Back in 2004, Lionhead Studios released a game that would help revolutionize the role-playing genre. That game, which was appropriately named Fable, has since become one of the industry’s more recognizable franchises, spawning sequels and spin-offs. Still, despite the success that has followed it since its debut a decade ago, the series’ first game remains its best.
To celebrate the tenth birthday of one of its most popular IPs, Microsoft has released an updated version of the game, under the banner of Fable Anniversary. Compiling the main game and its additional expansion, The Lost Chapters, the forty-dollar package offers quite a bit of bang for one’s buck. It is flawed, however, and is tough to wholeheartedly recommend as a result.
The theme of family has always run through the narratives found within these games. In this particular one, we take control of a young, unnamed boy, who swears revenge after his village is burned to the ground. With his father murdered and the condition of both his sister and his mother unknown, he’s swept away from it all by a stranger, who enlists him into an academy called the Heroes’ Guild. There, he trains and bides his time in anticipation of the moment that his strength and skill set will allow him to set off on his long-awaited journey.
Story-wise, Fable is quite strong. It’s continually immersive and entertaining, and is well-written, especially in comparison to some of its competitors. The premise is somewhat old hat, but it works well here, and provides great motivation for our protagonist. What’s also good is that the plot twists and turns a bit, as opposed to going in a straight line. I’ll keep those twists to myself, though, in case you haven’t played the game yet.
While the main campaign isn’t the longest one ever crafted, it has a good amount of meat on its colourful bones and that’s what matters. Plus, its expansion adds a handful of hours to the experience.
The neat thing about this game and its successors is that you can do more than just quest. If you’d like to woo a pretty young lass, then why not do so and set her up in a purchased home, which can be decorated as you see fit? What about fishing, or trying to open talking demon doors that possess creative requirements? You can do that, too. It’s nice that those things have been implemented, because they allow you to take a break when your sword feels heavy. Additionally, interacting with commoners through the game’s underlying gesture system can produce a bit of comedy.
Of course, Fable also became notable for its morality system, which lets players’ inner angels and demons come out. Those who wish to be as evil as evil can be may choose to slaughter innocent villagers during their travels, and can also undertake immoral versions of different quests. Doing that will make people fear you, though, and it’s more fun to be celebrated as a good guy if you ask me. For that reason, I once again went for the resulting halo instead of the dark devil horns.
Questing, on the other hand, is accomplished through traditional means. Throughout his journey, the unnamed hero is given quest cards that detail his objectives. Some are handed out through progression, while others can be undertaken from the Heroes’ Guild, which is also the only place where skills and spells can be purchased and upgraded. Said quests run the gamut of types, including main, secondary and miscellaneous, but they’re almost always fun.
If you’ve ever played a Fable game, then you’ll know what the combat is like in Fable Anniversary. It boils down to a well-developed mix of melee, bow and magical fighting, which allows players to fixate upon the fighting style that works best for them. I like to be an all-powerful warrior and tend not to stray from that, so I focused my time on slicing my enemies up with a fire-kissed blade. You might be more creative, though.
This re-release once again proves that age doesn’t define quality. In truth, this particular RPG is still just about as fun as the majority of today’s better titles. It is slightly dated, though, and is unfortunately marred by technical issues that one wouldn’t expect to find in a revamped version of a ten year-old game. That includes occasional frame rate hiccups, surprisingly lengthy wait times in-between gameplay and menu usage, and a freezing bug. So far, the game has frozen on me four times, forcing a complete reset of my console. On top of that, it’s also come close to freezing on two occasions.
Still, despite its hitches and hiccups, Fable Anniversary is a lot of fun. It’s easy to get angry when it freezes, but it’s less difficult to overlook such a fault when the game you’re playing is so entertaining. Lionhead certainly didn’t achieve perfection with this classic’s revamp, but hopefully the major bug that slipped through their fingers will be eradicated through a soon-to-be-released patch. It’s the only thing that truly mars what is an impressive-looking and nice-sounding upgrade.
It’s too bad that Fable Anniversary — which is an otherwise great buy at $40 — is so notably marred by a freezing bug at this point in time, because it prevents me from recommending it as much as I’d like to. Still, a great game lays underneath that blemish. As such, if you’ve yet to play Fable or want to do so again, you should definitely look into picking this package up — even if you decide to wait a bit — because it’s a bonafide classic that hasn’t been affected much by age.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 exclusive, which we were provided with.