-unicorn-bear-knights, Fable II Limited Collector's Edition gets:
Pros: Only $10 more, sure to appeal to Halo fans who heard of the DLC through word-of-mouth
Cons: Not anything special at all, packaging is lazy, lack of substantial in-game content