Game Review: Fable Anniversary

Jonathan Szafran delivers his verdict on remastered RPG title Fable Anniversary, out now on Xbox 360.

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It’s been ten years since Fable graced the first Xbox console, with its slightly over-hyped fantasy action-RPG experience going on to spawn two sequels, a Kinect title and an Xbox Live Arcade game. While Fable II succeeded on improving on the original, the series fell apart after that and has yet to reclaim its popularity.

Microsoft is hoping to spark new interest in the series before Fable Legends comes to the Xbox One by re-releasing Fable as a high definition redux. Fable Anniversary is a beautiful adaptation of an Xbox classic – even if it does little to improve some of the original’s shortcomings.

Fable had some great ideas that are still used in today’s games – things like the good/evil decisions and how they effect the world around you, as well as a simple combat system that frees up other buttons on the controller for other actions. Lionhead Studios implemented them well, and all these years later Fable is still a joy to play. Fable always felt like a place that I would want to visit, but too dangerous to make a home in. Forget Halo – Microsoft should start developing a Fable theatrical film.

For some Fable Anniversary may be their first experience with the series: so to recap, the game begins with a young boy losing everything he holds dear to him. He is adopted into the heroes guild, where his thirst for revenge fuels him as he learns the ways of the sword and magic. After years of training he emerges from the guild to take on the evil in the world of Albion in any matter you, the player, see fit.

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Choice is key in Fable, and your fate will be decided upon the actions you make. You may decide to help out a villager in need, or side with their antagonist. Either decision will not only effect the way non-playable characters react to you, but also literally how they see you. Your character’s appearance will change according to how you progress in the game. Choose an evil path and your character will grow horns on their head and villagers will cower in fear whenever you are near. The path of good will leave your player with a glowing halo above their head and hearing praise and cheers from the citizens of Albion. Multiple playthroughs of Fable were always a blast just to see what you can see from the world and what you can become.

A decade has passed since Fable was released, and since then other games of its kind have improved on the good/evil mechanics that made it popular. Games like Fallout 3 and the new Elder Scrolls games have delivered a new era of what it means to bend the world to your whim. If truth be told, Fable’s mechanics now feel almost like a baby version of a choose-your-own-adventure book. You are given the choice of either good or evil, there is no gray area, and once you’re on that path it’s hard to go back to the other – especially towards the endgame. With so many games doing it better nowadays, it’s kind of a bummer to go back to Fable’s antiquated approach.

Fable Anniversary looks great, much better than the original game, with redesigned environmental textures, updated characters models and shiny, new effects. The only issue I saw in my time with the game were that it still had old and janky animations. Characters do not move fluidly and the collision detection is all over place. Sometime you will hit and enemy and other times your sword will hit the wall or a stone.

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Locking on to the correct enemy is also a pain, as you will have to cycle through with the left analog stick until get to that foe that is about to pounce once on you because the game decided to lock-on to the one far in the background. It would have been nice if they could have fixed some of these issues, but what they’ve done with the graphics is more than enough for fans of the series to come back for another try.

For all its flaws, playing Fable Anniversary is still a joy. It’s so nice to go back to a game that you haven’t played in a long time, and begin to remember everything you had forgotten; visiting areas of the world map that are familiar but have a fresh coat of paint on them. It even retains some of the fun things the sequels took away, such as the combat multiplier which was always fun and earned you upgrades. Other things like the Arena which was long and frustrating all those years before are still that here in Fable Anniversary. The Lost Chapters content is included as well,and for those who did not play it before it is worth exploring.

Fable Anniversary may be an HD remake of a decade old video game, but it’s truly Fable’s personality that shines through the murkiness of its uneven mechanics. Getting married, kicking chickens and farting on your fellow neighbor never gets old. Fable doesn’t feel as fresh as it did back in 2004, but fans of the series and newcomers alike will find the allure of the beautiful world of Albion hard to resist.

FMV Rating: ****

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