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Review

Fable Anniversary Review

  • Game release: September 14, 2004
  • Reviewed: February 7, 2014
  • X360
Jeremy Jayne on Google+

It's sometimes sunny in Albion.

by

When you return to a beloved classic and discover how awkward and painfully frustrating it truly was, it's difficult to accept the truth. Multiple stages of grief follow, though many of us never escape the "denial" phase, declaring undying love while sobbing our way through clunky gameplay that has no hope of living up to our childhood remembrances.

Thankfully, Fable Anniversary has no desire to ruin your decade-old memories. The original Fable holds up rather well, and this remastered, visually buffed version of it retains the proper charm and rollicking spirit that made the game so delightful. Fable projects a certain effervescence, which you hear in its soundtrack's tinkling bell tones and see in the squat, goblinesque hobbes that shriek and yammer as you fight them. Villagers speak to you in thick Cockney accents, inviting you to drown in pleasures of the flesh, or drearily enthusing about their favorite hallucinogenic mushrooms. (You'll go find them another, won't you?) Fable is the Hugh Grant of video games: cheery, affable, and periodically inelegant.

As a remaster, Fable Anniversary is one of the better ones. Should you compare the original and the new release side by side, you immediately see the differences. Low-polygon character models and flap-jaw facial animations have been replaced by smoothly drawn villagers and reasonably expressive lip synching. This isn't a case of the resolution being cranked up, but entire assets being re-created, including architecture and foliage. The lighting, too, has been adjusted to reflect real-time sun rays and other more natural elements, though this change comes at the cost of ambience. The original Fable burst with bright light and color, though not always in the most natural ways, while the new lighting gives the game a more organic look, but at the cost of the shimmering glow that made Albion so warm and inviting in the original Fable and its sequel. Certain areas are too dim to make exploring them fun.

Allow me to step back a moment, however. If you never played the original, you'll be less concerned with Fable Anniversary's improvements, and more concerned with its own unique merits. And there are many. As the unnamed hero of Albion, you gallivant about its charming towns and meadows in third-person perspective, performing quests that have you protecting citizens from bandits, infiltrating prisons, and solving a ghostly spirit's riddles. But childhood precedes heroism, and the first hour or so of the game chronicles the terrible events that scarred you in your youth while simultaneously serving as an extended tutorial.

I have the power!

Fable Anniversary sings a fine rendition of the original's victories. Your interactions with the populace aren't limited to the kind involving a bow or a sword. You express your innermost self not with what you say (as you might in many a modern role-playing game, like Mass Effect) but with what you do. You can disgust your admirers by farting in their faces, or impress potential love interests by offering them gemstones, or boxes of chocolates. Prove your strength by flexing your muscles; prove your cruelty by murdering an old friend in front of hundreds of onlookers.

How you act is reflected in how others perceive you, and in how you look. I admit that I find little amusement in attacking random villagers, and so my list of moral successes grew longer and longer until a halo appeared above my head and onlookers clapped enthusiastically as I passed. Devil's horns and crimson eyes are your rewards for dirty deeds, though your status as a "hero" remains perpetually intact. Fable II greatly expanded on this system, but even so, Fable Anniversary still seems authentically alive, whereas other games often feel as though they are merely responding to on/off switches when alluding to your past actions. It's Fable's focus on action over words that makes the difference. A passerby mentioning that he heard you killed a werewolf is clearly contrived; applause and cries of admiration as you enter a tavern, on the other hand, feel more organic, because the game doesn't assume everyone in town has heard of the specific actions you performed just moments before.

Everyone's so mean to me. Even when I sport a beautiful handlebar mustache!

Other actions are also reflected in your physical form; eating too much food to regain health, for instance, makes you fat. It's a shame the world design doesn't reflect the openness of Fable Anniversary's social possibilities. Even in 2004, Fable's segmented kingdom was confining; now, it is absurdly so. Smallish regions are separated by loading screens, and even those areas limit you to specific paths. Albion is a series of connected nodes that relies on its gently bawdy atmosphere to convey its history rather than on scale and environmental detail.

When you aren't busy voguing in front of impressed onlookers, you're traveling down Albion's narrow pathways, beating up on balverines (that is, werewolves) and trolls using a combination of melee weapons, bows, and magic spells. The magical possibilities are the most intriguing, given how they allow you to summon a ring of flames from the heavens above, or to call forth a trio of sentient swords to get up close and personal with your enemies while you shower arrows on them. There's no reason to stick with any particular technique, though, and cultivating a diverse combat style is more gratifying than choosing one over another. Depending on the circumstance, ranged attacks might be more effective than hammer swings, and you earn enough experience orbs when completing quests and offing bandits that there's no reason not to spread the wealth among the three core disciplines.

