Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: February 4, 2014
The Fable franchise has been my favorite series of games for quite some time. The unique world of Albion, the social mechanics it employs, and the overall theme of “becoming your own hero” combine to make some of the best experiences I have had in games. With the release of Fable Anniversary, we get to see the original remastered in full HD glory. Lionhead has done so much in terms of bringing this to the HD era, that it outshines every other remastering I have played.
I felt as though Lionhead understood what to upgrade and refine, and what to leave alone for nostalgia’s sake. The most noticeable change is of course the boost in visual fidelity. Redecorated with the fresh paint of Unreal Engine 3, this is the most stunning Fable game to date. Armour and weapons have been detailed with stunning intricacy, and many faces have been fully updated and repolished. Shockingly, all the rest of Albion has been redone with strict adherence to the original design, however, combine this with a brand new lighting system, along with a spectacularly enhanced musical score, and you have a world that feels brand new despite its age.
Along with a visual upgrade, we are also treated to an enhanced save system, menu layout, and control scheme. Implementing a checkpoint system, Fable Anniversary now saves your progress every time you enter a new area. There is also an autosave feature, which handles saving for major events, and if you want to save within a region, that can be done too with a manual save.
Unlike most of the notorious menus of Fables in the past, this one is streamlined. All of the more critical information, such as the map, and inventory are displayed in the front when the menu is first opened. There are very few times when you have to dig more than two layers deep, which is pretty good by RPG standards.
Lionhead went along and put in a Fable 2/Fable 3 inspired control scheme. The three button layout does a good job of balancing out all three abilities, but if you are interested in a Will based character, it may be wise to switch back to the original setup.
The new Smartglass feature is one of the only aspects that is entirely new. Acting as an interactive map, it displays real-time player movements. There are also parts of the map that show how the world looked back in the original game, which is definitely a nice touch. If you have a Smartglass compatible device, this is definitely a feature to check out.
Everything else has been kept exactly the same. Still playing as the Hero of Oakvale, your quest throughout Albion has not changed one bit. From the combat, to the layout of the world, Lionhead left the real meat of Fable completely unaltered. It can be said that Fable has not aged well when compared to its more modern counterparts. Combat is less seamless than its successors, and individual regions in the world are quite linear. I think determining whether this is a good or a bad thing hinges upon what you are looking for out of Fable Anniversary. For me, these rough edges add nostalgic value, that, when combined with the updated visual pallet, only adds to my enjoyment.
During my time with Fable Anniversary, I recognized how the AI actually holds up fairly well by modern standards. While citizens do loop dialogue when interacting with you and the world, it is how they react that is impressive. Cheering at you, or running in fear, the AI understands basic triggers, but they will also reference tasks you have completed throughout your in-game years. Towns feel alive; people wake up in the morning, go to work (laborers, shopkeepers, ect. ), visit shops, go to the tavern, and fall to sleep at night. Guards even turn street lanterns on and off. There are open world games that come out today and still don’t have the living quality Fable does.
What a time it has been. I take any chance I can get to lose myself in the wonderful world of Albion. Though this is not a new game, Fable Anniversary reminds me why I love this franchise so much. The personality of Fable is one of the most enduring and endearing qualities of the game, and while some aspects have deteriorated quicker than others, this only adds to the charm of the overall experience. As far as remasterings are concerned, Fable Anniversary does it better than any other I have played.