Fable Anniversary is an HD remake of the original game in the series that came out in 2004 for the Xbox. When it was first released, many critics praised the game for its open-ended gameplay and moral choices which would have different consequences for your character. Since then, many other series have built off of the Fable gameplay, each improving it in their own way. Now that ten years have passed, is Fable Anniversary a worthwhile experience?
Fable takes place in the medieval fantasy world of Albion. You start off your adventure as a young boy who is trying to buy his sister a present for her birthday. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when bandits invade and burn down your village. With your family gone, you are adopted into the Heroes’ Guild where you train in the art of combat. Time passes and your character grows up to become a member of the Guild, at which point you are set free into Albion and the real fun begins.
Fable is divided into a series of quests which your character completes to advance the main story and numerous side quests you can do to enhance your experience. The quests offer a variety of different tasks, including racing to kill all of the enemies in an area, escorting a group of travelers to their destination, and, of course, the classic fetch quests. Many of these quests can be completed in different ways, often earning you either a good or evil reputation. These quests can further be customized by “Boasting”, which allows you to earn more money if you complete the quests under certain conditions. These special conditions can include not using any weapons, not letting anyone die, or even beating the quest wearing only your underwear for a few added laughs.
Although the main storyline can take you under 10 hours to complete, the game makes up for it with all of the extra things you can do. Want to get drunk at the tavern and beat up some locals? Go for it! How about having a different wife for every town? Nobody’s stopping you! Of course, you could always try to have good morals, but honestly, what fun is that in a video game?
One of the staples of the Fable series is the “Alignment” system. Performing good deeds will give you positive alignment points, while executing evil antics will score you negative alignment points. Based on your overall alignment, the people you encounter will treat you differently and the appearance of your character will change. Positive alignment will make your character look holy, while negative alignment will make your character look more demonic. Although at some points of the game your moral choices can change certain events, the overall story won’t change much. When comparing this to similar games, this is somewhat of a letdown.
The combat in Fable is fun and offers a variety of strategies for defeating your foes. Moves are divided into three categories: Melee, Archery, and Magic. Experience is gained by killing enemies, which you then use to level up the skills of your character and learn new moves. Unfortunately, dodging attacks and moving around can sometimes be frustrating, especially when you are hit in the middle of a swing. Furthermore, aiming is not as easy as it could be, which causes you to hit your allies pretty regularly.
The game has other issues as well. Although ten years ago it was not possible to make a world the size of Albion with no load times, nowadays it is so common that the way Fable is laid out takes away from the experience. The world is divided into small areas that are all connected, and there is a substantial load time in between each one. Most of the areas are so small that during long journeys it seemed like I was staring at the load screen for more time than I was playing it. Thankfully, the game allows you to teleport to certain locations once you’ve found them, which cuts down on travel time.
The game’s graphics aren’t perfect either. Many of the environments themselves are beautiful and surprisingly detailed, but the characters you’ll encounter do not have the same level of quality. Many NPCs are bland and used repetitively, especially the traveling merchants that are abundant across Albion. The most unnerving thing is how the faces were designed. People will stare at you expressionlessly in every situation, sometimes creating an unintentional comedic effect. This kind of thing can really break the believability of the situations you are involved in.
Fable Anniversary has a lot of replay value. You can spend endless hours exploring Albion, taking in the scenery and its comical denizens, leveling up your skills, equipping your character, buying houses and businesses, and falling in love. The fact that you can play the game with different combat styles and moral choices and that you can modify quests with Boasting means that it could be a brand new experience every time you play Fable Anniversary.
Although the original Fable was released ten years ago, Fable Anniversary is still a contender against other contemporary RPGs. The game is easy to pick up and get started, but will quickly challenge you in later levels to test your abilities. Albion is fun to explore, and the game will reward you for straying off the main path and fully experiencing everything there is to do. Even though there are a few issues with this game, if you have never played the Fable series before, now would be a good time to start.
This review is based on a copy of Fable Anniversary for the Xbox 360 provided by the publisher.