Prove your strength by flexing your muscles; prove your cruelty by murdering an old friend in front of hundreds of onlookers.

Putting those disciplines into practice can be frustrating, however. The original's targeting system wasn't great, and while Fable Anniversary represents some improvement, it's not much of one. You have to be relatively close to your target for the targeting to even work, so pulling the trigger to lock onto an attacking hobbe may instead reposition the camera, or worse yet, lock onto a nearby comrade, causing you to accidentally launch an arrow into a merchant's skull when you had a zombie in your sights. You can even lock onto your summoned helpers that way; I can't count the number of times I wanted to focus on a nymph and the camera centered on a summoned sword. The game's thoughtless manner of how it chooses targets is puzzling. Even more puzzling is how your arrows may go off in some random direction even when you've homed in on a target.

Melee combat, too, has its problems, most of which stem from Fable Anniversary's animation-first design philosophy, in which most attacks knock you back or down in some manner, wrenching control away from you in the heat of combat. This is typically only a minor nuisance, though some combat encounters seem designed to cause maximum frustration. You can find yourself in irritating loops of interrupting attacks in which you don't have the time to stand before you're summarily knocked on your derriere again. The combat arena--an inescapable gaming cliche in Fable--is the most embarrassing example of this flawed approach. Dealing with several trolls tossing boulders at you with no regard for timing is the most tiresome sequence in the game.

You can hire bodyguards if you like having company, but Fable Anniversary is so easy, you probably won't need help.

The saving grace that makes these foibles more irritating than rage inducing is Fable Anniversary's low level of difficulty. You usually have more than enough potions and resurrection vials on you to avoid game-ending death, and in fact, I only once saw a game-over screen in Fable Anniversary, when I had failed to finish a quest during its time limit. This is a game about atmosphere and attitude, not about overcoming grueling obstacles by mastering your tactics. It's also a game about discovery, more so than you might imagine for a game that confines you to such constricted passages. Inspecting various nooks reveals treasure chests, and if you don't mind the morbid business of digging up graves, you might find buried valuables. Talking demon doors scattered about the land have secrets locked behind them, but they require you to pay strict cover fees if you want to join their clubs. One forces you to raise your combat multiplier before it opens; another asks for a fancy gift. My favorite one encourages you to get fat. "Get some meat on you," it says. "I want beefy! Blubbery! Plump! Porcine! Stop being a slave to public perception, and treat yourself."

How could I refuse such an invitation? I gorged on delicious red meat until my hero was as Rubenesque as my own frame, and the door opened after it laid eyes on my jolly ol' self. These are the kinds of moments that make Fable Anniversary delightful. Its combat and world design have undoubtedly aged, but the game is so ripe with charisma, so upbeat that even its most somber moments don't suppress your soaring spirits for long. Fable isn't quite timeless, but its genial mood is infectious, and I'm happy that Fable Anniversary kept my fond memories intact.

The Good
Albion remains a wonderful place to inhabit
Genial sense of humor with a hint of ledwness
Lots of cheery ways to express yourself
It's fun to stumble upon demon doors and other secrets
The Bad
Confining world structure
Iffy targeting and other combat quirks
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Fable

About the Author

/ Staff

Kevin VanOrd played and loved both the original Fable and Fable II, but was so disappointed with Fable III that he quit halfway through. He spent about 20 hours with Fable Anniversary, buying houses, getting married, and making whoopee.

Discussion

103 comments
Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

For any newer gamers out there that might not have played this in its prime.. PICK UP THIS GAME!

Fsals
Fsals

Wonder I can finally get my hands on the singing sword? :)

ddogbritt16
ddogbritt16

This game is great,they did a really good job remaking this game,it looks really good and even though it still has its original glitches it is still a really fun game hat I loved and still love from my childhood.This game does freeze, it has frozen twice on me and I have played it for twelve hours and it has only frozen when I was at the bandit camp but it doesn't always freeze when I am at the bandit camp, it also has frame rate drops when you are around alot of people.If you are not a fan of Fable I would wait for the price to go down but if you love fable then it is worth the 40 dollars.

surfwalrus
surfwalrus

Im sure everyone loves paying full price for 1 good game out of the 3 included. Fable 1 was the only good fable game. 2 and 3 arent even "games" in my opinion. theyre as much of a game as Barbie Dress Up. If you dont have an end boss, you arent a game, lookin at you Fable 2 with your one hit kill end boss.

mark_unix
mark_unix

Nice to see gamespot censors a realistic remark, pretty much adding to the feeling this is a paid for Microsoft advertisement..

there are better games out there for this money, and much cheaper also...


but gamespot should include that this is a bug riddled mess, that performs like a dog with god awful loading times that are probably worse than the original xbox..

bluenessless
bluenessless

Getting this for nostalgic value. Loved its humour and music. Such memories :) chicken chaser!

