GAME NAME: Fable Annivesary
DEVELOPER(S): Lionhead Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Game Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
GENRE(S): RPG, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): February 7th, 2014
Almost 10 years have passed since Fable was released on the Xbox and PC. It was Molyneux’s and Lionhead’s game that was going to change the way we played games as it promised consequences for every action. At the time, the general reception was very positive with the game proving incredibly popular, though it supposedly didn’t quite carry through with exactly what was promised. 10 years on and the game has been remade in HD with the Anniversary edition. Does it stand the test of time?
I must just say at the start that I never played the original Fable. I didn’t have an Xbox nor a PC good enough to run it, so Anniversary is the first time I am seeing the game. I did play Fable 2, however, so I did at least have some background in the type of game it was, and having thoroughly enjoyed Fable 3 was glad to finally get to play the original.
Playing through the original was really a case of lots of hits as well as misses. You start off with your hero as a child just before his home town is attacked by bandits; his family killed. But the hero survives and is taken to the Hero’s Guild, where, under the guidance of Maze, he learns the ins and outs of being a hero. Time passes and before long you will be equipped with a weapon and the ability to use magic and can take on quests that are set out for you.
The world of Albion is so wonderfully created that you can’t help but want to explore it whenever you get the chance. There are interesting characters scattered throughout the world, and many with quests to send you on. The main story quests keep the game interesting with an intriguing story set aside the action. While the combat does feel very clunky at times, once you get used to it, it becomes instinctive, although it is very shallow and does often feel like a button masher.
The combat is split into different parts. Your hero can wield a primary weapon such as a sword, axe, mace or any other kind of melee weapon. He also has a crossbow for projectile attacks, and then also a set of magic attacks. Blending them is often the key to success, and there are enough options to keep things fresh throughout the game. Especially with the magic attacks which have quite an extensive range, and finding which will be most useful is key to strategy.
The problem with the combat is that the controls don’t always feel natural. The lock-on ability is awful, and, at times, instead of locking onto an enemy it will target thin air. At other times, just as you thought you had got the hang of it, it changes the locked-on enemy without any reason. The layout is also a bit tricky as you try to manage the locking-on together with blocking, magic attacks and melee attacks and, again, it just feels messy. Blocking works just fine, but dodging is a nightmare as every time you roll to dodge your hero becomes stuck just for a second. That little pause is very annoying, though not game breaking. Thankfully, there is an option to change the controls to those of Fable 2 and Fable 3 which are far better, but I did try play it as the original intended for the most part.
While the main quests do try to keep the momentum going, and do add variety, the sidemissions do quite the opposite. Almost all of them follow the same pattern where you are either escorting someone, or you are clearing an area out. It got to a point where I just couldn’t be bothered with any of the sidequests because they offered no value, but for some extra money and experience, something I didn’t feel was necessary.
As well created as the world is, the visual value ends there. Although it is an HD remake, it hardly feels as though it is one. Environments pop up from mere metres away and the characters look a little ‘blocky’. They also have a weird way of moving, something that surely could have used a bit of work in the remake. Lastly, the voice acting is good, but the movement of the characters mouths looks even worse than your average puppet. It’s really a let down and makes the world feel far less authentic than it should.
One of the additions, or improvements, to the game was supposed to be the save system, and while it is apparently far better than the original, which didn’t even have an autosave I believe, it’s still a bit broken. Many times I would finish a section get to a loading screen only to find the game crash. Now that would be fine if the game saved before hitting the load screen, but sadly it only saves after the section loads. This forced me to play a few hours of the same sections a couple of times which had me wanting to throw my control at the TV. It does give the option to manually save, but even this didn’t help as it still saves at a point close to where you are.
Other than those complaints, the game is enjoyable enough to play through. For its time, it was probably far more amazing, and it’s clear to see the influence it had on games that have followed since. It might not have followed through on the promise of consequences, but it does provide some situations where a choice must be made between following a good or a bad path, and that does change the way your game plays.
Apart from the quests, it does have more to explore and do. You can buy a house, get a tattoo, get married, kill innocents, become feared or loved, you can rent out a house, play various table games and even have a bard sing for you if you want. Very little of this ever matters, but it does provide something to do if you want to kill the time and explore in between missions. There is also Smartglass interaction if you own a Windows 8 device where you can take a look at the map on the go, as well as find secret locations and take photos, if you want.
Fable Anniversary is a game worth playing if you want to see where it began, but to be safe it’s probably better to lower your expectations. I still can’t get used to the silent protagonist (a problem in a few games) as it makes me feel very disconnected from the world. The graphics are disappointing for an HD remake, and I certainly feel that they could have fixed a few other things (those damn load times for example) to make the game live up to the original. That said, with the game selling for relatively cheap and the amount of hours you can get out of it, it definitely isn’t the worst deal around.
Fable Anniversary may not be the happy return the developers were hoping for, but it does provide an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about 10 years ago, and to see where the influence in many games today comes from. There are undoubtedly better RPG games to play right now, but sometimes a bit of nostalgia and looking back at originals helps us going forward.