Feature Article

Fable Anniversary: A Hero Resurrected

Farts and Whispers.

by

The human memory can be a funny thing. When I first loaded up the upcoming Fable Anniversary, it looked more or less like I remembered it looking. Albion was sunny, my sister was still heartbreakingly sincere, and my own character was a young boy eager to do favors for the locals. Sure, the widescreen aspect ratio was nice, but did we really need this new edition, when the original, backwards compatible Fable is available for purchase and download via Xbox Live?

Nostalgia is a powerful filter, however, and what I remembered was not the reality of the Albion we first visited. I pulled up the original role-playing adventure and plunged in for comparison’s sake, only to face my own faulty memory. The Anniversary edition’s detailed facial animations were gone, replaced by lips that flapped up and down as if the characters’ jaws were on hinges. The low-polygon models looked like refugees from developer Lionhead’s own Black & White 2, sliding about as if they weren’t actually making contact with the ground. And so I quickly returned to the newly remastered game, thankful that the main character’s gangly beanpole body had been re-proportioned so that he looked more like a hero in training than the chicken chaser the villagers claimed him to be. And that rather than lighting the world with a flat glow, the sun’s rays glimmered and sparkled, bringing to mind the Albion of Fable II.

Is this what you remember the Guildmaster looking like in Fable?
Well, think again. The facelift has done him wonders.

This was the Albion I wanted to be in. It was the charming world where I had first farted my way to victory, the populace cheering me on all the while--except when they were booing me, of course. And to me, it’s this world that represents Fable’s lasting legacy, and as it turns out, Fable Anniversary lead designer Ted Timmins agrees with me.

“There’s no other world like Albion,” Timmins told me in a recent interview. “I’ve been at Lionhead 10 years, and the thing that’s kept me passionate about the franchise, and what I love so much about the game, is that Albion feels like such a lovely place to be. I genuinely enjoy spending time there.” Timmins got even more excited when bringing up the game’s musical score. “The music… it’s Russell Shaw… and it’s just… the music is such an incredible part of the experience.” He catches his breath, then acknowledges that there are other wonderful aspects of the game that make Albion such a singular realm. “Then of course, a lot of people absolutely love the story, or they might love the combat, but the one thing that is unanimous is that people really attach to the humor. Not just of the characters, but of the writing, and the things the player can do. The fact that just as you can kill a hobbe, perhaps the hobbe will try to run off and will run into a wall and fall over. You can just fart in front of your wife and she’ll just divorce you because you’ve appalled her so much.”

Lord knows Fable Anniversary painted a grin on my face that remained there as I played. Those first few tasks I performed not only transported me back to 2004, but also charmed me on their own merits. There’s that girl who’s so thankful that you’ve returned Rosie, her teddy bear, to her. There’s the troublemaker that goads you into breaking open the shopkeeper’s barrels when you should just be standing there, guarding supplies. And don’t forget the cheating husband who inspires giggles from his lady friend--and irritated cries from his wife. The charm is evident even during events you wouldn’t necessarily characterize as particularly enchanting. Friendly nemesis Whisper is a real thorn in your side, but her enthusiasm makes it hard not to root for her. Bedding a prostitute may not sound like the act of an upstanding citizen, but the delightful welcome the brothel’s madame offers you make the whole business seem rather genteel. Heck, I even giggled when I saw that one of the game’s achievements is named “Not On Rails,” an apparent jab at Fable: The Journey, Lionhead’s Kinect game that was received with rather mixed responses.

You can just fart in front of your wife and she’ll just divorce you because you’ve appalled her so much.

Fable Anniversary lead designer Ted Timmins
Albion always looked like this, right?
Well... kind of.

In any case, it was good to be back. Then again, it had been a while since I’d visited Albion--since 2010’s disappointing Fable III, actually, which I gave up on just three or fours hours in. Yet as pleasant as this return visit was for me, I couldn’t help but wonder if returning to a game you’ve already devoted years of your life to is all that fulfilling of an endeavor for either a player or a creator. Wouldn’t Timmins have been happier working on a brand new game rather than revisiting a project from years past?

As it turns out, the opposite was true: Fable Anniversary evoked satisfying and moving memories from a bygone era, as well as provided its own unique set of creative challenges to overcome. “Fable 1 gave me every opportunity I’ve had in life since I started in the game industry,” said Timmins. “It was the first game I ever worked on. I had some of the best times in the industry working on that game. I was given the option to work on a couple of different things before Fable Anniversary kicked off. But I almost felt like I owed it to the project. I felt quite a personal attachment to it. And I felt like I would be the obvious person to have the tough task of having creative control over it and speak from the fan perspective: ‘As a Fable player, I want this in Anniversary. I want the targeting system to be improved, I want the game to have a better interface.’ Yeah, sure, to some extent I’ve put some creative freedom on the back burner, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.”

Timmins wasn’t the only creative mind with a personal investment in revisiting Fable. Said Timmins, “Russell Shaw was the composer of Fable 1, and he’s still very much a part of Lionhead. And I know that for him, when he went to go back, for him it was an emotional period, because it brings back all these memories of working on the game in 2004. When we were making Fable, I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams would ever imagine that 10 years later, we would still be working on it. When I first spoke to Russell, he said that Fable Anniversary sounds the way he wished it could have sounded 10 years ago, now that he has uncompressed, high-definition sound--now that he has full surround sound in 5.1. We didn’t really have that as a luxury of technology back then.”

