"The original Fable didn't live up to the absurd hype and revisiting this remake serves as a reminder of just how much of a letdown the series has been over the years."
I’ll never forget my childlike excitement for the original Fable back in 2004. I eagerly followed every article, every blurb and every video teaser, completely falling under Peter Molyneux’s spell as he promised a game that would redefine the genre. Unfortunately, Albion’s magic and allure wore off quickly upon the game’s release. The end result was a mix of patchy excellence and broken promises. Fable’s charm and lore was undeniably appealing, but Molyneux’s absurd hype drove everyone’s expectations to unrealistic heights. The same happened again in 2008 with Fable II, and things went really downhill with Fable III when Lionhead Studios streamlined its already simplistic gameplay and introduced further bizarre design decisions taking away the little magic that was left in Fable’s crumbling universe.
I can’t say I had much optimism when the HD Fable remake was announced. Updated visuals and tweaked gameplay may be enough to make a decade old game feel slightly more contemporary, but it still doesn’t change the game’s core…it’s still not enough to make it better. Nevertheless, I figured a smoother, more stable, Fable experience might be fun for nostalgic purposes and considering the fantastic HD remakes we’ve seen over the years, there was hope to right at least some of the wrongs. Now that it’s finally out…I’m not sure whether I have any faith left in the franchise. Instead of refining the original’s technical shortcomings and emphasizing its few strengths, Fable Anniversary is an unfortunate reminder of the series’ lack of focus and consistency.
"Horrid framerate and frustrating load times make Fable anniversary a real disappointment. You're better off playing the original on PC for a smoother, more enjoyable experience."
To their credit, Lionhead Studios has done a fine job or retexturing and remodeling all environments and creatures. There’s a substantial difference in detail between the old and new Fable…but that’s only as long as you’re not moving. Once your hero starts running, the framerate chugs to unbearable lows. It’s not just during fights either…simply walking around town while turning the camera makes Fable Anniversary feel like a slideshow. I understand that Xbox 360’s hardware is now considered ancient compared to the new generation, but the sloppiness of this re-release is far below the console’s standards.
Furthermore, the new character models look terrifying. The original Fable had charming, cartoony and well-stylized figures, but I have no idea what Lionhead Studios was going for with this new demented look. The hero, the NPCs, every human character looks like a wax statue gone wrong. Their robotic movements and lack of lip-syncing don’t help either. Cutscenes look like drunken puppet shows and there are bizarre pauses during dialogue segments where the screen halts on a character’s face for several seconds. It’s bizarre; it’s uncomfortable…and frankly just plain lazy.
The gameplay has been overhauled, but that’s not saying much. Fable is still a sloppy button-masher that lacks precision and challenge. The gameplay feels like a mix between Fable II and III, and while it’s a little tighter than the original, it’s still fundamentally bad and unexciting. Fights are a chore and unless you’re looking away from the screen, it’s impossible to die.
Devoted fans might argue that Fable’s intrigue is in exploration, the lore, quirky oddball characters and diverse quests. While this is partially true, I can’t help but feel that only a fraction of the experience delivered on those elements. Conversing with Albion’s inhabitants is a delight at times, but the novelty of Fable’s Sim-inspired social interactions wears off quickly. There are only so many times you can fart and flex your muscles in front of townsfolk before it becomes stupid and annoying.
Despite Fable’s faults, there were moments when I was completely immersed and couldn’t put the controller down. While the main narrative is nothing new or unique, there are plenty of characters that carry the conversations with wit and humor. For some, this may be enough to call it a good game, but there are far too many vastly superior alternatives in the genre and Fable just doesn't have what it takes to rank with the rest.Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360