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Fable Anniversary review

AT A GLANCE
  • Original Fable experience with upgraded visuals
  • Achievements share the same sense of humor
  • SmartGlass integration is actually worthwhile
  • Additional content doesn’t fix Fable’s most significant flaws
  • Updated visuals don’t do enough to hide its Xbox roots
  • Weird bugs and glitches persistently crop up

The hype: Fable will revolutionize video games by giving you an unprecedented level of control over your character’s growth, and you’ll be able to affect the world of Albion in real, permanent ways. The reality: Fable was an above-average action-RPG, with most of its pie-in-the-sky possibilities failing to live up to the promises of its creators. Now, Lionhead Studios has brought the series progenitor to the current generation with Fable Anniversary, but all the shiny new graphics and second-screen experiences don't modernize a game firmly rooted in the past.

Fable Anniversary puts you in the shoes of a recently orphaned mute filled with a mountain of potential. Your village has been burnt down, your family's gone--all that remains is life at the Hero’s Guild. What follows is a standard tale of personal growth, melodrama, revenge, and redemption. And farts. And chicken punting. And cross-dressing polygamists. What makes Fable different from every other RPG is the level of customization you have over the development of your character. Change your hairstyle or your clothes, be good or evil, help the townsfolk or watch them burn--the choice is yours. Fable’s narrative may not be the most interesting out there, but few games let you flip the bird at every single person you meet.

When you’re not busy making Ace Ventura-esque pelvic thrusts at the various citizenry, you’ll be taking on their many requests, as well as pursuing your own quest to find your family. Often, that means fighting the people that stand in your way. Combat is a rhythmic, if clumsy, combination of melee, ranged, and magic attacks, and save for a few minor control tweaks, works exactly as it did nearly a decade ago. During your journey you’ll travel through graveyards, cobblestone-paved villages, swamps, and other exotic locales (all featuring a brand-new coat of paint in the Anniversary edition), slinging through wave after wave of bandits, trolls, and other fantasy-themed tropes. The gags are sophomoric and crass (think Monty Python), but few fantasy games approach their subject matter with such a cheeky sense of humor.

That warped scatological humor extends right down to the Achievements, which are new to this version of Fable. Only here will you find an Achievement entitled “Ass Creed,” granting five Gamerscore to the intrepid adventurer who dons an assassin’s outfit and… well, you know. There are even Achievements with dual objectives, rewarding you with those sweet, sweet metapoints if you complete one of two requirements. While you’ll get the same amount of points whether you, say, unlock every secret Demon Door or stubbornly decide to flip one the bird, you’ll get a different stamp based on your individual choice. Like all Achievements, these little rewards don’t really mean anything (well, they might not to you, anyway) but they add an extra incentive for those who have already experienced this journey before.

While the Achievements are a hilarious if superfluous addition, the graphics are clearly the biggest change Lionhead Studios made with Fable Anniversary. Upgraded textures, denser foliage, bloom lighting (my God, so much bloom lighting) and other graphical enhancements make Fable Anniversary look far better than it did on the original Xbox. Unfortunately, the visual facelift looks more like an obvious botox job than a real overhaul. Animations, environments, even the hair and character models look like they’ve just had their improvements slapped on top of the originals rather than being built from the ground up--a fact made more evident by the copious amounts of texture pop-in.

Other weird graphical abnormalities will make it into your playthrough, even after downloading the required patch. Hair and shadows shift back and forth between two different frames of animation, and characters hover inches above the ground or sometimes appear wildly out of frame during cutscenes. Fable may have been full of weird glitches and bugs when it first released, but these are issues that should have been ironed out for an HD remaster. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by gorgeous remakes like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Perhaps the original Fable’s aesthetic doesn’t lend itself well to this level of graphical overhaul. Still, Fable Anniversary doesn’t look bad by any stretch, just...disappointing.