I was given the option to work on a couple of different things before Fable Anniversary kicked off. But I almost felt like I owed it to the project.

Ted Timmins

If Timmins’ creative sacrifice allowed for various enhancements to be implemented, then I certainly am grateful. Fable Anniversary’s menus aren’t genre-best, but they’re more pleasing to navigate than the original’s convoluted options. The controls, too, have been updated to reflect the schemes used in Fables II and III, so that slinging arrows, swinging an axe, and firing off fireballs feel somewhat more natural than the original’s method of having you swap between weapons. And the targeting is noticeably snappier, so you needn’t work so hard to get that arrow to land where you want it to. An unexpected shift, however, also occurs in the game’s difficulty. Fable Anniversary is still an easy game, but beating up balverines in the original is even easier. Given the choice between the Xbox original and Fable Anniversary, the decision to go with the remastered release would seem easy enough, even if they are mostly the same in terms of content, though the Anniversary edition includes the quests and additions introduced in the extended edition known as Fable: The Lost Chapters.

Yowzers, m'lady.

Shaw’s work, too, is easily noticeable when comparing the original with Anniversary. Not only does the music take on newfound clarity, but the voice-overs have a sparkle they were missing before. The recorded lines are obviously the same, but vocal ebbs and flows are more apparent, and the narrator is no longer overcome by the musical score when he trails off at the end of sentences. All in all, a clear amount of artistic and engineering effort has gone into Fable Anniversary. Does Timmins think it was worth the trouble, when all is said and done?

“This game is not just close to the fans, but it’s close to the development team," he told me, "many of whom I’m still in contact with today. And they all want to be proud of this. They all want to look at it as something of…’I worked on that 10 years ago, and therefore I’m just as proud today of Anniversary as I was 10 years ago.’ That’s a really nice thought, and I hope I’ve done them proud as well.”

Discussion

100 comments
TPSISO9000
TPSISO9000

So for $40 I can smooth out the visuals and tighten up the music at the expense of the superior controls of which are replaced with the sloppy ones from 2/3? Uh, no.

Shishio817
Shishio817

I can't explain in adequate words how excited I am for this. To this day, Fable holds a special place and I can't wait to return to it. Looks like it'll be even better this time around!

nicecall
nicecall

if this is full price i won't go anywhere near it... i did like playing through the first Fable, but i only played through it once, it wasnt all that great... im surprised they are re-releasing this... it'll be fine to buy if its 20 bucks or less though

Neo_OnionKnight
Neo_OnionKnight

The gaming time will double for me as I will surely suffer severe bouts of nostalgia...In fact reading this and looking at the pictures, I'm about to fall in one right now....

NicholasT33
NicholasT33

Hate the different pre-order bonuses, plus all the other little DLC like a sword that comes with the anniversary strategy guide. C'mon it's a 10 year old game, the whole point is to have it all on the same disk!!!!!

Hurvl
Hurvl

With ladies that are that well-endowed in the bosom area, I get why he's called Mr Grope.

morthanw
morthanw

I will wait till the price drops but i will buy it most definitely. I have more hours in fable than i care to admit.. but i love the game and can't wait to play it again!

AuronAXE
AuronAXE

ah, nothing like buying items and selling them all back for profit

Necrotron
Necrotron

You know, the mention of some reworked animations as well as the enhanced visuals actually make this sound somewhat appealing.  Still, it's a hard sell to re-buy a ten year old game that simply got a facelift, but it sounds like it might certainly appeal to hardcore fans.


The wonderful surprises I didn't expect covered in this write-up, however, are swaying me towards the 'this might be worth picking up someday' category.

cornbredx
cornbredx

So... are they going to fix the game breaking bug in The Lost Chapters involving the Mayor or whatever?


Yes it's been a billion years and i still remember that they never fixed that.

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

I'm not sold on the remake either. Without additional content, the fact that all the excess loading and screen breaks that occurred in the original will be gone only means this game will be even shorter than it already was. Not to mention that the original still looks very good even while being emulated on the xbox 360. If they wanted to remaster it, they should've fixed the 2nd half of the game so it doesn't feel so rushed. The Lost Chapters content was nice, but only extends the story briefly, and the final boss is a joke.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

You mentioned that stuff at the beginning about faulty memories of the original.  I feel that way about Zelda 64 and Knights of the Old Republic.  I really appreciate it when a studio remasters a classic rather than re-renders everything (same models, same textures, same animations) and calls it "HD".  Wind Waker HD actually worked though because the nature of cell-shading only required a re-render, no re-mastering required.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

Fable was fun the first two games, but felt flat after that.

69ingChimpmunks
69ingChimpmunks

Fable is great and I will happily pick up the remake, As long as there are no multiplayer achievements.

