Fable Anniversary - by Microsoft Game Studios
Released almost exactly one decade on from the title which promised much but delivered curiously little, Fable Anniversary seeks not to draw us in with hyperbole and falsehoods, but to improve upon what initially divided gamers back in 2004. Has Lionhead succeeded in rejuvenating 'one of the best RPGs of all time'? Let's find out, shall we.
Good, bad, naughty, nice, poultry bigot — Fable Anniversary features the tools necessary to sculpt your in-game avatar into a cherished hero or a contemptible villain, complete with demon horns, body odour, and a wicked chortle.
Behave responsibly with your fire swords of chaos, kids.
Your approach to tackling the tough decisions presented in the game will have far-reaching consequences. Trouble could emerge further down the path, should you offend the wrong people. Likewise, turning a blind eye to a spot of mischief could you earn an invitation into some particularly disreputable circles.
Choices in Fable Anniversary are very rarely as black and white as they may first appear.
However, for as sophisticated as the game's character building mechanics might be, don't expect to be greeted with the levels of flexibility akin to the likes of the The Elder Scrolls series. Your character will ultimately look like my character, albeit perhaps wearing only a pair of Union Flag briefs and sporting a killer pair of mutton chops, but we will all begin the game with the same fleshy blueprint.
Renown acts as the social barometer with which to measure your character's standing in the world. Completing honourable deeds might well mean that eventually you will earn applause from townsfolk on your successes and children will emulate your mannerisms, but frequently indulging your dark side will cause bystanders to panic and scatter at your presence.
#5 THE WORLD
The expansive land of Albion is a dazzling and often at times overwhelming place to explore. Fantastical creatures and monsters reside throughout, with few especially accommodating towards wandering heroes.
Pictured: a nice place to live.
Bandits harass passers by with alarming frequency, but it will likely be the mischievous hobbes, bloodthirsty balverines, and giant trolls that cause the most bother throughout your journey.
Quests will more often than not have you marching directly into danger, but the rewards and renown generated serve as an added bonus for seeing what Albion has to offer. You'll also need to keep a keen eye open at all times if you intend to discover all of the secret paths, hidden Demon Doors, and sequestered job givers.
Albion is as busy and populated as it is vast. Outside of bandit hotspots and hobbe caves, there are plenty of people to engage with in nearly all of the scattered towns and villages.
Friends don't let friends leave the house sporting turquoise arrow quills. Eww.
Many will have errands to share, others will have wares to trade, and you might even find that the occasional person will have a crazy story to share about mythical beasts and treasure — and you would be wise to pay attention to their words for they might perhaps hold some truth behind them.
When you have scratched that social itch and are ready to continue onwards with saving the world from certain doom, Fable Anniversary features a merry assortment of allies and acquaintances which will chime in every so often to keep you aloft with all things apocalypse-related. And further down the line, depending on how functional or faulty your moral compass might be at the point, you will be presented with opportunities to better solidify relationships, be it through or shared questing or even marriage, or severing all ties — and limbs — with those you are not super fond with.
Fable Anniversary, as was the case with the original Fable and the expanded Fable: The Lost Chapters, does suffer a tad on the story front.
Screw the story, let's go kick some chickens.
The early portion of the game sets the scene quite nicely for epic adventuring to come, but pacing loses its footing soon after, with the narrative almost immediately becoming quite lax and losing all previous pursuits of awesome spectacle and grandeur until the final few moments of the game. The revised, extended ending that was present in Fable: The Lost Chapters has thankfully been ported over to Fable Anniversary, and does manage to provide a satisfying resolution to the almost-great tale.
Not quite every plot point is wrapped up neatly and served with a bow — something which I'm also grateful for. The origins and motives behind some of the more central characters aren't bandied about like they're an open book; their histories, much like the game, are stories to be told, and you'll have to look for them to even begin to scratch the surface of their complexities.
It would have been all to easy to have slapped a 'HD' stamp on the end of the title, shove it out the door and call it a brand new game, but Lionhead Studios have gone the extra mile in modernizing this ageing classic.
I'd bump that dude's maps any time.
Of course, Fable Anniversary features all the next gen mod cons that we've come to expect, including 'remastered' visuals and achievement support, but the fresh inclusions of a revised menu and save system, additional 'Heroic' difficulty setting, and limited third-party modification support all translate into more reasons to revisit Albion, even if you feel that you've seen everything there is to see.
While Fable: The Lost Chapters purists might snub the new character art style (which is something of an acquired taste), the enhanced environments and new lighting system serve only to make Albion an even more visually appealing digital world to get lost in. And with the unexpected but highly welcome introduction of mod support, there's no telling just what sort of further improvements can be made to the game courtesy of the community's efforts.
The 1# FABLE ANNIVERSARY FEATURE: DIGITAL DISTRIBUTOR
With Microsoft's own Windows Marketplace losing steam (please pardon the deliberately cheeky pun) and Games For Windows Live set for retirement, it seems only right that Fable Anniversary seek refuge in Valve's Steam Store.
Things be gettin' Steamy up in here.
The move to a digital exclusive platform means that all of you can at a moment's notice summon Fable Anniversary to float down from the ethereal cloud that is the Internet and enjoy your investment without the hassle of hunting down those accursed installation discs of yesteryear. Great news for you, great news for me, even better news for those of us with limited shelf space (which would also be me).
Steam also allows for essential updates and patches to be streamed seamlessly and effortlessly in the background, ready for the next time you're ready to don those Union Flag briefs and mutton chops you're so enamoured with.
Oh, right, and remember that modding support detail I mentioned a short while ago? Steam's got you covered for mods, also, son. Steam Workshop integration is coming. Okay, so it's not available right now, but Lionhead are insistent that it's only a matter of time. When Steam Workshop support does inevitably arrive, it will mean that your cravings for user-made tinkerings will be sated by simply heading over to the game's Community section on Steam, only a short few clicks away from the very page you initially parted with your dough. Marvellous.
So, has Lionhead succeeded in rejuvenating 'one of the best RPGs of all time'? Well, yes. But gamers whom turned their noses up at Lionhead's original efforts will likely be hard-pressed to find little reason to afford this — albeit impressive — re-release their attention, given the lack of any discernible leaps in gameplay. What's there is as great as it was 10 years ago, what's new will appease long-time fans looking to once more revisit Albion, but it is still Fable at heart, warts and all. And I'm cool with that.