Fable Anniversary removes a lot of the headaches found in the original version by adding some very welcome new features. In addition to the main quest, you’ll get The Lost Chapters, a series of additional missions created for the Greatest Hits version of Fable back on the original Xbox, extending what was originally an incredibly short game. You’ll also get SmartGlass support, which gives you real-time map updates, as well as the location of treasure chests, Demon Doors, and other important information--including integration with Prima’s official strategy guide (sold separately, natch). Most importantly, a complete overhaul of the save system adds checkpoints and the ability to actually save during quests--something that the original Fable surprisingly wouldn’t allow. None of these additions dramatically alter the game in any way, but they definitely make going back that much easier.

What Fable Anniversary doesn’t fix are the same weird foibles that merely seemed odd back in 2004; now they feel downright archaic. Why is the combat so stiff and ungainly? Why do I have to go all the way back to the Hero’s Guild every time I want to level up or take a new quest? Why are my items and gestures hidden under layers of awkward direction-pad presses? Why are all of my spells mapped to a single button? You can switch between the original’s control scheme and the more recent layout from Fable 2 and 3, but both feel ill-equipped for the challenges at hand. A newly designed interface streamlines many of the menus and UI issues, but the core experience remains unchanged, warts and all.

Fable may not have been the RPG to end all RPGs when it released nearly a decade ago, but we looked past a lot of its problems because of everything else it got right. The distinctly British sense of humor and the unique customization and moral options are all here, just as you remember them. But so are the one-note combat and awkward design choices. While games have changed immensely since Fable’s initial release, Fable Anniversary gives series fans a chance to explore Albion’s origins all over again--even if it hasn’t aged all that well.

More Info

Release date: Feb 07 2014 - Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Sexual Content

With a lackluster graphical update and no compelling additions outside of new achievements and SmartGlass integration, Fable Anniversary is an HD redux strictly for die-hard franchise fans only.

Topics

review

8 comments

  • goomdr73 - September 28, 2014 3:16 a.m.

    nice to play fable again :)) if you are stuck in some levels you can download a savegame to bypass it savegame-download.com/fable-anniversary-save-game
  • john-kemery - February 5, 2014 12:49 a.m.

    If it comes to the PC i'll snap it up. Its one of the only Xbox games that I was always playing through. Was just a fun game to play. Luckily I ignored all the hype surrounding its original release, so it wasn't a let down when I got to play it. I might pick up Lost Chapters on Steam and download the freedom mod that opens a lot of the levels, to a more freeroam area.
  • Frieza - February 4, 2014 9:56 p.m.

    I might be in the large minority on this, but I still think Fable (TLC) is a good game even by today's standards. Sure, it has its problems, but it's still a very enjoyable action-RPG. The unfortunate thing is that it's the best in the franchise, which has only gotten worse over time. Fable wasn't perfect by any stretch of the word, but it was a great start to what could have been an awesome franchise. But the games kept getting worse and worse, as the games gradually removed the RPG aspects and replaced them with generic Action elements. I could go on a long time about this, but I'll spare the comment section of an intolerable and unnecessary rant. Anyway, I'm glad Fable got an HD remake, but it's a shame it wasn't much of an improvement. Although I'll admit I was skeptical about Lionhead changing or adding too much to the game, because... well, it's Lionhead.
  • supergiraffe - February 3, 2014 9:09 p.m.

    I was a big fan of the game when it first came out, and I've been worried about revisiting it in case it didn't hold up, it's a shame it apparently hasn't. The texture pop in was so frequent in the original that I think seeing it in this would probably be more nostalgic then frustrating though.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 3, 2014 2:42 p.m.

    Jack of blades was an asshole.
  • David_Roberts - February 3, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    Yes. Yes he was.
  • shawksta - February 4, 2014 12:23 p.m.

    I concur
  • Doctalen - February 3, 2014 1:21 p.m.

    I am a huge fan of the original fable game along with the lost chapters "expansion" and on one hand it seems great that it was mostly a texture overhaul but at the same time I wish there were some major improvements to the controls and maybe even an extra area or something. But it seems like it boils down the whether its available for the PC. If I recall correctly the original was and if this remake is then it might be worth it given a few months of modders fixing it up.

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