The original Fable is known for a lot of things. Being innovative, quirky and most notably, not delivering on its promises. The first outing in the series still rings out as the most memorable for me in a lot of ways. The new ideas it brought to the table, the clear-cut morality and most of all, just being extremely charming and enjoyable. Microsoft is bringing it back with their Anniversary edition (essentially their form of HD remakes) and jumping into the world of Albion was as memorable as I could have imagined.
This updated version comes with the original game, as well as the expansion The Lost Chapters, which continues the adventure after the main story. It is a hefty amount of content, and visually it looks like I remember, not how it actually looks. One of my favorite things about HD remakes is that my memory of games makes them look a lot better than they actually do, and the team has done a great job of bringing Albion into an HD setting. While the frame rate can still take a dive from time to time, this is the world of Fable that I remember so well.
Visuals aren’t the only new feature. The developers have painstakingly recreated every asset in Fable to bring it up to 360 standards, but they also threw in some new goodies. For starters the menu system is completely reworked to make navigating items and shops much more user-friendly. Then there are of course a host of Achievements to earn. It is always nice to see such care put into bringing back a classic, as well as introducing it to new gamers who may have never had the chance to play it.
Those unfamiliar with Fable will also be pleased to know that this is a solid action/RPG, which not only introduced, but also defined a lot of the ideas in current titles. The combat uses a mix of melee, ranged and magic attacks that players will have to balance. The best part is that all three are satisfying, and fun to execute. In RPGs I usually tend to avoid being a magic user, but Fable implements it in such a way that I actually preferred it in some cases. While it may have not delivered on its initial promise, there is so much here that is done right; it makes it hard not to appreciate it. Even after all of these years.
The story is a little cliche, but makes up for it with some snark British humor. Players take on the role of a young boy, who aptly receives the title ‘Chicken Chaser’. His parents are murdered and he sets out to take vengeance on their killers. Over the course of the game choices have to be made, which is where one of Fable’s strongest contributions to the genre comes in. Morality wasn’t as big when the original Fable released, and in fact, this title defined the trend of allowing players to air on the side of good or follow the path of evil.
While it may have been innovative at the time, it was also pretty bare-bones. Decisions were pretty black and white, and the biggest changes to the world were people cowering in fear if I was truly evil, or praising me for being the hero. Still it added to the charm of the world and made it feel more like my adventure. I also like the subtle touches of having a halo or horns over my head when reaching a certain level of notoriety.
The one glaring issue that crops up with Fable Anniversary is that the game is pretty slim when it comes to features when compared to today’s offerings. Character customization is minimal and quest design is painful at times. It is understandable considering that Lionhead would certainly not change the formula to the original game, but playing Fable so close after finishing Fable III showcases how far the series has evolved, even if it hasn’t necessarily gotten better.
Fable Anniversary continues a solid tradition for Microsoft’s ‘Anniversary’ series, and I hope to see more in the future. Though I imagine I am the only one who wants to see Blinx the Time Sweeper or Voodoo Vince appear. It is still fantastic to see where the series started and how far it has come. It is also great to see how much influence this unique action RPG has had on current games in the genre.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.