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

I prefer the Guildmaster's old look. The first Fable took me 10 years to beat also. I shouldn't try it again. I'm bad with games because I play half of many and start new ones. Life ends up getting in the way too. That said, still, Fable 1 was one of my favorite games. I absolutely hated Fable 2. Have yet to try Fable 3.

hadlee73
hadlee73

I remember when my brother played through it no matter how much his character accomplished he could not shake the chicken chaser mantle.

Deano
Deano

fable just had this fantasy charm about it, sure it wasn't a deep rpg and wasn't open world or anything and not even that long but still was one of the best games for xbox. 

juboner
juboner

I dont understand how anyone could not like the first fable. A game like that in 2004 was something special imo. Probably just a bunch of ps2 fanboy xbox haters that dont like this game  yes that must be why 

Mlee6659
Mlee6659

no pc or next gen console support? what are these guys thinking x__x I'm a huge fan of the fable series, one of my favs of all time but I highly doubt it will even be worth making this game if it's only coming out for xbox 360.

Cellpwn
Cellpwn

“Then of course, a lot of people absolutely love the story..."

Lol no offense to hardcore Fable fans, but why anybody would find any of the Fable games' stories remarkable is beyond me. Definitely a weak point throughout the series.

Scarshi
Scarshi

I loved all Fable games. Many improvements and disappointing choices. The world and characters made the games great, not nit-picky little failings.

I do, however, wonder why this wasn't re-done for next-gen or PC? Even if many comments I see below hated the games, the option should be there for those that are tempted to re-visit an old friend.

jer_1
jer_1

I'm sure the simple answer to the initial question is "hell no". This whole series has been a let down, but that's just me. 

DeusGladiorum
DeusGladiorum

It hurts me that this isn't coming out for PC. I have the Lost Chapters for PC, and now I'm forced to choose between 1080p and 60 fps with lower polygon count, low-res textures, dated lighting techniques, and choppy animations, and newer and more impressive lighting, animations, textures, and polygon count but with a resolution of only 720p and at a likely stuttering 30 fps. Damn...

pupp3t_mast3r
pupp3t_mast3r

I owned the original Fable on the PC and the Xbox and played through the game a total of three times and I still remember that each time I went through the game I'd always things I'd missed out on previously. 


Reading Kevin's article I am sorely tempted to pick this up, but the sequels to the series have left me unsatisfied and disappointed and squandered all the faith I had in the franchise.

JusticeCovert
JusticeCovert moderator

Hey @Kevin-V, You forgot to talk about how the farts sound in 5.1! Any good?

Allan_X
Allan_X

With my tired eyelids still stuck together from having awoken a few seconds before, I confused the quiver on that guy's back for the orange trim of Gordon Freeman's HEV suit, and I almost went bonkers.

Nepti
Nepti

I wanted to love this series. But none of the games ever grabbed me. Probably the most time I spent was with Fable 2 maybe 5 hours.

Reuwsaat
Reuwsaat

Why not for the PC too...

Coren_Larken
Coren_Larken

Fantastic article! I was concerned that people might not think it aged well, but to this day it's still one of my favorites. Thanks for writing something that brought out the same excitement as the first time I played it.

HartPuncher
HartPuncher

I loved Fable. Best combat system in any game! Fable ruined Final Fantasy for me!

mctpdanger92
mctpdanger92

@nicecall if you had a job then you wouldent mind paying a few bucks for a great game, instead you have to go beg mommy and daddy for spare change... BTW stop wasting your own time

timtolo
timtolo

@AuronAXE As long as it doesn't get abused I am okay with it. This game is 10 years old now. So i see it as awesome looking forward to replaying it. 

cornbredx
cornbredx

@OHGFawx At least there is a final boss, unlike Fable 2 which is just "shoot/hit this guy. Oh, you thought this was a moral choice and wanted to mull it over? Fine, this guy will kill him instead. Game over. That was cool, right?"

That was the worst.

Sorry, I'll shut up =P

cornbredx
cornbredx

@juboner The first Fable was a marvel in a lot of ways but people like to rag on Molyneaux because he dreams big and talks bigger then he actually has in a game. The game was not what he claimed it was. It's still a decent action RPG, even if a fairly simplified one. It was cool how the character changes based on your stats, but there were a lot of other things he said they wanted to do but they never did. It was, to be fair, overly ambitious.


Lionhead didn't really mess up the franchise until Fable 2. The end was forgivable, even if awful, and then they lied and never gave a real ending to Fable 2. Instead they made Fable 3.


The one good thing to come out of it was my realization that DLC is always a ripoff.

Sniggih
Sniggih

@Vidpci I agree dont get why he isn't used more for reviews etc.

jer_1
jer_1

@Reuwsaat Probably just doing you a favor and saving you from wasted money.

cornbredx
cornbredx

@hadlee73 @cornbredx Ya, I remember back when I was still playing that (I played it several times) I always changed the title as soon as I got to the shop keeper that sold titles. I don't remember what it was, but there was a better... much less annoying title than chicken chaser I usually changed it to.

Fable More Info

First Release on Sep 14, 2004
  • Macintosh
  • PC
  • + 2 more
  • Xbox
  • Xbox 360
Fable is an imaginative game that's got enough remarkable, unique moments in it to make it shine.