Review by DarkSymbiote

Reviewed: 02/18/14

This Anniversary present isn't good enough!

The Fable franchise has certainly never reached the heights it could have. The second game came close, the third game had serious design issues and The Journey is a Kinect game. But do most even remember the first one? The one that was promised by Peter Molyneux to be "the best game ever."? Well, Microsoft wants you to revisit Albion before you could fart into people's faces or needed to pay extra money to get the colour black. Similar to Halo Anniversary, Fable aims to keep the core features of the original the same but dye over the visuals with a fresh coat of paint. Does Fable Anniversary manage to stand the test of time or is it something that only got praised for being slightly different in the past?

Story

Here lived a boy and his family. A boy dreaming of greatness. Of one day being a Hero.

The narrator introduces you the world of Albion, specifically Oakvale; a quaint village off the sea. You're introduced to your Hero here as a young boy who will grow up to be the daftest person in all the world. It's the Hero's sister's birthday so naturally little brother will go out of his way to purchase sweets for her. Too bad bandits invade and slaughter the slaughter the Hero's family. Maze of the Heroes' Guild arrives on sight to find the boy sad and on the ground to recruit him into the Guild. The story picks up from there.

Over the course of the journey you'll be taken from humble heroism to saving the world (like any decent RPG) but it's how you do that makes Fable special: The humour. The main plot knows when to be serious and when to be goofy. Unfortunately, your Hero doesn't seem to know anything. He'll usually just stare like some casual buffoon and gawk like his jaw is about to hit the floor. No, there aren't any dialogue choices but there are choices to make that affect the story especially in The Lost Chapters section. There's also a lack of emotional impact.

Speaking of The Lost Chapters, it's the expansion to the original (included in Anniversary of course) and the plot there lacks pacing, purpose and is far too short. Overall, the characters spout some quite witty dialogues every now and then even though they are often obnoxious and unremarkable. And that's the biggest problem with Fable, aside from the main villain the characters don't stand out other than their appearance and unique names. In fact, most of them just come and go as the plot dictates.

Design and Gameplay

Your health is low. You have any potions, or food?

Interaction in Albion is very simple. You interact with every person in the land. You can walk up to anyone and flex to show off your muscles, chuckle, unleash flatulence, give them the finger, etc. You might even get to marry and buy and move into a home. But see a green aura around a someone and that person will have something you can do with other than be zany with and blue highlighted objects are things you can use. And that's not all, Albion is a wacky place where you can play games, fish, dig for treasure, converse with the various Demon Doors who will open up to reveal their treasures once you solve their riddles and kick chicken over rooftops. It's especially funny to read the gravestones.

The quest system is unique in the sense that it consists of the boast system. Most quests you get from the guild allow you to boast and wager a certain amount of gold for more if you manage to hold up to your selected bets. Failure isn't that big of a deal since money is easily gotten in this game. The experience system is something you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere too. You of course get general, green experience from fallen foes but you also get might, skill and will experience depending on what you use to beat down the baddies with. The more you level up, the more you age. All the way up to 65. It's actually ridiculous for "little brother" to be old as the Guildmaster.

The main story is quite short at about 8 hours but the varied side-quests are a worth a look. They are refreshing from your typical RPG trashy side-quests and they almost always have their own story to tell. Sadly, Anniversary has pre-order DLC which is absurd considering this isn't even a brand new game.

The Anniversary isn't without flaws however. The biggest offender is the framerate. It stutters almost always and more so in towns. Also, if you're lucky you won't get enough freezes to completely turn you off the game. And finally, there comes the controller input delay. More on that later. Why a re-release of a 2004 game would have so many issues is unknown. Spending 14 of the supposed 15 months development time making paper airplanes is not the sign of a good developer, Lionhead! A new save system has been added that wil alleviate some of the freezing issues at least.

Now, as for the combat, the Annivesary allows you get to pick between the traditional and Fable 2/3 control scheme. It is extremely recommended to got with traditional as spell casting and performing flourishes will be much more tedious otherwise. The game makes no attempt to point this out to you. Attacking an enemy is of course simple and you need to do a flourish when they begin to block. A higher combat multiplier equals higher experience. The problem is the speed with which enemies retaliate. They'll outright break out of your combo and land 4 hits with ease. Blocking is almost pointless thanks to the newly introduced input lag. All of this doesn't make the game hard however, just extremely annoying. You could simply pack up on dozens of health and will potions and resurrection phials and just button mash your way through.

Travelling can be annoying since the game loves loading screens. But not as much as Fable III.

Visulas

That was unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it for a long time!

You'd assume an updated re-release to look better than the original, right? And it does... for the most part. The new version runs on the Unreal Engine. The majority of the cast looks improves but the Hero loos even more dumb (if that is even a possibility) and some of the children have horrifying round fish look to them. The blue aura around doors have been considerably "hidden" so it is hard to differentiate what can be opened and what cannot. The game is very colourful now. And not for the better.

The lighting is impressive but the sheen on the Hero's face isn't. The water effects look neat as well.

Audio

Hmm, quite profound there. You can quote me if you like.

The music in the game is some of the most pleasant you'll ever listen too. Even the fighting tune doesn't get very upbeat. Not that it's a bad thing. The main theme is by Danny Elfman and the rest by Russell Shaw. Fable's soundtrack is some of the most soulful music to ever be composed for a video game. The melodies will make you wish you live in Albion than anything else in the game.

The voice acting is good. Very good. The range of emotions found in the cast is scarcely found anywhere else. At times The antagonist's stands out as a mixture of threatening and calmness.

Audio design is poor though. You'll be hearing grinding gears as important dialogue is mumbled.

Pros:

- Varied interactivity with NPCs
- Fantastic musical score
- Side-quests

Cons:

- New issues including framerate drops, freezing and input delay
- Main story is considerably short
- Far too many pre-order DLC

Final verdict

I hope you haven't forgotten what day it is. Like you did last year.

Lionhead and Microsoft seem to be inept at handling the Fable franchise. Anniversary is prettier from a distance but in the end, it is an inferior game to the original because they felt adding new issues would make it sell millions. Anniversary is a treat to behold but only, and only, if you forgive its flaws.

Rating: 7.3

Rating: 7

Product Release: Fable Anniversary (EU, 02/07/14)

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