Fable Anniversary was the highly anticipated re-release of the critically acclaimed Fable, originally released on September 14th 2004. With a total texture and graphical upgrade along with a few minor animation fixes, it provided a much more enjoyable experience supplemental to the original.
Fable Anniversary has you begin as a young boy whose constantly absent mother happens to be a famous Hero and Arena Champion. Following a day in the life of the boy, the game shows you a few of it’s mechanics. One of Fable’s more famous mechanics is the ‘choice’ mechanic, giving you options to make morally good or bad decisions based on either helping people or being selfish. You learn basic skills like how to talk to people and how to interact with objects. At the end of your day the plot heats up and you are thrown into the second part of the tutorial area.
Upon beginning the tutorial area at the Heroes Guild, the game shows you the different types of combat; Melee, Ranged and Will. You are also given a run through on the way Main Quests and Side Quests play out, this makes you quickly progress through the years from boy to Hero. Upon finishing the tutorial area you are free to do as you wish.
The game-play in Fable Anniversary has not been altered at all since the original Fable. You are still given the choice of using Melee, Ranged or Will attacks. However, the game seems to still lean heavily on melee-based combat, the other two attacks being powerful yet very slow to utilise effectively. It is a pretty straight-forward real-time combat game, there is no Turn-based System, so if you aren’t paying attention you could very easily lose. Fortunately, restorative items like Health and Mana potions are fairly common, and can save you in a tight spot from death. Ranged and Will combat is quite powerful when used correctly, you can level them up quite easily to specialise in a number of areas, for example lightning attacks and multi-attacks. Bows and crossbows are too slow to use all of the time, and Will attacks aren’t powerful enough to keep hordes of enemies off you effectively.
You gain experience by killing enemies, the most basic of all game mechanics, however you earn the experience in each of the four categories, Strength, Skill, Will and General. For example if you kill mostly with melee attacks you will gain General and Strength Experience, if you use ranged attacks you will gain Skill and General experience, etc. You can use Strength experience to level up your melee abilities, Skill for Ranged and Will for Will. General Experience can be used as a supplement to any of the three other categories.
You can interact with the NPC’s of the world through expressions, as dialogue is not an option in the Fable games. You use the basic ‘Wait’ and ‘Follow’ functions to control any NPC’s that may be following you, however, most other expressions are not absolutely needed in terms of game completion. You can give gifts to people but yet again this is a superfluous mechanic.
The storyline is a very basic revenge story and is very rigid. Lionhead Studio attempted to give you the illusion of free will in Fable however that wasn’t executed very well and you will find yourself in a very linear world. You can easily finish the game in approximately 35 quests, including The Lost Chapters content. If you choose to spend time away from questing and interacting with the NPC’s you will obviously have more fun.
The background music and ambience for Fable Anniversary is amazing, each area has it’s own memorable theme and you will soon find yourself easily associating music with areas. The music was created by Russell Shaw, with Danny Elfman helping with the main theme. The encounter music is thrilling yet somehow not invasive, you get the deep strings and drums suddenly kicking in when an enemy jumps out at you, yet they fade back out seamlessly, no matter what the background track is.
The updated graphics to Fable Anniversary add a whole new level of immersion, with updated textures, shadow rendering, new and updated light sources and particle rendering. The game feels the same to play yet is very visually appealing. Unfortunately the character models were not touched at all bar the Hero and a few main characters. They look great but there are still weird polygons and ham-like hands. Who needs fingers right? The faces are still the same as the original with their black maws and weirdly shaped bone structures, but this is easy to overlook so long as you don’t zoom in on anyone. The cutscenes are all still the same, however you can see in the Arena Champion scene that Lady Grey’s neck joins onto her necklace and bulges in a super weird way and it is hard not to stare at. The art style, although updated is still the same as the original game. The characters are very bright and lively, almost in a cartoonish manner yet still holding some semblance of realism. Proportionality in Fable has been thrown out the window, with hands and feet being comically, if not ridiculously, large. Throwing in the fact that the Hero (should you focus on the Strength skill tree) grows to inhumanly large proportions, the game does lose a lot of its sense of realism.
Fable is still a pioneer of the fantasy RPG genre, it was one of the first games to give you the choice of morality, sexuality, game-play and lifestyle. You can buy a marital home and have a happy family with a same-sex partner if you wish, one of the first games to allow you to do that. There are openly homosexual and bisexual characters in the game, along with a wide casting of ethnicities and race yet zero sexual or racial conflict.
Fable Anniversary, a great re-release to an originally amazing game, is still a very enjoyable title to play. Unfortunately the lack of replayability due to the super strict storyline is a bit of a let down, once you play it through as good and evil there isn’t much to do after that. Lionhead did an amazing job with this game, launching an amazing RPG series that is enjoyable for near all RPG fans.