Review

Fable Anniversary

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Fable Anniversary is an updated (re)release of Fable: The Lost Chapters, which is itself a re-release and update of the original Fable (released in 2004). Fable Anniversary features overhauled HD graphics, a new save system and Achievements and brings the first installment of the Fable series to Xbox 360 systems complete with SmartGlass support.

What You Need to Know

Fable follows the life of a young boy (your character) from some time early in his youth. After a bandit raid on his home village in which his entire family is killed, the boy is rescued by an old Hero and trained to also become a Hero. Years pass undergoing rigorous training and eventually the young man graduates from the Heroes’ Guild to make his own way in the world of Albion.

Upon departing, the young Hero is given one final warning from his former tutor: The world of Albion is a dangerous land which will present the Hero with many choices to make, some good, some evil, and the consequences of these choices will forever alter both the Hero and the land of Albion.

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What’s New?

Bearing in mind that the original edition of Fable was released ten years ago, the fact that many of the game’s features can still be considered unique speaks volumes for the actual depth and complexity that Fable offered at the time of its original release.

Fable Anniversary is a game of consequence. Every decision you make throughout your journey will have a long-lasting impact on both your character’s development, his reputation amongst the inhabitants of Albion, and on the world itself. Seemingly innocuous choices, such as which skills to upgrade, how often to eat, or what clothing to wear, will shift the way people perceive you and have a profound impact on the way people respond to you.

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It’s best to describe Fable as a game that comprise main features and side features. The main features would encompass the facets of the game that are required to progress through the storyline and explore the world, such as combat, magic, items, quests and the usual RPG aspects.

The side features, on the other hand, would include flirting, showing off to gain renown, interacting with non-essential bystanders of the world of Albion – although these are not pivotal to the progression of the game’s storyline and can be completely ignored, they do offer a much richer and deeper experience within the game, often leading to unexpected consequences that further shape your character’s future (and sometimes appearance) within the game.

Fable Anniversary also now offers SmartGlass interaction, allowing you to use your smart phone or tablet to view maps of the area (giving you clues as to quest markers and secret locations) and to take screenshots.

What’s the Same?

Noting that Fable Anniversary is mostly an upgraded graphical branding of the original and the game mechanics haven’t been changed, the game is not quite an open-world title by modern standards.

Certainly, players are not bound to follow a prescribed path through the story, which confirms that it is not a game ‘on rails,’ but the perpetual loading of sections of the game does negate any sense of an open-world. Having said that, the third-person free-roaming across a land rich with colour, character, and vibrant landscapes is much like a singleplayer World of Warcraft experience.

You’ll Enjoy Fable Anniversary If You Liked…

… World of Warcraft: For me, the behind-the-player free-roaming over diverse landscapes with a myriad of monsters and creatures is almost a carbon copy of World of Warcraft. The only difference is obviously that Fable is not Massively Multiplayer.

… Mass Effect: Although aspects of Fable clearly show their age over ten years, the game still offers a spiritually similar experience to Mass Effect with its character development, the consequences of choices, opportunity to blossom romances, and the overall RPG action.

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What I Liked

- 4.) Demon Gates are scattered throughout the realm and offer a tempting side track to your primary objectives. Each Demon Gate has a particular trigger that will open the door to reveal vast riches (or perhaps not) on the other side and I was impressed by the diversity of triggers. One Demon Gate required me to be morbidly obese, another to commit an act of great evil, and another to simply defeat guardians of the gate.

- 3.) The world is vibrant and diverse. From killing some pesky giant beetles in a picnic garden to trying to escort some traders through Darkwood (and being tempted to offer them up as sacrifices to join a cult), Fable shows off Albion as a realm full of fantasy and legend.

- 2.) The amount of choice you have in how you play, especially for a ten year old game, is tremendous. As I mentioned before, you can opt to focus on the main features of the game and cruise from beginning to end in as little time as possible, or you can take the slow track and try to enjoy the side nuances in Fable such as flirting and interacting with the people of Albion, and all the side missions (and alignment choices) available to you.

- 1.) The consequence of choice is a feature that overwhelmingly guides how you behave in the game. Even selecting equipment will shift your alignment and I was acutely aware of consequences of every decision taking shape in the world. My hands started to glow red from the blood of the innocent lives I had taken and bystanders wouldn’t think twice about heckling me as I walked past. Maybe once I’ve developed my infamy a bit more they’ll keep quiet on the streets.

Favourite Moment

While escorting two traders through the frightening and dangerous marshes of Darkwood we discovered a side path that led to a cult’s lair. When I was given the option of joining the cult by a gravelly growling acolyte, I shocked myself at how tempted I was to sacrifice my two clients in order to become an initiate.

The darkness of the marshes had infected my soul and I was ashamed to acknowledge the evil lurking around me was turning me to the dark side…

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What I Didn’t Like

- 3.) SmartGlass support was slow and unresponsive but, given my limited exposure to SmartGlass, I suspect this is more the nature of the beast than the way it’s been implemented in Fable Anniversary. I suppose in some respects it could be considered useful but the slow loading times and lag proved to be a hindrance rather than an advantage.

- 2.) Despite the high definition graphics update, the game still shows its age in its design. In particular, navigating the world map in your inventory is about as helpful as giving a blind man a rabies-infected seeing-eye dog. You have an idea of where you need to go but you just can’t get the map to show you the way. The interface has definitely not aged well.

- 1.) The game was designed ten years ago so the open-world experience by today’s standards is severely hampered by the regular loading in between areas. Useful tips on the loading screens aside, it all too frequently breaks down the immersion of the game.

Least Favourite Moment

Most tellingly of all the loading screen gripes I have was one occasion where I had infiltrated a Hobbes lair. After slicing and dicing my way through hordes of Hobbes I took a deep dark cavernous path into the heart of the stronghold. Five seconds of loading later I found myself in a connecting corridor. Ten seconds later, I was once again loading a new map. I had just waited almost half a minute to walk through a corridor. Unnecessary and frustrating.


Fable Anniversary Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Fable Anniversary offers SmartGlass support which provides screenshots and map guides. For the first time, Fable now also has Achievements for those gamer score junkies like me.

The Bottom Line

The legendary Fable has come to Xbox 360 in all its HD glory. This remastering of the timeless classic also happens to be my first experience with Fable and I am utterly enthralled. Some of the aged interfaces haven’t stood the test of time but overall it’s a great game, even ten years later.


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