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NicholasT33

Oh really, "back to the shadows" with me? Such melodrama.

Also, you know, someone cut you the benefit of the doubt by saying that you were referring to the day-one-DLC for this game when you called Fable Anniversary "DLC" - you even confirmed that.

Then you return to the stance that some people assumed you took when you said this remake of a game is DLC.

You deserve all those retorts that called you out for your ignorance.

Also, great job there shilling Steam and GOG while ranting about the Xbox One. You are already giving a strong impression that you are not slamming this game for its faults, but rather it's your bias against Microsoft Xbox and your anti-corporate streak that are influencing your protest.

Llama345
Llama345

Oh what Fable could have been…. 

Oloryn
Oloryn

Hooray!!! *clap clap* Chicken Chaser!!!

Aspire85
Aspire85

Extra content and this would have been a definite purchase for me but, like Tomb Raider, there is just absolutely no appeal or reason for me buying a game I've already completed for the sake of some extra graphical detail.

chronocommander
chronocommander

Great to see the remake is worth it, now hopefully this comes to PC soon!

nicecall
nicecall

i have no temptation to play fable again so ill not be getting this... although I did like the original more then the other ones.  gameplay never gets fixed in any of these hd remakes.


ducktales remake should have had its entire gameplay engine re-done, but it was the same crappy controls as it was on nintendo.. which felt like crap even back then.... same goes with Fables stiff controls.

chieflion
chieflion

Fable has always been chief yet fucked

the story has either been awesome or shitty

the combat has never really been tight and perfect

the characters are engaging or confusing

and I never understood the purpose of the whole hero shit and how his sister is goddamn immortal.

its just nonsense, fun to play nonsense, i think this HD version of a classic proves this.

x_vash_x
x_vash_x

I've been a member of this site for ten years now and have always liked Kevin VanOrd. Kevin, do you hate the new site as much as I do? I miss the classic Gamespot.... this new site feels like a cheap nod to ign.

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator moderator

New graphics are nice, but it's clear the game hasn't aged all that well.

hadlee73
hadlee73

Had the original on the first Xbox. Nice to see some life breathed back into this old classic.

ddogbritt16
ddogbritt16

So are the voices the same or did they change them?

rIVAL_sWORD84
rIVAL_sWORD84

I never played Fable since i did not have xbox, I bought it day one. It is very fun game, 

Chr0noid
Chr0noid

Making whoopee?  Did I travel back in time to the 70s?  


Anywho, a 7 seems about right for this game and I bought Anniversary on day 1.  I'm happy with it myself.  It truly is a flawed gem. 

guardianofhonor
guardianofhonor

@surfwalrus

Some games are about the journey not the destination, you want the culmination to be an epic boss battle go play a JRPG

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@mark_unix  What realistic remark? Our moderators will remove rude comments, but I'm not sure what you mean. In any case, it's silly to think anyone pays publications for good scores, but I'm not sure even the most creative conspiracy theorists can imagine a world in which publications are paid to give games 7s. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@mark_unix  

If Microsoft paid for this review, it wasted its money.

Also, you might have a huge grudge against Microsoft Games.

joke_man
joke_man

@Aspire85  


It includes The Lost Chapters content, so not sure what you're talking about...

disneyskate
disneyskate

No reason for it to come to PC, and they've confirmed it isn't coming to any other platform.

NTM23
NTM23

@Pelezinho777  I have the feeling someone will say that no matter what score a game gets. I mean, I've heard this so many times. Last time it was eight, and now you say seven... Wow. People are... Eh, I'll stop.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Chr0noid  Hehe. I specifically chose that word because it reminds me of The Newlywed Game, which was sort of bawdy in the way this game is. It seemed to be in the right spirit!

faizanhd
faizanhd

@Chr0noid  

There's a song in the BS Infinite Sountrack called "Making Whoopee" . It's awesome.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Another bride, another June
Another sunny honeymoon
Another season, another reason
For makin' whoopee


A great Ella Fitzgerald tune!

Aspire85
Aspire85

@joke_man @Aspire85  You sound tense. You're right though, I forgot switching platform made the experience completely fresh. Clever boy.

rIVAL_sWORD84
rIVAL_sWORD84

@flock_of_jawas @rIVAL_sWORD84 last i ran Riven sequel to myst and i got the blue screen error for the gfx card so i only run mame emulator on a 3 year old laptop.. so i dont want to risk screwing this laptop.

Fable

  • Xbox
  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • Xbox 360
Fable is an imaginative game that's got enough remarkable, unique moments in it to make it shine.
ESRB
Mature
XBOX PC X360
Blood, Mature Sexual Themes, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
ESRB
Teen
MAC
Blood, Mature Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
Check out even more info at the Fable Wiki on Giantbomb.com