A nostalgic trip back to Albion.
In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the original Fable has been reworked and rebuilt by Lionhead for Xbox 360. Up until now the game has only been available on the original Xbox and PC, but Fable Anniversary brings the adventure that kicked off Microsoft's prized role-playing franchise into the HD era with a fresh coat of paint and a number of tweaks for good measure.
Make no mistake, this isn't simply a half-hearted HD up-rez job; the folks over at Lionhead have completely redone the visuals as well as the sound, yielding an experience that can hold its own amongst the rest of the Xbox 360 library. That said, don't expect it to blow your mind—it looks great but certainly isn't a showpiece for the system. Plus, with the next generation of gaming already upon us, there's a good chance your standards for pretty visuals have been elevated a bit.
Unfortunately, however, all of the hard work the studio has invested in improving the game's presentation is marred by a bevy of technical issues. The consistently bad frame-rate is incredibly distracting, making Fable Anniversary feel clunky and unwieldy far too often. Worse yet, I had to power down the system on one particularly frustrating occasion because the game locked up in the middle of a dialogue conversation. Couple that with long load times, and you've got the perfect storm for some rage-inducing experiences. Despite the fact that it looks and sounds pretty, the technical flaws are too evident. Fortunately, Microsoft is working to have a title update ready for launch that will (hopefully) amend some these issues.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Fable Anniversary feels much like it did ten years ago, which is to say, dated and clunky. It's clear the controls have been moderately updated to accommodate those who played some of the later games in the series, but compared to more recent action-RPGs, even Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, it feels unintuitive and cumbersome. Just like in the original, your melee, ranged, and spell attacks are mapped to the face buttons for quick access. Unfortunately, swapping through spells just isn't snappy or intuitive enough to keep the combat moving along at a smooth pace. The aged animations also don't help things, either.
I don't want to delve too deep into the narrative in the event you haven't already played the game, so I'll give you a quick primer. You begin the adventure as a young boy from Oakvale whose town is ravaged by a bunch of bandits who destroy the entire town and everyone in it, except you. You are then taken under the wing of a guild that trains you to become a hero at which point you mature into a full-grown man. Throughout the course of Fable Anniversary, you are forced to make moral decisions that will ultimately send you down the path of good or evil. The binary way in which this is presented may seem a bit archaic, but don't forget that this is based on a player choice system that was developed a good ten years ago.
It's also worth mentioning that the development team took the time to work in Achievements (no surprise there) as well as Smartglass integration, which allows you to use your smart device to view a map screen, and access the official PRIMA strategy guide and several other helpful tidbits. It doesn't revolutionize the experience by any means, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.
In many ways, Fable Anniversary is just a prettier version of the original game with the added The Lost Chapters DLC thrown in for good measure. In the end, Lionhead's remake is a great way for fans of the original to take a trip down memory lane or an opportunity for those who only played the later Fable titles to experience a modernized version of the game that started it all. It's just a shame the technical problems weigh down the rest of the package.