Review by TakaRagranok
Every choice has a consequence...
...and by playing this game, you'll have a lot of fun!
Fable Anniversary is quite the updated take on a classic game. Having never played any game in the Fable series, I was excited to dive in and try this one out.
Graphics: This game looks beautiful. Particle effects, shadow renders, and water effects are all absolutely gorgeous. This game takes full advantage of the 360's hardware and delivers a game that is very pretty to look at, even as we go forward into the era of Xbox One and PS4 gaming.
Audio/Music: This game sounds great. The recorded groups are all top-notch, and the music is clever. Danny Elfman supplied the main theme, and Russel Shaw's work on video games shines here. Allan Wilson's orchestrations are absolutely lovely, really giving you that British fairytale vibe. The audio is remastered from the original, apparently, and every sword swing, spellcast, and broken barrel sounds just right. Babbling brooks actually fade in and out as you approach them, which I find to be a nice touch. A lot of love was put into the audio side of this game, and with one weird glitchy exception I experienced, it really shows.
Story: The story isn't anything crazy. It's your typical Western RPG fare: village burns down, get rescued, train with heroes, become famous, and eventually fight the baddie. It's neat seeing your character literally grow up in the Guild alongside Whisper before going out into the world - it adds a little depth to what is otherwise a normal story. I also like that its the hero's mother (not father) who is the family badass. Small twist, but enough to be noticed. There's no finding an heir to the throne (Dragon Age) or ending a civil war (Skyrim). It's all pretty simple.
The problem with having such a simple narrative is that you're never really given the opportunity (nor the impetus) to care about the relatively small cast of characters. Your frenemy, Whisper, and her brother, Thunder, never really have any redeeming or endearing qualities. The Guildmaster is there as a guide. Your sister, mother, and Scythe are practically nonexistent. Briar Rose (one of the other Heroes of the Guild) is insufferable. Maze is the only one with any actual development, which is sad.
With only 27 main story quests, and with most taking about 15-30 minutes to complete, the main game story is only about 10-15 hours - not much longer than a particularly challenging campaign in Call of Duty. There are side quests which tend to take a little bit longer (20-35 minutes) as well as combination of mini-games and fetch quests.
After you do everything in the game (yes, including finding the silver keys and beating chicken kickin'), you'll have probably spent about 40 hours total. That's somewhat short for an RPG. Admittedly, this comes from the fact that it's hard to design a lengthy game which accounts for every player's moral choices - shortness is therefore born from necessity - but it is frustrating. A large part of that run-time also comes from having to run around the world to find things you might have missed, simply because there are not fast travels in the most convenient of locations.
Mechanics: Ah, mechanics, the most important part of a game. Fable's are fun, even if they are a mixed bag. The experience system is simple but flexible, allowing for an incredible amount of customization from early on. This is because, in addition to having your three specialized XP bars (for strength, skill, and magic), you get a fourth general bar. You can use this to maximize the style you want to play, or cover up for weaknesses. With the combat multiplier and "Ages of" potions, however, you can quickly and easily gain far more experience than you need for your progression in the story. Even beyond that, though, the enemies simply don't scale with your level. As a result, I was able to beat the final boss in under five minutes, just because I was that overpowered.
Bows handle a bit weird in this game. All of the spells are fun to use (particularly slow-time), but some are naturally more useful than others. The sword combat is fluid and satisfying.
However, it seems like you don't find much in the way of equipment throughout the game. Most weapons and armor are restricted to silver key chests, though you can find a set of chainmail near the end of the original Fable. I wore bandit armor just because it was the strongest I could find for awhile, though I eventually just dropped 20k of gold on bright platemail to be done with it.
Additionally, I'm not a fan of how so many achievements can be done in one of two ways, but then there are two that are very hard to do without following one specific quest chain. Horde Mode is in concept easy (find 10 legendary weapons), but when two (almost three) of them are possibly tied up in a single quest, it gets a bit frustrating from a logistical standpoint, as it's not consistent with the rest of the game.
Finally, subtle things like renown, morality, and aging mechanics are neat ideas in theory, but a little weird in practice. Renown is a measurement of your fame, and is raised by completing quests (with boasts) and showing off your trophies. The higher the renown, the better discounts you get at shops, and the more quests you can take. While neat in theory, it also tends to pad a short run-time by making certain quests inaccessible until you've earned enough fame.
Morality is shifted by actions, and there are rewards to being very good or very evil, but people don't really react if you're neutral. It's also very hard to be evil when you achieve good morality points for killing wasps. More balance would have been nice. Your appearance also changes based on your morality: the more good you are, the more blonde you get; similarly, the more evil, the more goth/emo you look.
Finally, the aging mechanic. While not as pronounced as the original, you still gain age for each skill you master, topping out at about 64. It's very conceivable that, over the course of the game, your sister looks 14 and you look like an old man, old enough to marry your mother. It's weird, and not just because it's weird to think of Old Man Grumble, Evil Wizard Extraordinaire. You can hide your aging with clever haircuts (or going bald), but eventually the white hair will catch up.
Conclusion: On the whole, this game is a lot of fun. Worth picking up. Might be worth a replay after a couple years, though at the end of a run-through, you'll probably be left with the bittersweet "I wish there was more."
Product Release: Fable Anniversary (US, 02/04/14)
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