A Solid Fun RPG
Nostalgia is a powerful force. The more things change and get more complicated, the more we pine for the days when things were simple and easy to get into. This is the case with Fable , which has basically been the Xbox console line’s star RPG since the original Xbox came out with its fat hamburger controllers.
Fable has kind of taken a hard left turn from its traditional RPG roots. The end of Fable 3 was kind of like an incredibly frustrating hybrid of Sim City and a fetch quest. The last Fable game, Fable: The Journey , was an on rails shooter for the Kinect. All these gimmicks and attempts to reinvent the franchise have amounted to a lot of frustration and a lot more disappointment. That’s why it’s such a breath of fresh air to get back to basics with the recent release of Fable Anniversary .
Fable Anniversary is a pretty standard HD remake. Gameplay-wise, you aren’t going to see much difference from the original here. The story and side quests are basically identical to 2005’s Fable: The Lost Chapters . The music is supposedly remastered but sounds incredibly similar to the original score. Heck, even the voice acting was ripped straight from the original titles. If you are the type of gamer who likes new characters, new quests, and other sorts of new content in his HD remakes, then Fable Anniversary will probably disappoint you. This is basically a nostalgia cash-in, nothing more.
That being said, if you are OK with nostalgia cash-ins then you could do a lot worse than Fable Anniversary . The graphics are great. All too often HD Remakes really just mean texture upgrades, but Fable Anniversary has done a lot more than that. The environments alone look like they were designed for the Xbox 360, easily comparable to Fable 3 . The game also has a new lighting engine, which goes a long way toward making the game look appropriately HD.
Character models are a bit dicier. While they certainly look updated and detailed, they don’t act like it. The animation routines are still the same ones that we saw in the original Fable , which was made back in the days of canned animation loops. Characters will speak emphatically with their hands, over exaggerate their every movement, and trace classic RPG walking patterns that have been phased out in more modern day RPG productions like Skyrim . It’s a bit jarring but it doesn’t hinder your enjoyment of the game that much.
Fable Anniversary does introduce a new control scheme based on later titles in the Fable franchise, and if you are only familiar with Fable 3 , you might want to try it out. However, any experienced RPG player will likely want to avoid it. Fable was made back before RPGs were uber-simplified so the modern control scheme really doesn’t fit well. It’s a cool little addition but will likely be looked over by anyone who has already played the original, if only to be able to better control their magic.
Another big alteration is the menu system which has also received a facelift. It looks nicer than the original menu system, but it’s incredibly finicky. Whether or not this is a good addition to the game is debatable. Personally I liked the original better.
Perhaps the greatest new addition to Fable Anniversary is the ability to save anywhere. Fable players that were big into the mod scene might have fiddled with an old PC version of the game to get this capability. It makes the game a lot easier to play, if only because it makes it easier to put down. You don’t get drawn into those big hour long quest chains like you used to, which actually gives the game a better sense of pacing. It’s actually quite astounding how much better a game can become just by changing the way it’s save system works. The fact that the game is basically littered with auto-save points helps a lot as well.
Fable Anniversary also has Xbox SmartGlass support which is neat, but easy to look over. It allows you to pull up the worldmap at any time and look up additional information on characters and other game elements. It’s cool, but connecting your mobile device to your Xbox is actually kind of a pain in the ass. Since this is basically just additional info, you are far better off simply navigating to, say, the Fable wiki on your smart device. You’ll basically get the same experience. This, more than anything, feels like a missed opportunity. The SmartGlass could have been used to control your menu screen, or as a free included strategy guide. Instead, it’s just another shallow gimmick.
We said before that the gameplay hadn’t changed much, and that’s both a point for and against Fable Anniversary . You can still mash the attack button through most encounters, especially if you specialized in melee combat. Spells are still incredibly unbalanced and can make most of the game a breeze if you put some effort into building your character. Dodging is basically useless, as is archery, and it’s easy to get stuck in a stun lock if you aren’t careful. That being said, the game is still very easy, compared to other RPGs of the time. You can hold enough health restore items that death never becomes an issue. Just waltz into danger sipping on your health soda and you’ll be fine.
It’s also worth noting that the game hasn’t really been “fixed” in its HD incarnation. All the bugs and problems from the original game have survived intact. While this is kind of nostalgic, it’s also incredibly frustrating. The game literally froze not but an hour in for me, and it happened more than once. Characters will get stuck on objects, quests will fail to trigger, and overall you’ll have to deal with problems that were more common two generations of game consoles ago. Luckily, the ability to save anywhere moderates the frustration a bit.
Final word? Fable Anniversary is fun because Fable is fun. In fact, playing Fable again makes you realize how much more fun it is than most modern day RPGs. Even despite its flaws, both technological and conceptual, Fable captured what was fun about old school RPGs. It had breakable systems, an epic plot and an interesting world that you could lose yourself in. It wasn’t built on gimmicks or new gameplay systems or attempt to reinvent the wheel. It was just a good, solid fun RPG, and it remains so to this day.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The team did a good job overhauling the graphics. It’s not particularly next-gen, but it comes damn close. 3.5 Control
The addition of new control schemes and menus are a nice touch, even if you don’t use them. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Original Xbox age voice acting. It’s fun and quirky but it’s not award winning. 4.5 Play Value
Fable is just a fun game and that hasn’t changed. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|